Why Are Tabby Cats So Friendly? (Genetics, Environment)


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Many people associate specific cat coat colors with different personality traits, temperaments, and characteristics. For example, one of the common beliefs is that tabby cats are amiable and intelligent. Related sentiments are that white cats are aloof, black cats are evil, and ginger cats are feisty. So, why are tabby cats so friendly?

Tabby cats are considered friendly because most cats are friendly.  Tabby is a coat pattern in cats, and there are no personality characteristics associated with a coat pattern.  Therefore, the people that believe tabby cats are friendly likely encountered friendly cats that just happened to be tabbies.

Learn more in this article on why people believe tabby cats are so friendly.  Tabbies are beautiful cats, and like most cats, they can make people happy.  Read on!

Do Cat Colors Affect Personality?

There have been several scientific studies completed on whether coat color influences the personality of a catThere is no conclusive evidence linking the cat’s personality to the cat’s coat color.  There is, however, truth in the fact that many people perceive coat color to influence temperament.

This perception is mainly based on superstition, urban legend, and individual experience with individual cats. For example, some people believe tabby cats are friendly, and some think they are unfriendly – it all depends on perception.

Do Cats Have Their Own Personality?

Yes, individual cats have their own individual personalities, and this is not influenced by color or coat pattern.  The potential owner needs to assess prospective cats as unique individuals. Each cat has a unique personality and characteristics.

When choosing a cat, evaluate it based on how it responds and interacts with people and other animals. A critical assessment of a cat’s behavior will give a far more accurate indication of temperament than basing the choice on the cat’s coat color or pattern.

2 Factors That Determine a Cat’s Personality

The two big factors that determine a cat’s personality are genetics and environment. 

Do Cats Get Their Personality from Their Parents?

Genetics influence certain personality traits. If the parents are friendly, then there is a more substantial likelihood that their offspring will be social. Selective breeding has allowed breeders to establish standardized breed characteristics. 

Kittens observing their mother being friendly to people are more likely to learn that being with people is pleasant and desirable.

How Does the Environment Affect a Cat’s Behavior?

Kittens between the ages of 3 and 9 weeks must have positive exposure to humans to learn that human interaction is pleasant. It is much harder to teach an older cat to interact with people. Similarly, negative interactions will result in behavior that avoids human interaction. So, reliable positive exposure will result in friendlier cats.

What Breed of Cat is Tabby?

Tabby Cat

Tabby coats are more common in certain cat breeds such as Abyssinians and Maine Coons. Although tabby coloring is most common in certain breeds is does occur in most breeds of domestic cats.

Tabby coloring is also the most common coat color in mixed breed cats. Abyssinian cats show ticked tabby patterning very commonly. Ocicats often have spotted tabby coats.

13 Friendly Cat Breeds

Different breeds of cats do show different temperaments.

The 13 cat breeds known for being friendly are:

  • Ragdolls
  • Maine Coons
  • Abyssinian cats
  • Persian cats
  • Burmese cats
  • Siamese cats
  • Scottish Fold cats
  • Sphynx cats
  • Exotic Shorthair cats
  • British Shorthair cats
  • Chartreux cats
  • Ocicats
  • Domestic Shorthairs

Ragdolls

Ragdolls are relaxed affectionate cats who like to be cuddled and held. They derive their name from their extraordinary temperaments.

Maine Coons

Maine Coons are gentle giants known for their loyalty and intelligence.

Abyssinians

Abyssinians are highly curious, intelligent cats who want to be involved in everything you are doing.

Persians

Persian cats are quiet, gentle cats happy to lounge on the sofa and watch television.

Burmese

Burmese cats originated near the Thai/Burmese border, and they are known for their playfulness. Burmese cats love people, which might be because the modern breed was bred with the Siamese cat, which also loves people.

Siamese

Siamese cats are highly personable people-orientated social cats who become anxious and destructive when left on their own. They will follow you to the bathroom, inspect your cooking and peer over your shoulder at any work you are doing. Siamese cats are particularly comical cats and entertain their owners for hours with their antics.

Scottish Folds

are known for their sweet, friendly dispositions. Owners report that these cats have trouble deciding if they are cats or humans. They do not like changes to their routine, though, which should be borne in mind when considering purchasing one.  

Sphynx cats

Sphynx cats are talkative, playful cats who love to be the center of attention. Sphynx are hairless cats that require extra skin care to maintain their skin health without the natural protection of hair.

Exotic Shorthair

Exotic Shorthair cats have a gentle personality.  They are highly curious and are true lap cats.

British shorthair

British shorthair cats take life pretty easily, but they love to play and are trainable.

Chartreux

Chartreux cats are French short-haired cats that are known as the ultimate gentlemen or ladies.  They are consistently polite with both their owners and visitors while being friendly and interactive.

Ocicats

Ocicats were developed by combining the Abyssinian and Siamese. Ocicats have unusual spotted tabby coats resembling ocelots. They are intelligent cats who thrive on human company and are quick to play and learn tricks.

Domestic Shorthairs

The Domestic Shorthair is a mixed-ancestry cat popular in the United States.  My own cat, Charlotte, is a Domestic Shorthair, so I know that they are super curious, playful, independent, and affectionate (especially around mealtimes).

Perceptions About Cats

As stated, many people erroneously believe that coat color determines temperament in cats.  Some may view these perceptions as harmless, but it is a significant problem that directly impacts cats.

Which Cats Are Least Likely to be Adopted?

People’s perceptions have a considerable influence on adoption rates in cat shelters. A 2002 study looking at adoption rates in shelters found that black and brown cats were unlikely to be adopted.

Therefore dark-colored cats are more likely to be euthanized. Additionally, some people perceive tortoiseshell cats to be too independent. This belief reduces the adoption rate of tortoiseshell cats.

When Cats and Perceptions Clash

Owners often surrender cats to rescue shelter due to erroneous perceptions.  People buy a particular color cat with the belief that the cat will have a specific temperament. When the cat does not have that temperament, the owner may become disillusioned with the pet and surrender it to a shelter or dump it somewhere.

How Many Homeless Cats are in the US?

Figures range from 30 million to 82 million for stray and feral cats. Rescue organizations house approximately 3.4 million cats per year. From these figures, it is evident that changing people’s perceptions is essential in the fight to keep cats safe and ensure their welfare.  Rescue organizations face a daily challenge to educate people and break their incorrect perceptions.

When people dump their cats or surrender them to shelters, they are contributing to a significant problem. Estimates on the population of feral and stray cats in the USA vary between different reports. 

What Is A Tabby Cat?

Tabby refers to the color of the cat and not to the breed of cat. The earliest depictions of cats show them with tabby markings. The tabby markings are similar to many wild cat coat markings. There are commonalities in coat patterns between domesticated Tabbies and tigers and leopards.

What is the M on a Cat’s Forehead?

All tabby cats have a clear ‘M’ on their foreheads. There are numerous origin stories about how this ‘M’ marking came to be present on tabby cats. In Ancient Egyptian, the word for cat is “mau,” and the gods marked the cat as sacred.

Others believe that a cat comforted Jesus in the manger, and Mary stroked the cat on the forehead leaving the ‘M’ on the cat’s face. Islamic folklore tells the story of how a cat called Muezza saved Mohammed from a poisonous snake. As a reward, all tabby cats wear an ‘M’ on their foreheads.

The truth is the M on a tabby cat’s forehead comes down to genetics. 

5 Different Tabby Patterns

There are five distinct tabby patterns.

  • Mackerel – long, thin stripes that run down the sides from the back to the stomach, reminding one of a fish skeleton.
  • Classic/Blotched / Marble -three dorsal (running along the back) stripes, accompanied by thick, swirling lines that form circles on the rest of the body. Many believe this is the oldest pattern.
  • Spotted – shows round spots all over the coat with possibly a faint stripe around the neck resembling a collar or necklace.
  • Ticked – no clear stripes or spots. Each hair, banded with different colors giving the impression of small ticks of color.
  • Orange – Just like Garfield, this variant is orange and white.  80% of orange tabbies are male, with 20% being female.

Tortoise-shell Tabby/ Patched Tabby

Some cat classifications include another coat pattern. These cats show typical tortoiseshell coloring but with characteristics of the tabby. They have the ‘M’ on the face and display either the classic, ticked, or mackerel pattern on the body.  Some people refer to these cats as Torbies.

What is the Most Common Tabby Pattern?

The most common Tabby pattern is the Mackerel tabby pattern. 

There are three base coat colors in tabby markings.  They are black, brown and red. These coats may be diluted and altered by specific genes to give rise to other colors.

  • Black – altered to give silver and blue.
  • Brown – altered to give cinnamon and chocolate. (Brown is a combination of the genetic expression of black and red occurring together.)
  • Red – altered to give ginger and cream.

Tabby patterns comprise light-colored base coats overlaid by darker-colored stripes, spots, or ticks.

What is the Personality of a Tabby Cat?

Tabby cats do not have a specific personality since tabby is a coat pattern.  The personality of the tabby cat you met was more likely influenced by the breed of the cat, environment the cat was raised in, and genetics.  Additionally, individual cats often have their own individual personalities. 

Why is my Tabby Cat So Mean?

Your cat is not mean because it is a tabby.  Tabby is a coat pattern, and that coat pattern does not determine if your cat is nice or mean.  Most cats are quite nice and playful. 

When cats are aggressive, it is often because of the following types of aggression.

Type of Cat AggressionExplanation
Inter-Cat AggressionDue to challenges while reaching social maturity
Maternal AggressionDue to mother cats becoming defensive of her kittens
Territorial AggressionDue to cats defending their territory
Status-Induced AggressionDue to establishing social dominance
Pain-Induced AggressionDue to reacting to pain
Redirected AggressionDue to becoming excited in responding to stimuli
Petting-Induced AggressionDue to likely overstimulation while being petted.  Ensure you watch over young children if your cat has this type of aggression.
Fear AggressionDue to a cat reacting to unfamiliar stimuli or the possible reaction to previous negative events in their life.
Types of Cat Aggression and What They Mean

What is the Friendliest Cat Breed?

Naming the friendliest cat breed is highly subjective, but the Ragdoll cat is a great pick.  The Ragdoll cats are known to go limp when humans pick them up.  Ragdolls are friendly and quite tolerant of people, including children.

Why are Tabby Cats the Best?

There are people who believe that tabby cats have awesome personalities, but the truth is that tabby is a coat pattern.  So, most cats are that awesome.  In terms of breed, my subjective opinion (at this moment) is that the Maine Coon is the best due to its sweet personality and playfulness.

Conclusion

A Tabby cat refers to the coat pattern of a cat and not the cat breed. Tabby cats have certain colors, but cat color does not influence a cat’s temperament. Genetics and exposure to different environments and people have a far more significant impact on a cat’s temperament and personality than coat color.

Peoples’ incorrect perceptions of cats detrimentally affect cat welfare. Tabby coats occur in many different cat breeds. Some cat breeds are friendlier than others. It is better to choose a cat based on individual characteristics and breed than on coat color or pattern.  

If you enjoyed this article, check out a few more:

  • Why Are Tabby Cats So Common? Detailed Answers:  Click Here.
  • Should A Blind Cat Be Put Down? Quickly Explained:  Click Here.
  • 6 Reasons Domestic Shorthair Cats Need Haircuts:  Click Here.

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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