Not any one breed of cat, the tabby cat is actually any cat who has a very distinctive coat. The coat could have interesting swirled patterns, stripes, spots, and is usually topped with an M-shaped mark on their foreheads.
The tabby coat pattern is found in numerous cat breeds and is also seen in mixed breeds. It is possible to see both longhaired and shorthaired tabby cats.
There are four primary patterns of tabby cats that have been seen in several breeds, including the following:
- Ticked tabby: this tabby pattern has two bands of color on each hair, which gives the pattern of the cat’s coat almost a salt and pepper look. Light striping can very often be present on the legs, belly, and face of the ticked tabby.
- Classic tabby: the pattern most often seen in tabbies, there are swirled patterns with wide stripes on the cat’s shoulders and often there is a bull’s eye pattern on the flank. The classic tabby pattern tends to have rings around the tail.
- Mackerel tabby: the pattern of the mackerel tabby has curved narrow stripes on the side of the cat’s body. There are also often spots of the stomach and flanks of the cat. The characteristic M is seen on the cat’s forehead.
- Spotted tabby: there are some that believe the spotted tabby is not a unique pattern but is rather just a modifier in the pattern of the mackerel tabby. The result is that the stripes of the mackerel tabby appear to be spots versus strips. This spotted pattern is seen in the Ocicat, Egyptian Mau, and the Bengal, to name a few.
There are also tabby cats that include other patches of patterns seen in calico or tortoiseshell cats. These are often referred to as being torbies.