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.
We’ve been owned by only one tabby: Celestial PO’M.
However, our neighbor to the home I grew up in had a tabby who seemed to prefer our yard to theirs; she was called Clementine, and she was a sweetie.
Raz and Noelle are proud tabby cats!!!
That was really interesting and we’re sure big Tabby Cat fans here, of course!
Great post. Tabby cats have a special place in my heart. My first cat, KaChoo was a tabby. I have had several others too.
We do love us some tabbies, and enjoyed your informative post. Our angels Moosey, Maggie, and Bitsy were all tabbies. 🙂
I’m an agouti tabby! As are all Somalis and Abyssinians.
HAY….my namez mackerull, & even tho eye iz knot a tabby 🙂
eye am part oh de tabbies oh trout towne !!!! kewl huh ♥
Lita was a pointed tabby! She was a Siamese mix. You probably remember that she had stripey legs – they were very cute! They call Siamese with stripes “lynx-point.” 🙂
I’m not sure what kind of tabby Carmine is. I just know he’s an adorable one. 😉
Interesting facts on Tabbies! I was ignorant to the fact that Tabby isn’t a breed but solely has to do with the pattern. I’ve had Tabbies all my life too. I had no idea Manna and Dexter were 10 years apart too. You fooled me!
Super interesting to learn about tabbies! One of my all-time favorite cats was a classic tabby. She had the sweetest soul! And she did have the “M” marking and beautiful “eye makeup”. Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was pink. She was just an awesome cat! She and her sister were with me from the day she was born in my hay barn to a stray cat until the day she died on my chest purring. Her sister made it about 9 months longer. She and I both missed her terribly. They were 18 and almost 19 when they passed. The tabby’s sister was black. But you’re right in certain light you could see she had stripes as well. Great article! I love the memories you always envoke.
I think our Toulouse might be more of a Mackerel tabby he doesn’t seen to have the bold splashes of colour that some tabbies have. He is, like every tabby, just the coolest cat!
Really interesting, thank you for sharing this information as I learned from it
Our tabby cat is probably a mackerel tabby. She’s a very sweet cat.
Wow. I’ve heard the term Tabby cat but never realized what it meant. I’m amazed at all those different patterns.
I had no idea about the history of where Tabby came from! I love hearing about history of things like this. My Mom had a few Tabbies when I was growing up – such beautiful coats. Great post! Will be Pinning to share!