Tabby Cat Cheat Sheet – 20 Incredible Facts!

a tabby cat sleeping

If you see a cat whilst going about your daily business the chances are it is likely to be a tabby cat. They are so prevalent that we often simply overlook them and take them for granted. How much do you know about these amazing cats? 

Take a deep dive into these 20 essential tabby facts:

  1. 60-70% of all the domestic cats IN THE WORLD are tabby cats of one type or another!
  1. There are 100’s of millions of domestic tabby cats alive today.
a british shorthair tabby cat with orange eyes
British Shorthair Tabby Cat
  1. Tabby cats are not a breed – they are “coat” type (like calico or tortoiseshell or bi-color).
  1. Every cat with an “M” on the forehead is a tabby.
portrait of an orange tabby cat in sitting pose yawning outdoors
Orange Tabby Cat
  1. Folklore suggests the “M” is either derived from the Prophet Muhammed who favored his cat, Muezza, with a blessing for saving him from a snake, or as a result of Mary, the mother of Jesus, blessing the cat whose purring sent the crying baby to sleep. The blessing marks remain on all the cat’s descendants to this day. 
an orange tabby american shorthair cat in sphinx pose
Orange Tabby Cat With “M”
  1. Tabby cats are thought to probably originate from African, European, and Asiatic wildcats. European wildcats have a mackerel pattern – believed to be the first tabby coat pattern from which others are derived.
  1. Tabby cats have 5 distinct coat patterns – mackerel, classic, ticked, spotted, and patched. Mackerel tabby cats when viewed from above have a fishbone pattern – a thick line along the spine and vertical stripes down the rib cage, classic have the camo style whorls along the sides, ticked have striped legs and ticks to the body, spotted have spots such as the Egyptian Mau and patched usually have a white body with odd patches of tabby pattern.
close up of a green eyed egyptian mau cat lying on a chair
  1. Ticked tabby cats are rarer than others. The most common pattern is mackerel followed by classic, spotted, and then ticked (but these are nowhere near as rare as calico, tortoiseshell, colorpoint, or albino cats)
  1. Tabby cat coat colors usually include or are made of a blend of gray, black, and brown. And then orange tabby cats are a variety of red, ginger, orange, and white. Cream, a variation of brown, is incredibly rare and very sought after! 
Silver grey tabby british shorthair cat with amber eyes crouching on a tree stump
Silver Grey & Black Tabby
  1. Their name “Tabby” derives from a district of Baghdad, Attabiya, famed for striped fabrics during the medieval period. The striped fabric and cloth was popular and extensively traded around the known world by Islamic traders. The English anglicized the name to tabby and started calling the cats after the striped cloth.
  1. Tabby cats can be longhaired or short-haired.
  1. Tabby cats can be male or female, unlike calico and tortoiseshell cats which are usually female.
close up portrait of the face on a tabby maine coon cat outdoors
Maine Coon Tabby
  1. But, Orange tabby cats are 80% male and 20% female.
  1. Orange tabby cats are more affectionate than other types of tabby cats – this is thought to be down to size. Orange cats tend to be physically larger than standard domestic shorthair tabby cats due to genetics. This size differential is believed to make them more willing to take risks including approaching people. Hence the idea that they are more friendly.
a grey and black tabby rumpy manx cat
Manx Tabby
  1. 22 recognized cat breeds have the tabby pattern accepted by the CFA as a breed coloration. These include: Abyssinian, American Bobtail, American Curl, American Shorthair, American Wirehair, Birman, Colorpoint Shorthair, Egyptian Mau, Exotic, Javanese, LaPerm, Maine Coon, Manx, Norwegian Forest Cat, Ocicat, Oriental, Persian, Ragdoll, Rex (Devon, Selkirk, Cornish), Scottish Fold, Siberian, Somali, Turkish Angora and Turkish Van
grey tabby and white european short hair cat crouching indoors
  1. Tabby cats live for, on average 15 yrs.
  1. Tabby cat size depends on breed type – a tabby Maine coon can weigh in at  8-18lbs depending on sex, whereas a cornish rex tabby might be as small as 5-10lbs.
  1. Typically, tabby cats are fully grown by 1 year old (except tabby Maine coons that take 4-5 years to grow).
  1. Unlike some purebred cats, tabby cats are not known to suffer from congenital health problems (due to their huge genetic diversity).
black and grey tabby cat with green eyes lying on side on wooden laminate flooring
  1. Famous tabby cats include Garfield, Jones (Alien), Orion (Men In Black), Goose (Captain Marvel), Mr. Bitey (Kick-Ass), Floyd (Ghost), Bob (A Street Cat Named Bob), Dragon (Toy Story), and Puss in Boots (Shrek). 

And those are our favorite tabby cat facts! They are not the whole story, there are plenty more interesting facts, but we hope they have given you a taste of just how interesting these everyday, common cats really are! Next time you see a tabby you will look upon it with a newfound appreciation!