a british shorthair tabby cat with orange eyes

Is My Cat A Brown Tabby Cat?

Have you got a brown cat and are confused about whether they are a brown tabby cat or something else? Maybe you have a purebred cat that people call a tabby cat and you just don’t think they are right? Or maybe your cat is not brown but people tell you it is a brown tabby? 

Find out what is going on here. Learn about brown tabby cats, what they are, how unusual or common they are, and how even cats that are not brown can be brown tabby cats!

Tabby Cats Are Not A Breed Of Cat

First off, tabby cats are not a breed of cat. Tabby cats are cats that have a specific set of coat patterns. This means that even a purebred cat like a Maine coon cat or a Persian cat can be a tabby cat! Likewise, a cat that is of no specific breed, just your average cat can be a tabby cat. So long as the cat’s coat has tabby characteristics it is deemed to be a tabby cat.

Let’s check out some of those characteristics to see if your cat is a brown tabby.

a brown tabby cat sleeping on a radiator

Brown Tabby Cat Coat Characteristics

There are some simple characteristics you can look out for if you want to identify whether your brown cat is a tabby cat. Check these out :

A brown tabby cat will always have an “M” marking on its forehead in black hair with black stripes running over its head.  No “m” then your cat is not a tabby. If the “M” is red, orange, brown, or cream then the cat is a tabby but not a brown tabby – it is more likely to be an orange tabby cat!

Tabbies have stripes or rings running around the legs – not necessarily along the entire length of the leg, but certainly on at least some of the leg. Brown tabbies have black stripes. If the stripes are not black then the cat is a tabby variety but maybe a silver tabby or red tabby.

Look out for black stripes or rings around the tail and the tip of the tail is a solid color. Tabby cats have some form of rings around their tail. The color of the cat’s markings is usually identified by looking at the color of the hairs in the area of the tail at the tip where the marking colors are solid.

A brown tabby cat will have black markings on its flanks. These markings make up the pattern of the coat – see more on coat patterns below. If the markings are blue, cream, red, chocolate, lilac or fawn then your cat is not a brown tabby but is probably a tabby cat of a different color.

long haired brown tabby cat reclining on stones at a beach.
Long Haired Brown Tabby Cat

Brown Tabby Cats Have Four Coat Patterns

So we have some broad coat characteristics to look out for to identify whether your cat is a brown tabby. One of the clearest indications is that the cat has body markings on the flanks and to be a brown tabby those markings must be black. The markings come in four distinct patterns and recognizing the patterns can help to identify what type of brown tabby you have. 

Mackerel Markings

A cat with black stripes down its flanks and a solid black stripe along its spine is described as being a mackerel tabby cat – because the markings represent a fish skeleton when viewed from above! In some areas of the world, they might also be called striped tabby cats.

A cat with these markings in black and lighter areas of fur between the markings would be described as being a brown mackerel tabby.

Classic Markings 

Maybe your cat does not have stripes running down the flanks, perhaps they have black whorls, splashes or patches giving a camo appearance? Tabby cats with these markings are described as having a classic pattern. If the markings are black rather than grey, red, or chocolate your cat might be a classic brown tabby cat.

Spotted Markings 

Young Egyptian Mau Cat Reclining Under Vegetation On A Sunny Day. Brown tabby with spotted markings
Spotted Brown Egyptian Mau Cat

Some tabby cats have spotted coats. They have all the extras like an M on the forehead, leg and tail stripes but the coat on the flanks of their body is characterized by dark spots on a lighter background of agouti hairs. These are described as being spotted tabbies and if the spots are black the chances are you have a brown spotted tabby cat!

Ticked Markings

Ticked tabbies are slightly more unusual than the other patterns in so much as the coat patterns on the flanks of the cat tend to be very nondescript. Essentially there are no clear body markings. The darker hairs are equally mixed and distributed with the lighter agouti hairs.

In this instance, you tend to get a cat that has a coat pattern on its body that looks like snow you see on a TV screen! The head, leg and tail markings will probably very clearly be tabby but the body will seem to be patternless – except on closer inspection, the dark and lighter hairs are usually much more equally distributed than on the coats of tabbies of other patterns.

If your cat has black markings with a dirty grey or brown color body coat you might have a brown ticked tabby cat.

Brown Tabby Cat Colors

a brown tabby american shorthair cat sitting
Honestly, I Am A Brown Tabby Cat!

So we keep mentioning black markings but surely a brown tabby cat should have chocolate markings over a lighter color?

Not so, a cat with black markings and grey fur can be a brown tabby cat! In fact, brown tabbies are any tabby cat that has black markings and lighter fur that is either grey, brown, fawn or a mix of these colors. 

A blue or grey tabby cat has markings that are grey with an even lighter grey body hair. A cat with chocolate markings and lighter body hair under the markings is a chocolate tabby. A cat with ginger, red or cream markings is an orange tabby cat. To confuse things even more, a silver tabby has black markings and lighter fur but the hair in the black areas is colorless at the skin!

Are Brown Tabby Cats Rare?

Is a brown tabby cat rare? No, not at all! Because they can be mixed breed or purebred cats and because tabby markings are so widespread, finding a brown tabby cat is relatively easy. In fact, any tabby with black markings is highly likely to be a brown tabby so spotting one should not be a problem!

To put it into a little more context, it is believed that there are 600 million domestic cats in the world and at least 60-70% of them are tabby cats. That is a lot of tabby cats! Now, some may be orange or red tabbies, cream, silver or blue – but the most common group are brown tabbies. 

Why are brown tabby cats the most common group of tabby cats? Because they are cats that have a dominant black color gene and a tabby or agouti gene. 

The only other color in the cat world is red and this is a sex-related gene – hardly any female cats have red genes. This means tabby cats with black genes are far more common, they occur in male and female cats. 

Tabby cats described as grey, lilac, cream, and chocolate are all diluted variants of black and red colors and the dilution is caused by a separate dilution gene which is a recessive gene that does not express as often as standard black and agouti genes! 

So, brown tabby cats with black markings are most likely to occur out of that 60-70% of 600 million cats!

a shorthair singapura cat against grey background. brown tabby cat breed
Singapura – A Brown Tabby Cat – Ticked

Are Brown Tabby Cats Female or Male

Brown tabby cats can be male or female in equal measure. 

Orange tabby cats are 80% male and 20% female usually. This is because the female has two X chromosomes that carry color and males have an X and Y chromosome with only the single X chromosome carrying a color. 

This means female cats can inherit black and red genes, 2 x black genes, or 2 x red genes. Female cats that inherit both genes may be either black, tortoiseshell or calico, females that inherit just black are likely to be black or a black-based tabby cat and females that inherit two orange genes are likely to be an orange-based tabby. 

The male only has to inherit an orange gene from one parent but a female needs orange genes from both parents to be orange – hence male orange cats are more common.

Well, brown tabby cats are a derivation of the black color gene which is more common in both sexes meaning brown tabby cats are just as likely to be male or female.

Tabby maine coon sitting on a stone wall. Brown Tabby Cat Classic Pattern Coat.
Maine Coon Brown Tabby With Classic Pattern Coat

Are Brown Tabby Cats Friendly

Generally speaking, brown tabby cats are friendly. On the basis that they are numerous and have spread everywhere alongside man often living within human households or under human patronage must mean they are friendly – let’s face it, foxes, wolves and leopards have spread far and wide but would not be considered friendly enough to be in your home!

However, that is not to say they are the most friendly type of cat. It is believed that orange tabby cats are amongst the most friendly cats and scientists have looked at this to try to understand what may be going on.

ginger tabby cat arching back and looking big. Orange tabby cat with mackerel markings.
Orange Tabby Cat With Mackerel Markings.

What scientists have discovered is that orange cats tend to be bigger than other cats on balance due to the fact they are usually male. This maleness means they eat well as they are able to dominate younger cats and female cats with their body strength which gives them better access to food and sexual resources. Their size and success lead to personal confidence in their activities which seems to make them more friendly than other cats! 

The fact they are orange seems to account for less than the fact they are bigger for being male – so if you want a friendly cat go for the biggest male cat you can find!

The other factor to consider may be breed. Some breeds are known for being aloof and standoffish whereas others are known for being social, friendly and maybe even dog-like in their intelligence and capacity to socialize with people. Picking a brown tabby cat from a special breed might provide you with a cat with special characteristics if this is what you like in cats.

A brown tabby Maine coon might be more friendly than any other cat!

Bengal Cat Running Cross A Lawn. brown tabby cat breed with marbled markings
Bengal Cat – Tabby With Marbled Pattern

Brown Tabby Cat Breeds

So, if you want a brown tabby cat with special characteristics like size, intelligence, playfulness, or with longer coats, shorter coats or with a specific coat pattern it might be smart to opt for a breed of cat with particular characteristics that is also known to be available in brown tabby colors.

These are some of the breeds that produce wonderful brown tabbies that have special characteristics :

American ShorthairAmerican BobtailAmerican Curl
American WirehairAbyssinianBengal Cats
British ShorthairExotic ShorthairEgyptian Mau
Manx CatMaine CoonNorwegian Forest Cat
OcicatOriental CatPersian
Scottish FoldSiberianSingapura
SomaliTurkish Angora

Each of these wonderful breeds has characteristics that set them apart. So if you want a big cat or a small cat, a lazy cat or a clever cat, a long-haired cat or a short-haired cat, or a cat with ticked markings versus spotted markings you are sure to find one amongst these breeds.

a brown somali cat with green eyes lying on a parquet floor. brown tabby cat breeds - long hair
Brown Somali Cat – Long Haired Ticked Tabby

Is My Cat A Brown Tabby Cat

So, to wrap up – if your cat has black markings, even if the lighter color in the coat is not brown your cat could be a brown tabby cat! If your cat is a purebred cat like a Persian cat – it could be a brown tabby cat!

Identify if your cat has the forehead “M”, rings of dark fur around the tail and legs, and then has black markings with a lighter coat – you have a brown tabby cat.