Love Tabby Cats? Then You’ll Love These Awesome Tabby Cat Facts!
There is no other feline on the planet quite like the tabby cat.
If you are fortunate enough to keep company with one of these distinctive tabby cat breeds, you already know that the tabby cat temperament is classic “pet cat.”
When it comes to cohabitating with a kitty sidekick, there is none better than the classic tabby cat!
But if you are new to all things feline, you may be legitimately curious and wondering what is a tabby cat?
Rest assured, you will soon find out the answer to this question here!
There are all different types of tabby cats, from a long haired tabby cat to a short haired tabby cat, to a fluffy tabby cat and many more variations besides these.
Whether you are a newbie tabby cat enthusiast or a long-time tabby cat parent, you will love these must-know awesome tabby cat facts!
Tabby cat facts for kids
Tabby cats make fantastic pets for the younger set as well as for adults.
Not only does owning a tabby cat as a youngster set you up for a lifetime of loving cats and animals. You can actually get smarter from living with a pet tabby cat. How about that for a fun fact!
Here are some other interesting facts about tabby cats.
There are more cats with tabby coats than with any other coat color in the world today.
This is in part because the tabby cat is the color of the very first domestic cats.
It is also a great coloration for staying camouflaged in the wild while hunting or hiding from predators.
The tabby coat colors and patterns are produced by how genes (small bits of DNA) from a kitten’s parents combine.
Both the mom and dad cats contribute genes that influence tabby kittens coat colors and patterns.
Among orange colored tabby cats, there are 80 males to every 20 females!
So far, scientists still don’t know why this occurs, but it definitely ensures there are always new tabby kittens coming into the world!
Tabby cats make excellent pets for young owners because of their well-known friendly, cuddly and social personalities.
All domestic pet cats can make for good family pets. But the tabby cat has become known as an especially great “first cat” pet for kids. This is because of what is perceived as this cat’s well documented friendly and loving personality.
There are still many small wild cats around the world today that look a lot like the domestic tabby cat.
However, these cats, such as the African wild cats, the lynx cats, the wild cat of Scotland and the British Isles and similar others, are not tame like the tabby cat.
If you see one of these look-a-like felines in the wild, you shouldn’t try to approach since this will scare it a lot!
Tabby cat fun facts
These tabby cat facts showcase just how wonderfully distinctive the tabby cat personality can be!
After all, what other cat besides the tabby could you picture serving as the town mayor, guarding dangerous prisoners or accompanying heads of state to formal functions?
Guess how much the world’s heaviest tabby cat weighed? 46 pounds and 15.25 ounces!
This Aussie tabby’s name was Himmy and his owner was Thomas Vyse. When Himmy passed away in 1986, he was 10 years old and had a 33-inch waist!
Even though Himmy won the Guinness Book of World Records for “fattest cat”. After he died the Guinness Book folks stopped offering this award. For fear cat owners would deliberately “fatten up” their felines just so they could topple Himmy’s record.
[P.S. If you are wondering how long do tabby cats live typically, the answer is 15 to 20 years. But this depends on ensuring your tabby cat pet eats a healthy diet and gets plenty of exercise – unlike Himmy!]
The town of Talkeetna, Alaska, has a very unique mayor – a 17-year-old orange tabby cat named Stubbs.
Stubbs first swept the vote as a write-in candidate 15 years ago and has been presiding over the 900-resident historic district ever since.
Residents say they are quite satisfied with his leadership thus far and that he is perhaps their best mayor….ever. They also say they like that he never raises taxes.
Sir Winston Churchill, one of Great Britain’s most famous Prime Ministers, had two favorite tabby cats, Tango and Mickey.
Tango and Mickey, along with Sir Winston’s other family cats, were known to accompany him to many formal luncheons and dinners. Where they often got bits of salmon under the table. As well as to estate business meetings.
An orange tabby cat named Tiger broke into the infamous Sing Sing prison near New York City, where he has lived for the past decade or so.
Originally, Tiger broke into the prison by squeezing through the protective bars placed over the windows.
However, a steady diet of tinned tuna (offered freely by Tiger’s “family” of inmates) has since rendered him too wide to break back out again.
Luckily, Tiger shows no desire to leave anyway.
The Happy Tabby Cat Café is now one of two cat-themed cafes in Atlanta, Georgia….and there are nearly 25 more similar cafes scattered around the country.
With creative names like Meowtropolitan, KitTea, Purrington’s and Catmosphere, some cafes operate like more traditional coffee shops while others have special “cat rooms”. Where patrons can pay extra to get up close and personal with the café’s resident felines.
Tabby cat coat facts
Tabby cat patterns and tabby cat markings readily distinguish tabby cats from all other cats.
The tabby cat coat is the “original” pet cat coat color and pattern. But interbreeding between breeds with different colorations can today result in a variety. Including the grey tabby cat, a black tabby cat, a brown tabby cat, a spotted tabby cat and even a tabby and white cat. As well as other creative coat color and pattern combinations!
Learn more about the tabby cat coat, how it came to be and more about some of the modern variations in this section!
The name “tabby” refers to coat color, not to a specific breed of cat.
Because of this, any cat that displays the distinctive tabby colorations and patterns can be considered a tabby cat in addition to belonging to that cat’s specific breed.
An example might be an Abyssinian tabby cat, where “Abyssinian” is the breed and “tabby” is the coat color.
There are five different “tabby” coat colors. These include the classic, mackerel, spotted, patched and ticked.
The classic tabby coat color looks a lot like swirled marble, with circular markings alternating between lighter and darker colors all over the cat’s body.
The mackerel tabby coat color is often considered to be the “original” tabby cat color. This coloration features stripes rather than circles that, when perfectly placed, can resemble the skeleton of a mackerel fish!
The spotted tabby coat color, as the name suggests, has spots or dots of darker color on a lighter background.
The patched tabby coat color is sometimes called the “tortoiseshell” color, because the different colors show up as patches rather than lines, spots or circles.
Some purists do not consider this coloration to be part of the four “true” tabby cat color patterns. Tortoiseshell cats with tabby coat markings are often called “torbies” instead of torties or tabbies.
The ticked tabby coat color is most closely associated with Abyssinian cat breeds and is sometimes termed “agouti.”
This unique coloration looks a lot like tiny flecks or dots all over the cat’s body, but when you look up close you can see this effect is actually created by lots of individual hairs, each with multiple colors on them!
Tabby cats are considered to be the most outgoing and social cats of all (and yes, biologists say this is linked to coat color, making this one of the most distinctive tabby cat characteristics).
While the orange tabby cat personality is most closely associated with the “friendly” tabby gene, all tabby cats have developed a reputation for being lovable and socially-oriented.
Many different cat breeds can display the tabby coat colors and patterns.
Some of the best-known cat breeds that can display tabby coat colors and patterns include (but are not limited to) these:
Abyssinian, American Curl, American Wirehair, Birman, Egyptian Mau, Manx, Javanese, Persian, Rex, Scottish Fold, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, British Shorthair, American Shorthair, PixieBob, Ocicat, Oriental and Maine Coon.
The original tabby fur pattern most closely matches that of the African wild cat (Felis Silvestris Lybica) and the European wild cat (Felis sylvestris sylvestris).
These petite wild cats can trace their respective origins back as far as 131,000 years. However, the first domesticated cats appeared only about 10,000 years ago.
Scientific researchers say that even today there is very little genetic or appearance variation between the domestic tabby cat and its closely linked wild cat cousins.
Tabby cat name facts
The origin of the tabby cat’s name has some quite colorful legends attached to it. While we may never know which one (if any) of these legends is true, what is clear is that everyone wants to claim the tabby cat for their very own!
Some believe that the name “tabby” came from the neighborhood of Attabiyah in Baghdad, Iraq, where famous silk cloths bearing a similar pattern have historically been produced.
The name may have either arisen from the neighborhood, Attabiyah, or the name of the pattern, atabis or just tabis, which was a type of striped taffeta silk.
While there are still several theories on how the tabby cat became known as “tabby,” one of the most convincing begins with tabby-appearing cats called “tiger cats” during the Middle Ages. This then became “atabi cats” after the famous patterned silk. Then “tiger” and “atabi” were combined to “tabby cat” – voila!
Legend has it that the characteristic “M” marking on the foreheads of true tabby cats stands for (and is a gift from) Mohammed. This theory arose because the true life Mohammed had the habit of resting his hand on the forehead of his favorite pet, a tabby cat named Muezza.
A competing theory states that a caring tabby cat curled up beside the baby Jesus in his cradle to keep him warm and then Jesus’s mother, Mary, stroked the cat’s forehead in gratitude, leaving behind the signature “M.”
Yet another theory has the “M” marking dating all the way back to the time of ancient Egypt and the word “mau,” which is the Egyptian word for “cat.” Mau also means “light” or “vision.”
In a much less glamorous reality, biologists have now determined that the presence of the “M” marking is due to simple genetics (DNA).
Just as genetics dictates which tabby kittens will display the traditional tabby coat coloration and specific markings (ticked, patched, striped, classic, mackerel), so too will a kitten’s DNA tell its fur to develop the distinctive “M” on the cat’s forehead.
Tabby cat celebrity quote facts
There is a word for people who love cats: ailurophile (ailouros = “cat” and phile = “lover”). As it turns out, tabby cat lovers hail from all walks of life, including the wonderful wide open world of make-believe!
As well, many, many worldwide household names have become known for wanting nothing more than to come home and retreat into a welcoming pile of tabby fur, including these tabby cat loving celebrities!
Jim Davis’s uber-famous cartoon cat Garfield is an orange tabby cat.
One famous quote from Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, has him saying: “In my mind, the sky is blue, the grass is green and cats are orange.”
Rock singer Freddie Mercury had many cats: one was an orange rescued tabby cat named Miko and another a shy ginger tomcat named Oscar.
Those close to the Queen lead singer reported how, when on tour, the star used to call his London home to talk to his cats….for hours at a time.
It was said that actor and musician David Bowie never met a cat who didn’t like him….ever.
The singer-songwriter even wrote a song called “Cat People” to accompany the film by the same name. And in one of his best-known official press photographs, he was pictured holding an Abyssinian tabby cat in his arms.
Actress Betty White began her lifelong love of cats as a girl with an orange tabby cat named “Toby” who used to perch on her crib railing and watch over her.
The beloved actress is also a tireless animal activist who calls her unending love for animals “her very expensive habit.”
According to several sources, writer Mark Twain was so besotted with cats he couldn’t even go on holiday without renting kittens to keep him company!
The writer kept company with a great many cats during his lifetime, including a tabby kitten he tucked into his pocket and played pool with – for real. Twain was famous for saying, “When a man loves cats, I am his comrade without further introduction.”
Tabby cat history facts
Have you ever wondered who the tabby cat’s great-great-great-great-great-cat-grandma and grandpa were? Are you curious about which cat breeds might display tabby coat markings?
This section gives you a glimpse or two into the tabby cat’s fascinating history!
Biologists have traced the modern tabby cat back to three strains of wild cat: the African wild cat, the Asiatic wild cat and the European wild cat.
All three had similar coat colors and patterns to today’s modern tabby cat.
Just one of the five original genetic strains of wild cat were tamed successfully. Felis Silvestris Lybica and these first tame pet cats were all tabby cats.
These early domesticated tabby cats were likely pets of Mediterranean farmers. They saw firsthand their usefulness in keeping stored grains and hungry rodents separated! From there, domesticated tabby cats spread throughout Europe, often traveling by ship to reach other countries.
The first true domesticated “tabby” cat coats that did NOT look like the original “mackerel” wild cat tabby coat have been traced back to Turkey in the 14th century!
This deviation from the first tabby/mackerel coat colors is now attributed to deliberate breeding efforts. To produce different pleasing coat colors and patterns for pet tabby cat owners.
The first domesticated cats were tolerated primarily for their rodent-hunting skills. But biologists state that the most prominent genomic (DNA) changes that separate the first domestic cats from today’s modern tabbies is “more friendliness.”
However, modern pet cats have retained every bit of their predatory skills. These continue to serve them well and ensure them a place in modern families.
In many ways, state biologists, this shows proof that cats “domesticated themselves”. Something they did in order to continue to enjoy the many advantages of their partnership with humans. Including protection from predation and steady food supplies.
Today’s tabby cats have evolved in other notable ways to separate them from their wild cat ancestors. Including their tendency to thoroughly enjoy resting, napping and eating.
As various news sources regularly report, this combination can be a recipe for rapid weight gain in modern tabbies!
While not all tabbies may be at risk of weight gain due to a sedentary personality, their lovable and affectionate natures can also predispose besotted family members to offer them more treats than is nutritionally wise. Perhaps this is also at the root of the “tubby tabby” syndrome!
We hope you have enjoyed this curated list of 30 awesome tabby cat facts! If you know a fact about tabby cats you didn’t see here, please drop us a comment and let us know. We are always keen to learn more about these wonderful felines!
Resources and Further Reading
- Arnold, C., “Surprising Things You Never Knew About Your Cat,” National Geographic, 2015.
- Ottoni, C., et al, “The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world,” Nature, Ecology & Evolution, 2016.
- Bell, J., et al, “Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds,” CRC Press/Teton New Media, 2012.
- Lyons, L.A., et al, “The Tabby cat locus maps to feline chromosome B1,” Animal Genetics, 2006.
- Wightman, T., “The lesser-known wild cats of Africa,” Rhino Africa, 2011.