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Tabby Cats:
Photos, Pictures, Breed Information

Two red tabby cats

Tabby cats are the quintessential cat. All cats carry the tabby gene. The tabby gene is an incredibly diverse gene that can create a variety of coat patterns, the most familiar of which is the striped tiger-like pattern on many domestic cats, both pure-bred and random-bred.

Even cats with single-color coats carry some form of the tabby gene. One tabby gene is dominant, known as the agouti gene. Any cat that inherits it from at least one parent will have a patterned coat. A cat that inherits the genetically recessive non-agouti gene from both parents will have a solid color coat, but if you look carefully even at solid-coat cats, you may see faint tabby markings. Because all cats carry a tabby gene, two solid-color cats will sometimes have tabby kittens in their litters.

Tabbies come in four distinctive patterns: mackerel, classic, ticked, and spotted. The tabby gene can also mix with other marking genes to create cats that display both, such as calico tabby, pointed tabbies and tabbies with white fur.

Mackerel Tabbies

Mackerel tabbies are probably the most familiar type of tabby and are sometimes referred to as "tiger cats" They have narrow vertical stripes running from their spine across the belly. They also have the stripes ringing their tails and lining their legs.
Tabby cat lying1

Mackarel tabby cats can come in many color variations but the pattern of the stripes is always the same.

Classic Tabbies

Classic, or marbled tabbies as they are sometimes called, have blotched, wide stripes that run horizontally across the cat's body, often swirling and creating spirals and bull's eyes.

This pattern appears to be the most recessive of the tabby patterns, meaning both parents must at least carry the gene to produce it, unlike the other tabby patterns, which are far more dominant. It is much more likely for a litter of mixed kittens to be mackerel-patterned (even if neither parent are) than classically-patterned.

Classic tabby

Ticked tabbies

Ticking is where the hairs show alternating bands of light and dark, giving the coat a flecked appearance. Ticking is on the head, legs and tail.
Ticked tabby pattern
Ticked Tabbies are an ancient and possibly the original domestic tabby variety. They do not have the stripes and spotted coat patterns of the other tabbies. Instead the entire cat will appear to be one uniform color until you look closely, when you can see that each individual hair is banded with two or more colors starting at the root and ending at the tip. This can cause them to have a sandy or salt and pepper-like appearance.

Spotted tabbies

Spotted tabby patternInstead of stripes, these cats have small spots and rosettes. These cats can come in any color but the spots are generally black. Some spotted tabbies can even be black cats with darker black spots on them.  There is some debate about whether or not spotted cats are in fact tabbies.

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