domestic shorthair tabby cat

Are Domestic Shorthair Cats Tabby Cats?

Are domestic shorthair cats tabby cats? We see so many of these ubiquitous cats slinking around it can be easy to assume they are a specific breed or type. But, they are not, domestic shorthair cats come in a huge variety of colors and patterns and tabby cats can be pure-bred!

Read on to learn how to distinguish one from the other and avoid confusion!

What Is A Domestic Shorthair Cat?

What is a domestic shorthair cat? Is it a specific breed of cat? Where does it come from and are they special in some way? These are common questions that people ask about these cats. 

The domestic shorthair cat is not actually a breed of cat! The name is used to describe any house cat, alley cat, barn cat, or common cat that is a mixed breed or of an indeterminate breed that has short hair. 

white kitten lying down. domestic shorthair cat
I am a domestic shorthair!

Basically, if your cat is not a cat from one of the recognized breeds that can be certified, and has short as opposed to long hair, it is by definition a domestic shorthair cat!

You might find these facts a little underwhelming – but it is important to recognize that every breed of house cat in existence comes from or originates from domestic short and longhair cats! 

And, through genetics all the common domestic cats and cat breeds that originate from them around the world can be traced back to the African wildcat – a tabby cat that first began to symbiotically work with farmers thousands of years ago.

The various, so-called pure breeds, have all come from the same wildcats and domestic shorthairs. 

Some breeds have naturally developed due to geographic isolation – the most successful cats in a geographic area becoming dominant and their features becoming synonymous with a region. Examples of natural breeds include the Siamese, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, Persian, etc.

Other breeds have occurred through cross-breeding – mixing a cat from one breed with certain traits with a cat from another breed to achieve a distinctive end result. Examples include Himalayans, Bombay, and Ragdolls

a domestic shorthair red tabby cat with orange eyes sitting swiping with a paw against black background
Orange Tabby Cat

Some breeds have occurred through a completely natural gene mutation in a domestic shorthair cat which has then been bred for numbers. Examples include all the Rex’s, American Curl, and American Wirehair. 

And then hybrid breeds that are derived from mixing exotic cats and domestic cats – savannah cats, Bengal, Chausies, etc.

Domestic shorthairs are all the cats that make up the source materials for these groups! They are the pool from which natural variations, mutations, and geographic groups come.

What Is A Tabby Cat?

So what is a tabby cat and how does it fit into all this?

First off, a tabby cat is not a breed of cat. A tabby cat is a cat with a certain type of coat pattern. 

Specifically, tabby cats are cats that have stripes across their face and stripes and markings on their body, with a classic “M” stripe on the forehead. 

a close up of the face of a domestic shorthair tabby cat with blue eyes
“M” for moggy!

The body stripes and markings are classed into four groups: classic, mackerel, ticked, and spotted. Classic is your standard striped camouflage seen on many domestic cats, mackerel tabby cats have stripes that form from a solid stripe along the back and drop over the rib cage to represent a boned fish, ticked are tabbies with tick marks rather than stripes, and spotted are obviously tabbies with spots rather than stripes – but they all have the “M” and stripes on the face!

Tabby cats don’t even have a standard color- they can be mixes of blacks, chocolate, grey, white, reds, fawn, silver, and creams – it is all about the pattern. 

Remember the African wildcat – the originator of all domestic cats? Remember Mr. African Wildcat had a tabby coat? This is where all domestic cats get their genes for the tabby coat pattern.

Are Domestic Shorthair Cats Tabby Cats?

So domestic shorthair cats are not a breed, but rather a mixed breed and tabby cats are a coat pattern. But there are other common coat patterns – so does this mean domestic shorthairs are tabby cats or what?

Basically, domestic shorthair cats can be tabby cats but do not have to be tabby cats. And, purebred cats can be tabby cats but do not have to be tabby cats!

close up of the face of a black cat with green eyes lying on red sofa. domestic shorthair cat.
Domestic Shorthair Cat

Solid color cats, like shorthair black cats, that have no definitive breed are domestic shorthairs! 

Bi-colored cats such as black and white cats or white with colored faces and paws that have no distinctive breed are domestic shorthairs! 

Calico and tortoiseshell cats that are tri-colored or bi-colored in patches can be domestic shorthairs if they have no recognizable breed!

Basically, domestic shorthairs can have any coat patterns with short hair – if they are not a distinctive recognized breed they are classed as a domestic shorthair!

Are There Any Pure-bred Breeds That Have Tabby Cats?

So if tabby cats are not necessarily domestic shorthairs, but can be, then what purebred cats can also be tabby cats?

Silver grey tabby british shorthair cat with amber eyes crouching on a tree stump
British Shorthair Tabby Cat

Here are some of the most popular and well-known recognized cat breeds which officially list tabby markings as part of the breed standard : 

Abyssinian, British Shorthair, American Shorthair, Persian, Maine Coon, Manx, Ragdoll, Egyptian Mau, Ocicat, Turkish Van & Angora, all the Rex cats – Devon, Selkirk, Cornish, Oriental, Norwegian Forest Cats, and Siberian cats. 

This list is not exhaustive but just gives you a flavor of the sheer number and variation of cat breeds that can be tabby cats! So don’t assume every tabby is a domestic shorthair!

Final Thoughts

Are domestic shorthair cats tabby cats? They can be but not every tabby is a domestic shorthair and not every domestic shorthair is a tabby! Tabby cats are cats with specific markings – they are not a breed and domestic shorthairs are not a breed but simply cats with no identifiable breed with short hair! 

Your standard calico, black cat, or cat with patches are all potentially domestic shorthair cats!

Some of you may feel slightly let down that your moggy is not a special breed, but others will think how fantastic that such a normal-looking cat can give rise to such an amazing array of variations of patterns and colors!