5 Facts About Tabby Cats

Did you know tabby cats aren’t a specific breed of cat? A tabby cat is considered to be any domesticated cat with a coat that features distinctive stripes, dots, or swirling patterns, usually with a marking resembling an uppercase “M” on their forehead.

In honor of tabby cats everywhere, here are just a few fun facts about them you may not have known! Feel free to pass them on to a friend.


The term “tabby” is believed to have originated from Baghdad.

The English term “tabby” comes from the translation of the French phrase “striped silk taffeta,” the root of which is tabis, which means “a rich watered silk,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. This can be traced even further to the Arabic term attabiya, which references Attabiy, a neighborhood in Baghdad where such silk cloth was originally made. The term “tabby cat,” meaning “one with a striped coat,” likely came into usage in the late 17th century. Cats have always been fashion forward!

Tabby cat coats aren’t just one pattern.

There are actually four basic tabby cat coat patterns: mackerel, ticked, spotted, and classic, which is also referred to as marbled. The mackerel pattern is the most commonly occurring one, and is the pattern most people think of when they think of tabby cats. This pattern has vertical, narrow, curving stripes on the side of the cat’s body, and may be continuous or broken into bars and spots on the cat’s stomach and flanks. There is an “M” shape on their forehead, along with dark lines on the cat’s cheeks to the corners of their eyes.

Tabby cats can have any coat color.

Tabby cats can have a wide variety of coat colors, including brown, gray, cream, and orange. The most commonly occurring are black-based coats.

Orange tabby cats are usually male.


Did you know orange tabby cats are typically male? In fact, up to 80 percent of orange tabbies are male, making orange female cats a bit of a rarity. According to the BBC’s Focus Magazine, the ginger gene in cats works a little differently compared to humans; it is on the X chromosome. Males only need one copy of the gene to become a ginger cat while female cats have two X chromosomes and require two copies of the gene.

One tabby cat was mayor of a town in Alaska.

Who says Egyptians were the only civilization to put cats in power? In Talkeetna, Alaska, a tabby cat named Stubbs was elected mayor in 1997 when his name was written in to protest the human candidates in a municipal election. Mayor Stubbs served the town for 20 years until he passed away in 2017.

There are many tabby cats available for adoption at Cat Town. Why not spend time browsing through our website to get to know some of them? Whether you’re interested in one of our foster cats or a cat in the Cat Zone, reach out to info@cattownoakland.org for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our adoption counselors.


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