a tabby cat sleeping on a radiator

10 Interesting Facts About Mackerel Tabby Cats

Mackerel Tabby cats are easily one of the most popular types of cats. They are very common, and a lot of people like to keep them as pets. Their popularity could be because of the iconic M shape on their foreheads or their fabulous tiger-stripe patterns. Read on to learn more about these amazing cats!

If you are planning to adopt or buy one as your pet, you might be interested in their background, history, and place in folklore. This article will give you some interesting facts about their background, and their nature, and you might also get to know a few unknown facts about this breed of cats. 

Let’s find out what these 10 interesting tabby cat facts are!

The Origin of the Tabby Pattern Is the Mackerel Tabby 

The first cats with the tabby pattern were domestic mackerel tabby cats. Many believe that this interesting pattern resulted from African Wildcat and European Wildcat breeding. These two breeds contain a very light stripe of a tabby pattern.

The mixture of these two breeds enhanced the coat of the mackerel tabby cats and their stripes became more distinct. Over time, as cats became domesticated and more popular the mackerel tabby spread everywhere. 

With time the tabby pattern has become more visible through gene mutations and selective breeding. Most cat breeds carry the tabby pattern deep in their DNA.

young tabby cat laid flat out on back on sofa exposing belly

The Word Tabby Refers to the Cat’s Coat and Not It’s Breed

The name Tabby is not given to a cat because of its breed but because of the pattern and colors on its coat. Many breeds have Tabbies like the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon cat breed. Also, there are many types of tabby cats – not just mackerel tabby cats! You can get orange tabby cats, grey tabby cats as well as tabbies from specific breeds like lynx point siamese cats or tabby persians!

There are 5 distinct color patterns of Tabbies. A mackerel tabby cat is easily recognizable because of its unique tiger-striped pattern – they have a dark stripe along their spine and tiger stripes down their ribs. Spotted tabbies are similar to leopards, and they have spots all over their body or on one part.

Generally, you’ll see that ticked tabbies come in one color. But they do have tiny ticks or marks on their facial structure.

The Classic ones have swirled, bold and circular patterns over their body. Patched Tabbies could have patterns similar to the ones we have talked about above, but they tend to have them on their head or faces.

close up portrait of the face on a tabby maine coon cat outdoors
Maine Coon Tabby

Mackerel Tabbies Are Known for Their Unique “M” Shape on Their Foreheads

If you have not noticed before, if you see the face and forehead of a tabby cat, you’ll notice that they have a very distinct and unique “M” that runs along from one eye to the other. This occurrence is not random at all. In reality, the “M” shape of their face and forehead is encoded into the DNA of all tabby cats.

Since their DNA has this gene, all mackerel tabby cats have this “M” pattern. You see, this “M” shape was once worshipped by ancient Egypt back in the past. Many stories are swirling about this shape to this day, and some of them say that this pattern is a blessing and a gift from Christian Virgin Mother or Islamic Prophets.

Even if the stories surrounding them are untrue, you will see that all of the cats of this color pattern will have this “M” pattern on their forehead and face.

striped tabby cat lying on a bed
M For Tabby

Mackerel Cats Are Linked to Legends

As we have mentioned above, these cats are considered to be a blessing in various legends. Here are the three legends that are the most important:

  • Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)

It was believed that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) loved cats a lot. Once when he woke up for his prayers, he found a cat relaxing on his clothes. He did not want to disturb the cat, so he cut off the sleeves of his robe upon which his cat was resting rather than disturb the cat. He, later on, named it “Muezza.” 

It is believed by many that the “M” on the forehead of these cats is referred to as Muhammad (PBUH).

  • Mau

 Cats were addressed as “Mau” because of their mewing sound in ancient Egyptian time. A few think the M in their forehead actually refers to “Mau”.

  • Mary

 It was said that when Mary was giving birth to Jesus, the surroundings became extremely cold, and a baby couldn’t live like this. 

But a tabby cat snuggled close to baby Jesus and gave him the warmth he needed. Because of that, Mary gave the Tabby the M mark to show her gratefulness towards the cat.

Tabby Cats Are The First Domestic Cats

An interesting fact about tabby cats is that there were 5 five original genetic strains of wild cats, and only the one mix of African and European wildcats could be tamed successfully. Mediterranean farmers took them up as pets because they faced problems with rodents that harmed their crops. 

close up of a tabby cat eating from a stainless steel bowl

Tabby cats were easily able to help them with this rodent problem. These cats were kept in silos and granaries so that they could properly hunt the vermin population.

They were known to be great hunters. After this, these cats became popular and were transported all over Europe via vessels. 

Mackerel Tabbies Are Linked with Witchcraft Often 

In many cases, people think black cats are evil and widely used for witchcraft and warlocks. But you should know, the real star of the show is a mackerel tabby cat. 

Back in the past, around the 16th and 17th centuries, all the female cats that were around were called tabbies. Female cats were thought to be the companion of witches.

Since the tabbies were often associated with witches, people assumed that these cats were either possessed by a human soul or demons. For that very reason, people were afraid of these cats and avoided them like the plague. If tabbies walked in one direction, the people would run in the opposite direction. 

It was also believed that the witches preferred the pattern of a mackerel tabby over the generic black cats. People started to firmly believe that this color of cat had magic inside them and had nine lives. 

Mackerel Tabbies Are Far More Intelligent and More Adventurous Than Other Tabby Cats

mackerel tabby cat rolling in dirt

One of the biggest reasons mackerel cats are popular as domestic cats is their playful nature. They love to interact with their owners, and they love to be the center of attention. These cats love to be surrounded by toys that they can play with.

Mackerel cats are quite adventurous, and they have a strong desire to explore everything around them. A lot of cat owners think that their brains are sharper than any other kind of cat. They are intelligent, and their nature is more like a dog than a cat. 

Often you will notice that your mackerel cat is following you around like a lost puppy. They will often try to play with you, and they are even down to play fetch. These cats become very attached to their owners and often like to sleep close to them.

Tabby cats are the perfect “first pets” for children because they are known for being social and friendly

Mackerel Tabbies Are Curious Cats 

Even though they are very intelligent, they can be very curious about their surroundings. Often you will see that mackerel tabby kittens put themselves in risky situations because of their curious minds. Their sharp brain learns from experience as a kitten.

So, if you ever bring a mackerel tabby kitten home, make sure that you kitten-proof your place in order to ensure the safety of your pet. Do not allow them to get on top of high furniture as they might fall off!

When they are kittens, they tend to be wriggly and overly curious, so when you walk around with them in your hands, be sure that you hold them in place. If they fall on tiles or wooden floors, it can be fatal for them.

Tabby Cats Were Named After a Baghdad Silk

The coat and the markings of a tabby cat were very luxurious and soft. They were often compared with silk that came from Baghdad. This silk originated from a district called Attabiy. 

After that, it was translated to “atabis” in the 14th century. It then further simplified to “tabis”. After it reached England, the name got translated to “tabby”.

Yawning tabby cat performing a dog pose stretch on a wooden garden table on a sunny day
Striped Mackerel Tabby

Mackerel Tabbies Got Their Name from the Mackerel Fish

It is not wrong of you to assume that the mackerel tabby cats got their name from a tiger because of the tiger-striped pattern that they have all over their bodies. Surprisingly, they received their name from the mackerel fish

This is because these fishes have very distinct and sharp striped patterns that are present on their back. But the name is not derived from the pattern of the fish! It was given to the cat because of the look of the skeleton of the fish after all the meat had been removed from the bones. People thought it resembled the mackerel tabby pattern – a dark stripe down the back with tiger stripes emanating from the back stripe!

Final Words

Now you know almost everything about mackerel tabby cats starting from their name’s origin to why they were and still are popular as domestic cats. It would be a good decision to adopt or buy a cat of this color pattern as you will have fun with them because of their friendly and social nature.

They have a long lifespan and are healthy throughout life compared to some purebred cats. This makes them a great choice as a family pet. Their interesting history in folklore also makes them a very interesting breed to have around you.