Are Tabby Cats Rare? (Explained Super Simple)


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Cats have a wide variety of coat patterns and colors, and some (like the Sphynx cat) have no hair at all. Just as with dogs, domestic felines have differentiated over their centuries of close contact with humans. So are tabby cats that rare, or are they more common than you might think?

Tabby cats are not rare, as the tabby pattern is one of the most common patterns found in domestic cats. They tend to have tortoiseshell, calico, or two-tone fur colors in a distinct tiger-stripe pattern along their backs, sides, and faces.

Tabby cats are household kitties with tiger-stripe patterns along their backs and sides, with an unmistakable “M” shape along their foreheads. Though these cats aren’t a specific breed, they’re a common sight throughout much of the world. Read on to learn why!

If you wonder what the best products are for your cat, check out this article that will break down all my recommendations for you: Things To Buy For A Cat Right Now!

Why Are Tabby Cats So Common?

Remember, humans and wildcats have been living side-by-side since the birth of Western civilization nearly 10,000 years ago. In fact, the history of cohabitation and domestication may stretch even further back in time.

Tabby cats are so common because the tabby pattern likely originates from the wild cat (Felis silvestris). In particular, this coat pattern seems to come from the Middle Eastern or Arabian wildcat. However, modern cat breeds with tabby patterns only truly came into being during the 19th and 20th centuries.

As such, most cats found in cities, towns, and villages during the early 1800s were likely tabby cats.

Cats that were not picked up for indoor living during this early boom of pet ownership were left in the alleyways and streets to survive. This sad trend gave rise to the term ‘alley cat’ and a growing population of feral and stray cats around urban centers.

Many of these cats inherited their ancestors’ non-breeding standard coat patterns, becoming known as ordinary tabby cats. Left to their own devices, the population of stray tabbies boomed.

This initial population growth gave rise to the mixed-breed tabby cats we know and love today.

To learn more on this subject, check out my article:  Why Are Tabby Cats So Common? Detailed Answers!

What Breeds Have Tabby Patterns?

Tabby Cat

Several breeds have complete or unique tabby patterns. For example, the Maine Coon often has a long tabby coat and the forehead’s distinct ‘M’ mark. Several popular registered cat breeds have tabby patterns, including:

Of course, fur coloration and pattern can vary even among these breeds. In fact, tabby patterns aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are plenty of variations among tabbies, and some cat breeds have specific types of tabby patterning.

Tabby Types

Though there are several hallmarks of a tabby coat pattern, there are also specific types of tabby patterning. For example, Abyssinian cats tend to have ticked tabby patterns, but Domestic Shorthair kitties are more prone to mackerel tabby coat patterns.

Let’s delve a little more deeply into these different tabby types to discover how to identify them.

After all, while the classic “M” marking is one of the hallmarks of the tabby pattern, it’s not the only characteristic to look for.

Mackerel Tabby

The mackerel tabby coat might be the most prolific and common type of patterning.

Cats with dark bands of fur encircling their legs, tails, and abdomen are mackerel tabbies. Like other types of tabbies, they too have the “M” shape on their foreheads.

Notably, the tiger-stripe lines that run vertically down the sides of a mackerel tabby aren’t always distinct or complete. Some mackerel tabbies may have solid-colored bellies with lighter fur or shorter abdominal stripes that don’t reach the stomach.

However, nearly all mackerel tabbies will have a dark circle or semicircle near their collarbone. This feature resembles a necklace and is one of the most prevalent characteristics found in tabby cats.

Still, this loop tends to be slightly more pronounced in classic tabbies.

Classic Tabby

Cats with bands along their legs and tails, the classic “M” on the forehead, and large swirling blobs of color around their abdomen are often considered classic tabbies. The American Shorthair is a fine example of a cat with a classic tabby coat.

These cats tend to have darker coats than other types of tabbies, primarily due to the large amorphous spots and stripes along their backs and sides. Though cats with classic tabby patterns can be nearly any color, most tend to be black-and-gray or black-and-blue.

Still, there is the rare calico classic tabby, as they have orange fur and dark black stripes and swirls. Unfortunately, they’re far less common than calico spotted tabbies.

Spotted Tabby

If you were to compare all tabby coat patterns against each other, you’d find that the classic Tabby often has the darkest fur, followed by mackerel tabbies. Spotted tabbies are often on the lighter end of the spectrum, as tiny spots of dark-colored fur replace their abdominal stripes.

Spotted tabbies still have many classic characteristics:

  • They have the forehead “M” and dark rings around their tails.
  • Many also have bands or stripes along their legs.
  • But when you get to the abdomen, you’ll see that those stripes have broken up into tiny islands of dark-colored spots.

This broken pattern is somewhat similar to a jaguar’s spots, though they’re often irregularly shaped. Spotted tabbies can be any possible combination of colors, from black-and-gray to orange-and-black.

Ticked Tabby

The ticked tabby pattern is one of the least pronounced variations on the classic tabby coat because the typically dark and bold bands and stripes fade into a gentle blend of colors on a ticked tabby.

Many cats with this coat pattern retain their banded tails and legs, as well as their furry forehead symbol. But these dark stripes of fur phase out into a carpet of blended fur colors upon reaching the shoulders, back, abdomen, or stomach.

Orange Tabby

Orange tabbies tend to exhibit light-colored mackerel or ticked patterns. Generally, longhaired orange tabbies are most recognizable thanks to a dark orange “M” mark on their foreheads.

In addition to light and dark shades of orange fur, most orange tabby cats have white patches or lines. Orange tabbies are rarely orange and black, though kitties with mackerel coats can exhibit a wide variety of colors, including the standard calico mix of black, orange, and white.

Are Orange Tabby Cats Rare?

Orange tabby cats are not rare, and in fact, are relatively common. That said, female orange tabbies are pretty rare. In fact, a staggering 80% of all orange cats are male. Generally, most orange-and-white cats are male.

While it is possible to find a female orange tabby cat, orange coloration seems to be genetically related to the presence of a single X chromosome.

Because male cats only have one X chromosome, the likelihood of orange fur is slightly higher than that of females. However, it’s also worth noting that this genetic link between sex and fur coloration is one of the primary reasons why nearly all calico cats are female.

What is a Tabby Cat’s Personality?

Tabby Cat

There is not much evidence to point to Tabby cats having specific personalities.  However, many cat breeds have a Tabby cat variety, and different cat breeds have different personalities.

For example, this table shows the personalities of some cat breeds that have a tabby variety.

Small Selection of Cat Breeds with a Tabby VarietyPersonality Description
Maine Coon CatFriendly, curious, loves other animals
Domestic ShorthairPlayful, affectionate, selective listeners, good hunter
Bengal CatLove other pets, intelligent, energetic, affectionate
American ShorthairFriendly, great hunters, intelligent, affectionate

Are Tabby Cats Male?

Tabby cats can be male or female.  Certain types of Tabby cats, such as Orange Tabby cats, are usually male.  However, many Tabby cats are also female.

Are Silver Tabby Cats Rare?

No, Silver Tabby cats are not rare.  American Shorthair cats are usually Silver Tabby cats, and American Shorthairs are not rare. 

If you’d like to learn more about American Shorthair cats, check out my article:  How Much Do American Shorthair Cats Cost? (Best Details).

Are Black Tabby Cats Rare?

Black Tabby cats are not rare.  They may be rarer varieties of black Tabby cats, such as a charcoal Tabby cat.  Many Tabby cats have black colors mixed with other colors, such as brown, grey, and white, and they are not rare.

Is a Tabby Cat a Good Cat?

All cats have the ability to be great cats.  Many different cat breeds have a Tabby coat pattern.  Depending on the cat a person is looking for may help them determine what a good cat is.  One example of a highly regarded cat breed that has a Tabby variety is the Maine Coon.

To learn more about Tabby cats, check out this article:  Why Are Tabby Cats So Friendly? (Genetics, Environment).  

Are Tabbies Quiet?

Tabby cats may be quiet, depending on their cat breed.  Tabby cats do not have specific personalities; however, different cat breeds that have the Tabby gene may be quieter than other cat breeds.  For example, the American Shorthair is a quieter cat breed than the Siamese.

To learn more about the American Shorthair, check out my article:  American Shorthair vs. Siamese (New Popular Cat Comparison).

What do Tabby Cats Love?

Tabby cats do not love specific things because Tabby is a coat pattern.  Many cats, including Tabby cats, love cat trees, floating butterflies, catnip, and hunting toys. 

I recommend this floating butterfly toy on Amazon (affiliate link):  Check Out This Floating Butterfly Toy On Amazon.

Do Tabby Cats Attach To One Person?

Tabby is a coat pattern, so it is not a determinant if a cat will attach to one person. However, some cat breeds that have Tabby coat patterns will attach more to one person.  One example of a cat with a Tabby variety that is known to attach to one person is the Siamese.

To learn more about the Siamese cat, check out my article:  When Do Siamese Cats Stop Changing Color? (Find Out Now).

Final Thoughts

Video: Tabby Cats 101

Tabby cats aren’t rare. In fact, the tabby coat pattern might be one of the world’s most widespread feline fur patterns, which likely results from the tabby pattern wildcat origins.

Nearly all wildcat species have tabby coats, and these cats are the ancestors of today’s domestic cats. Unfortunately, while many purebred cats have solid coats or non-tabby fur patterns, the bulk of stray and feral cats throughout the developed world continue to be tabbies.

That said, many popular cat breeds feature tabby designs, including the Maine Coon and the Domestic Shorthair. However, tabby pattern type varies from breed to breed.

If you liked this article, please read a few more:

  • Do Tabby Cats Get Along With Dogs? (Breed Matters Most!):  Click Here.
  • Do Tabby Cats Shed? (6 Ways To Limit Cat Shedding):  Click Here.
  • Do Tabby Cats Have Black Paws? (Clear Answers):  Click Here.

Here are some of my favorite cat products

In addition to checking out some other More Meows articles, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorite cat products as well.  These are affiliate links, so if you end up using them, I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you.  These are the products I really do find most helpful.

Litter Box:  I started out with normal, traditional litter boxes for my cat.  Then, I tried this automatic litter box on Amazon (affiliate link), which helped reduce the litter upkeep.  Finally, I am now a believer in the Litter-Robot 3 Connect on Amazon (affiliate link).  This robotic litter box is not for everyone based on the price tag, but for me the benefits (very little upkeep, works efficiently, clean, mobile app) far outweighed the cost. 

My Cat’s Litter-Robot 3 Connect (with night light on) – See the link above the photo!

Cat Tree:  I have purchased a couple of this Amazon Basics Cat Tree on Amazon (affiliate link).  My cat spends a lot of time on and around this cat tree, which I position near my sofa.  She uses the scratching posts on this cat tree multiple times a day, which means she is not scratching the sofa instead.

Cat Water Fountain:  I love this cat water fountain on Amazon (affiliate link).  There are three main benefits to having a water fountain like this for your cat.  The first benefit is that it keeps water running so that my cat doesn’t need to drink still water.  The second benefit is that it filters the water.  The third benefit is that my cat uses it – keeping my cat hydrated is important.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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