Types Of Tabby Cats & Their Patterns : The Ultimate Guide

When you hear the word ‘Tabby Cat,’ everyone has a different mindset.

While some might think it is a regular, malnourished, dumpster-eating alley cat, others might think it is their favorite cat breed.

However, the common misconception of Tabby cats being a different breed is entirely baseless. Tabby is not a breed, but a color pattern on cats.

Tabby genes are always present in your cat’s genes. Whether they will show it or not depends on the other color and patterns present in their DNA.

The tabby pattern has gained such popularity in recent days that many cat breeders are promoting this pattern on most cats over others.

In this article, we will talk about the types of tabby cat patterns and how you can differentiate between them. We will also cover their general colors to give you an overall idea.

But first, the following are the types of tabby cats you can get:

  1. Classic (blotched)
  2. Mackerel (striped)
  3. Ticked (Agouti, Abyssinia)
  4. Spotted

Tabby Cats: Some Basic Info

This is the most common coat pattern to occur in most cat breeds.

All cats have some classic Tabby marking pattern in them, but cats do not show these strips, swirls, spots, or ticks if there is a more predominant coat pattern gene present in their DNA.

However, if you put the cat under sunlight, there is a slight chance that you might see these patterns.

Another interesting fact about them is that the gene, which makes their coat color red, orange, or cream, is also responsible for the pattern.

One of the most striking features of a tabby cat is the’M’ mark on their foreheads.

It has a lot of speculation surrounding this mark, and it gives us fascinating stories about the beloved tabby cats.

Egyptians used to worship cats, and people claim that the emblem is related to the Egyptian word ‘mau’, which means cat.

Christians believe that a tabby cat helped mother Mary take care of baby Jesus, and she left a mark on the forehead to express her gratitude.

In Islam, it is a common belief that Mohammed had a tabby cat, and it saved him from a poisonous snake. Mohammed gifted all these cats with a mark of ‘M’ on their forehead.

It is fascinating to think that there are religious backstories for your beloved feline. However, experts attribute the mark ‘M’ to their unique genetics.

They claim that all the cats have some portions of tabby characteristics in their genes. If you search for any cat pattern by keeping it under the sunlight, you will most likely find some bands or spots on the cat.

Tigers and leopards also share similar characteristics with the tabby cats, and the stripes make them such efficient hunters.

What are the types of tabby cats’ patterns?

All the tabby cats have some standard features, including the outward line from the eyes to their ears and the M-shaped mark on their foreheads.

They have analogous rings on their legs, dark stripes of fur down their spine, and belly buttons.

The most prevalent cat is brown, and there are predominantly four types of tabby patterns:

  • Classic (blotched)
  • Mackerel (striped)
  • Ticked (Agouti, Abyssinia)
  • Spotted

How to differentiate between the tabby cat patterns?

We all know how tedious it can be to differentiate between their patterns. But don’t worry. We will provide all the details that you need to know about identifying the various types.

1. Common tabby cat:

These classic cats have swirling patterns on their side, giving them a butterfly wing-like look. The prominent designs are visible due to the high color contrast of the coat.

Most of the American shorthair cats show this type of pattern. They are popularly known as a blotched tabby cat in some regions.

2. Mackerel tabby cat:

The resemblance with a fish skeleton is the reason why cat owners call it mackerel tabby. There is a central line that runs along the spine of the cat.

Parallel stripes originate from the central line and run down the sides. The stripes on both sides of the body are parallel and equidistant from each other.

This unique stripe pattern gives them an uncanny resemblance to the tiger cats. As a result, some cat owners refer to them as tiger cats. These cats have rings like stripes around their legs and tail.

3. Ticked tabby cat:

This type of pattern is found mainly on Chausie and Abyssinian cats. Ticked tabby pattern cat has multiple colors on the same hair shaft, and they have usual rings like stripes on their tails and legs.

People also call them Agouti or an Abyssinian cat at different places. One of the main features of this type of pattern is agouti hair on most of its body.

Agouti hair is a particular type of hair with multiple color bands on the same hair strand. The alternating light and dark bands give them a unique look, and they stand out from the other.

4. Spotted tabby cat:

The name explains the pattern on their bodies. Spotted cats have patches of a different color all over their bodies.

The spots’ size and shape can vary from one cat to another, and they do not follow any recognized pattern.

It is easy to confuse between a mackerel having broken stripes and a spotted tabby. Scientists have not deciphered whether the broken mackerel is somehow connected to the spotted or not.

There is another pattern that cat owners often mistake with the tabby pattern.

Patched cats, more commonly known as tortoiseshell tabby cats, have separate brown and red tabby patterns on the same cat.

This pattern almost looks like a mix of tortoiseshell and tabby as they have both of the genes.

We should not consider this to be a separate pattern because patched tabbies show any of the above patterns and do not have any individual characteristics.

Colors of tabby cats

We have provided a list of all the colors you can see on them. Every color has three main tabby patterns. So, it is quite evident that there can be a variety of tabby cats. The colors are as follows:

1. Brown:

Most of the tabby cats are brown, and they make most of the population. They have bronze or brown-colored fur with black stripes.

2. Brown and white:

They closely resemble the brown ones, but they have a white tummy and legs. While some of the cats of this color have white spots on the face, some do not.

3. Brown Patched:

This variation of cats has dark bronze-colored fur and black stripes with red dots.

4. Brown patched and white:

They resemble the brown patched cats but have white belly, bibs, and legs.

5. Silver:

Silver tabby cats have silver fur all over their body, and the stripes are black.

6. Silver and white:

It is similar to the Silver tabby cats but has white in the background as well.

7. Silver patched:

Silver patched tabby cats have a silver coat with black stripes, and they have red or cream-colored spots on them.

8. Silver patched and white:

This type of cat has similar characteristics as the Silver patched cats, but it has white in the background.

9. Blue-silver:

The fur is silver in color, and the contrasting stripes are deep blue. [ Read about their eyes also ]

10. Blue-Silver and white:

The background fur has principally silver color, but the bib, belly, and paws have white hair. The stripes are deep blue.

11. Blue-silver patched:

Along with silver background and deep blue lines, the cat has cream-colored spots.

12. Blue-silver patched and white:

It is the same as the blue-silver patched tabby, but the belly, bib, and paws have white coats.

13. Red:

They have red (orange/ginger) colored coats with deep, vibrant red/orange tabby patterns. Some people call it an orange tabby cat.

14. Red and White:

These cats look like the red tabby cat with white bellies, bib, and paws.

15. Blue:

This exquisite color combination has a pale bluish ivory color in the background and deep blue bands.

16. Blue Patched:

This particular type of cat shares the resemblance with blue tabby cats but has cream-colored spots.

17. Cream:

Cream-colored cats have an off-white background with darker cream or buff-colored stripes.

18. Cream and White:

The only difference between this and the previous one is the white-colored bib, belly, and paws.

19. Cameo:

This type of tabby cat has the same creamy background with red stripes.

How To Differentiate Between The Tabby Cat Patterns?

Tabby cat patterns can become quite confusing if you see them side by side. However, you can differentiate with a little practice. You will only differentiate between these tabby patterns only when you go through the characteristic coat patterns one by one.

Let us start with the common or classic tabby cats. As we have said previously, classic tabby cats should have swirling dark patterns along with their bodies. It almost looks like a marble cake.

Therefore, one of the main takeaways about this tabby cat pattern is that it should have swirling patterns. So, if you see your tabby cat have such coat patterns, you can identify them as common or classic tabby cats.

When it comes to the Mackerel tabby cats, there is a very close similarity between the fishbone structure and the pattern structure of these cats. You will see a single, long, and dark stripe running through the back of the cat down the spine. Apart from that, non-broken stripes will branch out from the central stripe at equal intervals. Therefore, it has a similarity with fish. The name “Mackerel” is self-explanatory for the same reason.

The spotted tabby cats should have small and large dark spots on their relatively light-colored bodies. However, these spots can grow quite large and give the impression of broken mackerel lines. Due to the similarity with the broken Mackerel pattern, scientists have wondered whether they have the same ancestry or some other gene is responsible for these patterns.

Ticked tabby cats are the most difficult to identify due to their hidden agouti hairs. If you look at them from a distance, you would not recognize them as tabby cats due to the absence of any known stripe pattern. However, they share similar tabby markings on the hair. Ticked tabby patterns are more prominent in Abyssinian cats.

What Is The Rarest Tabby Cat?

Ticked Tabby cats are one of the rarest tabby cat patterns. Apart from the fact that it is extremely difficult to identify the ticked tabby cats, there is very little chance that you would find one itself. So, amongst all the tabby cats, these cats might be the rarest ones.

What Is The Most Common Tabby Cat?

The most common tabby cat is the classic tabby cat. They should have swirling patterns on their bodies, and it is their identification criteria. All the American shorthair cats are classic tabby cats.

Is My Cat a Mackerel Tabby Cat?

If your cat has ‘M’ on its forehead, the cat likely has a tabby coat pattern. However, to identify the type of tabby pattern that the cat has, you might need to look at the stripes. 

As you already know, the mackerel tabby cats have a series of stripes branching out from a single, long stripe along their spine. Therefore, it gives them a fishbone structure look.

If you see that your cat has this kind of markings on its coat, it is probably a mackerel tabby cat. However, Mackerel tabby cats can also have broken lines. In that case, the identification becomes a little tough as they resemble spotted tabby cats. However, the direct marking along the spine should be continuous, and that should be a telltale sign that it is a Mackerel tabby cat.

Is My Cat A Common Tabby?

At first, you need to recognize whether your cat is a tabby cat or not. There is a very clear identification process for the tabby cats. If they have an ‘M’ on their forehead, the cat is likely to be a tabby cat.

Identifying the cat as a common tabby needs a little more observation. As you probably know already, common tabby cats have swirling patterns all over their bodies. The primary color of the cat is supposed to be light, and the swirling patterns should be of a darker color. There can be various colors possible for the cat. The colors can be dark brown, lilac, blue, red, chocolate, etc.

So, if your cat has a swirling dark-colored pattern over the sides of its body, and it has an ‘M’ shaped mark on its forehead, the cat should be a common tabby.

Is My Cat A Ticked Tabby?

Ticked tabby cats are one of the rarest tabby patterns out there. Identification of this type of tabby cat is also a little more cumbersome than other tabby cats. It is because ticked tabby cats do not have the usually spotted fur like other tabby cats. Instead, they have a specific type of hair that is different from other tabby cats.

The markings on the face of ticked tabby cats are the same as of any other tabby cat. However, they lack any spots on their bodies. The special agouti hair is the identifying factor for these cats.

It is extremely hard to recognize agouti hairs from a distance. However, if you look closely, the individual hair strands should have alternating light and dark bands on them.

You can identify a cat as a ticked tabby cat if they mark their faces and have agouti hair on their bodies.

Is There A Black Tabby Cat?

There can be black tabby cats as well. When the tabby cat patterns are essentially black or dark blue, we call them a black tabby cat. There can be various cat breeds that can have black-tabby as one of their patterns. Those are as follows:

  • Maine Coon
  • Abyssinian
  • American Shorthair
  • Persian
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • American Curl
  • Oriental shorthair

How Many Types of Tabby Cats Are There?

There can be essentially five types of tabby cats out there. Those are as follows:

  • Classical or Common Tabby Cats
  • Mackerel Tabby Cats
  • Spotted Tabby Cats
  • Ticked Tabby Cats
  • Patched Tabby Cats

All of these cats have markings on their faces and distinctive color patterns on their bodies.


Now, I hope you are now aware that tabby cats are not a breed but a specific type of pattern. Their salient features made them one of the most popular cat patterns in the world.

The four types of hair patterns and various colors are responsible for a broad color spectrum for tabby cats.

Although several cat breeds can have these tabby patterns, you should accept how they are and love them equally.

Related Reading:

  1. Can I Get Allergy From Tabby?
  2. What should you feed your tabby?
  3. Can Tabby Cats Grow Long Hair?
  4. Do Tabby Cats Only Live In Indoor?