A spotted tabby cat has one of the five basic tabby patterns found in domestic cats.
Perhaps because it evokes the looks of so many wild cat species, it is a popular choice for pet parents.
The other characteristics of spotted tabbies, like their temperament or how long they live, depends upon which breed they belong to.
What Is A Spotted Tabby?
A spotted tabby cat has dark spots on a lighter colored background.
The most common combination is black spots set against a brown base.
But all of these combinations are possible too:
- dark brown spots and against a lighter brown background
- black or dark gray spots on a light gray background
- gray or taupe spots on a soft fawn background
- red spots on a light orange background
- and light orange spots on a cream background.
However, the spotted tabby cat isn’t a breed in it’s own right.
In fact, it a pattern which can appear in a wide variety of cat breeds, including:
- American Bobtails
- Egyptian Maus
- Australian Mists
- and domestic shorthair cats (cats of unknown ancestry).
Fun Facts About Spotted Tabby Cats
The original pattern of the pet cat’s closest wild ancestor was black and brown mackerel tabby. The spotted tabby cat was likely one of the first “fancy” patterns to appear in cats following domestication.
Tabby spots are special because they are arranged in regularly spaced horizontal or vertical rows – unlike the randomly arranged patches of a calico cat, or the spots on a Dalmatian dog for example.
The Egyptian Mau is widely regarded as the oldest naturally occurring spotted tabby breed.
But since the Bengal burst onto the scene in the 1970s they have stormed to the top of The International Cat Associations breed registry, in terms of numbers.
Spotted Tabby Genetics
“Tabby” might call stripes to mind for most cat lovers, but in fact there are several tabby patterns, only a few of which are stripey.
In fact, patterns caused by tabby genes include:
- ticking, as seen on Abyssinian cats, caused by the Ta gene
- mackerel stripes, caused by the Tm gene
- and blotches, caused by the Tb gene.
These three genes form a series – each occupies the same spot in a cat’s genetic code, so that cats end up with one, or another.
So where does the spotted tabby cat fit in?
Well their spots are created by one or more additional genes, located elsewhere in the genetic code, which turn mackerel stripes into spots by breaking them up.
At the time of publication though, geneticists haven’t yet been able to locate exactly where those additional genes are.
Spotted Tabby Looks
Since the spotted tabby pattern can appear on several kinds of cat, there’s a remarkable amount of physical variation between one spotted tabby and the next.
For example, a spotty American Bobtail cat is short and stocky with a thick medium long coat, and a short tail.
Whilst a Savannah cat has a close cropped coat, a long tail, and legs that go on for miles.
Bengal cats come in a kaleidoscope of rich browns, bold silvers and amber reds. Whilst the Australian Mist, as its name suggests, comes in soft, muted pastel colors.
And the dainty Egyptian Mau weighs just 8lbs on average, whilst the colossal Cheetoh can reach up to 23lbs!
So a spotted tabby pattern is far from the same coat stretched over a different frame every time.
But what about underneath their skin? Do spotted tabbies have a common temperament?
Spotted Tabby Temperament
Research shows that anecdotally, we tend to associate particular cat colors and patterns with specific personality traits.
For example we tend to think of orange tabbies as being friendly, and white cats as being aloof.
But so far, there’s no evidence that the genes which cause tabby spots also affect feline personality.
At the time of writing, researchers have looked for a connection between coat color and aggression, but concluded there is no evidence that one exists.
What To Expect From A Spotted Tabby
So, each spotted tabby cat’s temperament will be shaped by factors like their breed, how they are raised, and perhaps genetic factors which aren’t also linked to coat color or pattern.
Several of the spotted tabby breeds, including the Ocicat, Egyptian Mau, Australian Mist and Bengal are often described as being almost dog-like in their loyalty and affection towards people.
Spotted tabbies with wild ancestry, including Bengals, Cheetohs and Savannahs might also retain decidedly “wild” behaviors, including a special love of climbing, and an increased tendency to hunt.
And lot of a spotted tabby’s temperament will come down to how you raise them. Kittens who have lots of great experiences with a wide variety of people are more likely to grow up confident and gregarious.
Spotted Tabby Health
Just like temperament, there’s no known link between the spotted tabby coat pattern, and any specific illnesses.
However, there are some diseases which are more prevalent in the breeds which traditionally have spotted tabby coats.
Bengal cats, for example, are somewhat prone to hip dysplasia and heart disease.
Both of these conditions can be screened for in prospective breeding cats, before mating takes place, to protect future generations of kittens.
Whatever breed a spotted tabby belongs to, there’s a lot you can do to protect their health and secure the longest lifetime possible for them.
- Feeding them a nutritious diet.
- Vaccinating them against common feline diseases.
- Taking them for annual vet checks.
- Getting microchipped, and buying them a collar and ID tag, so they can be quickly returned to you if they get lost.
And of course grooming them regularly.
Spotted Tabby Grooming
Grooming doesn’t just keep your cat looking tidy.
It creates a bond between you, and provides a regular opportunity to catch health problems early – such as changes in weight or skin diseases.
Young, fit spotted tabbies with short coats will probably be able to handle the bulk of their grooming themselves.
You might only need to give them a quick once over with a slicker brush every week or so.
But older, overweight, or long haired spotted tabbies might benefit from more thorough help to remove dirt, tangles and matts from their coat.
Your Spotted Tabby Cat
The spotted tabby is one of the prettiest cat coat patterns.
It starts with the regular mackerel tabby pattern, which is then broken up into spots by an as yet unknown gene.
Several cat breeds, and domestic shorthair cats, can have spotted tabby coats.
Which means there’s a spotted tabby out there for every kind of cat lover.
Tell Us About Yours!
Do you have a spotted tabby cat?
We’d love to hear about them, in the comments own below!
References and Resources
Lyons et al. The Tabby cat locus maps to feline chromosome B1. Animal Genetics. 2006.
Kaelin & Barsh. Tabby pattern genetics – a whole new breed of cat. Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research. 2010.
Eizirik et al. Defining and Mapping Mammalian Coat Pattern Genes: Multiple Genomic Regions Implicated in Domestic Cat Stripes and Spots. Genetics. 2010.
Turner & Bateson. The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge University Press. 2013.
Delgado et al. Human Perceptions of Coat Color as an Indicator of Domestic Cat Personality. Anthrozoos. 2012.
Stelow et al. The relationship between coat color and aggressive behaviors in the domestic cat. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare. 2016.
Angela Fox says
My 7 year semi domesticated cat Bimba has an all white tummy and a dark brown stripe down her back with Bengal looking spots and she has Funfer ears, hazel eyes and black paw pads she unusual and beautiful.
Angela Fox says
Ginger ears not funfer!!