The Origin of “Tabby”
The ancient city of Attabyia in modern day Bagdad, Iraq is where the word “tabby” originated from (source). Attabiya was known for the beautiful, patterned silks made there (moiré silks). Noticing the similarities of the patterns in the silk and the patterns on certain cats, the French began to call those cats “tabbis.” The word tabbis easily became tabby in English.
General Tabby Cat Features
Tabby cat features are the result of a dominant gene trait (source). They are not distinct on every tabby cat, sometimes they are more blended or muted. Sometimes an all-black cat will have black tabby markings that are only visible in certain lighting.
One of the most noticeable features of tabby cats is the “M” on their foreheads. There are several myths based upon this M. Some say it was placed on the cat’s forehead because in Ancient Egypt, cats were called Mau (obviously a tale spun by an English-speaking person). Others say that it was placed there by the Virgin Mary of the Christian faith or by Mohammed or the Muslim faith.
There are a few other things also common among tabby cats:
- Leg and Tail Stripes
A tabby cat may have stripes on their legs and tail.
- Light and Dark Patterns
Immediately surrounding their eyes will be the darkest color in their pattern, just outside of that will be the lightest color in their pattern.
- Whisker Pad Colors
Their whisker pads have spots or splotches of color.
- White Areas
White or a light color may appear on the sides of their nose, upper lip, and chin.
Types Of Tabby Cats
The classic tabby pattern has circular whirls that often create a “bulls-eye” shape.
The mackerel tabby pattern is stripped like a tiger. There are many people who believe that this should have been called the “classic” tabby pattern.
The spotted tabby pattern has spots or dotted lines rather than solid stripes. A variation of this pattern, called the Rosetted pattern, occurs only in Bengals. Rosettes are dark circular markings that have a lighter color inside of them.
The agouti tabby pattern is a little more subtle than the others. In this pattern, each hair has bands of color. Most tabbies have at least some agouti hairs.
The patched tabby pattern is found on cats of other color patterns such as calico or tortishell. Rather than just one coloring of the tabby pattern, there are a few different sets of colorings.
Tabby Point Pattern
Tabby Cat Colors
Tabby cat patterns come in a variety of color combinations.