The humble tabby cat is what most of us think of when asked to imagine a typical cat. They are so familiar to us that we sometimes take these awesome felines for granted. To set things right, we have some great tabby cat facts that will might make you look at your moggy in a different way.
We have facts about tabby personalities, the different types, and even a few famous tabbies. Soon, you’ll be able to impress friends and family with these nuggets of tabby-related information.
The Humble Tabby Cat
Face it – there’s no other feline on the planet quite like the tabby cat.
If you are fortunate enough to enjoy the company of one of these distinctive breeds, you already know that the tabby cat personality as the classic “pet cat.” In books and films, the tabby is everywhere, an old friend that is part of human history.
When it comes to cohabitating with a kitty sidekick, there is none better than this classic kitty! Those that know them love them more than anything.
But, if you are new to all things feline, you may be legitimately curious and wondering what is a tabby cat? Where do they come from and what else is great about them?
Rest assured, you will soon find out the answers to these questions here!
There are all different types of tabby cat, from a longhaired to a short haired tabby cat. You can find a fluffy tabby cat and many more variations besides these. That’s before we get to the huge range of colors.
Whether you are a new enthusiast, or you are a long-time tabby cat parent, you will surely love these must-know awesome tabby cat facts!
Tabbies are the perfect family pets, so how about starting with a few fun facts for kids.
Tabby Cat Facts For Kids
Tabby cats make fantastic pets for the younger family members as well as adults.
Owning a tabby cat as a youngster will set you up for a lifetime of loving cats and animals. You can actually become smarter through living with a pet tabby cat. How about that for a fun fact!
That’s a free tabby fact for you and doesn’t even count towards our 30!
So, moving ever onwards, here are some other interesting facts.
#1 Tabby Is The Most Popular Cat Pattern
There are more cats with tabby coats than 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. Thousands of years ago, when humans and cats first started living together, it’s likely they were tabbies.
The tabby stripes are also a great coloration for staying camouflaged in the wild while hunting prey or hiding from predators.
But, how does it get its stripes?
#2 Tabby Cat Genes Make The Stripes!
What is responsible for the tabby coat colors and patterns? Well, they arise when 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. Whether you have a grey tabby cat, a ginger tabby cat, or a silver tabby cat, the genetics behind their markings are much the same.
These tabby cat genetics are even more interesting. Read on to learn more!
#3 Tabby Cat Male To Female Ratio Depends On Color
Did you know that, among orange colored tabby cats, there are 80 males to every 20 females!
There are some reasons for that. If you want to find out more, you can read about this fun fact in two fascinating articles.
Now we have looked at the biology, let’s take a look at their wonderful personalities.
#4 Tabby Cat Personality
Tabby cats make excellent pets for young owners because of their well-known friendly, cuddly, and social personalities.
All domestic pet cats can make good family pets. However, the tabby cat is renowned as an especially great “first cat” pet for kids. This is because people perceive these cats as having friendly and loving personalities.
That’s why they are in so many films and wonderful books! We just adore their playfulness and gentle nature.
Some studies suggest this could be a myth, but there’s no doubt that many people are convinced it’s true!
However, while we may see tabbies as docile, they can also be very wild. Let’s look at their wild side.
#5 Tabbies Can Be Pretty Wild!
Many small wild cats around the world today look a lot like the domestic tabby cat. They have similar markings, yet you couldn’t get any further away when it comes to personality.
However, these cats, such as the African wild cats, the lynx cats, the European wild cat, and many 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! They are hunters adapted to their environment, but they also prefer to stay away from humans.
From the very wild to the very fun, here’s a few tabby cat fun facts.
Tabby Cat Fun Facts
These 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?
Let’s start with a particularly large kitty!
#6 The Heaviest Tabby Ever!
Bet you can’t guess how much the world’s heaviest tabby cat weighed?
20 pounds? 30 Pounds?
Not even close!
The world’s heaviest tabby cat weighed a humongous 46 pounds and 15.25 ounces! Imagine that!
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 entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the “fattest cat,” the publishers stopped offering this award after he died. They feared that cat owners would deliberately “fatten up” their felines just so they could topple Himmy’s record.
P.S. If you are wondering about the tabby cat lifespan, 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!
#7 Cats Can Be Mayors!
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 the fact that he never raises taxes. They hope that this tabby cat lifespan lasts for many more years.
Cats are very much part of politics, and some of the world’s leaders have cats as companions, whether the White House or Downing Street. One of the most notable politicians of all time adored tabbies.
#8 Winston Churchill Loved Tabbies
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, accompanied him to many formal luncheons and dinners.
They often received bits of salmon under the table, those spoiled little tabbies!
What about a daring prison raid?
#9 This Tabby Broke INTO Jail
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. He obviously enjoys the prison life!
It’s not just prison inmates that love them.
#10 Tabby Cat Cafes Are Springing Up
The Happy Tabby Cat Café is now one of two cat-themed cafes in Atlanta, Georgia….and there are almost 25 similar cafes scattered around the country.
With creative names like Meowtropolitan, KitTea, Purrington’s, and Catmosphere, some cafes operate like traditional coffee shops, while others have special “cat rooms”.
Here, patrons can pay extra to get up close and personal with the café’s resident felines.
Now, let’s look at the tabby’s wonderfully patterned coat.
#11 Tabby Cat Coat Facts
Tabby cat patterns and markings readily distinguish tabbies from all other cats.
The tabby cat coat is the “original” pet cat coat color and pattern. However, the interbreeding between breeds with different colorations can create a variety of tabby patterns and coats
Some of these include the grey tabby cat, the black tabby cat, brown tabby cats, spotted tabbies, and even a tabby and white cat. Tabbies have many other creative coat color and pattern combinations!
We’ll learn more about their coat, how it came to be, and more about some of the modern variations in this section!
#12 Tabby Isn’t A Cat Breed
The name “tabby” refers to coat pattern and not to a specific breed of cat.
Because of this, any cat that displays the distinctive tabby colorations and patterns is considered a tabby as well as belonging to a specific breed.
An example might be an Abyssinian tabby cat, where “Abyssinian” is the breed and “tabby” is the coat color.
As we said, tabbies come in many colors, but there are many distinctive coat patterns, too.
#13 Different Tabby Patterns
There are five different “tabby” coat patterns. These include the classic, mackerel, spotted, patched, and ticked.
The classic 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 coat color is often considered 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 coat color, as the name suggests, has spots or dots of darker color on a lighter background.
The patched 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!
What about their temperament? Do they make great pets?
#14 Tabby Cat Temperament
These cats are considered the most outgoing and social cats of all (and yes, some biologists say this is linked to coat color, making this one of the most distinctive tabby cat characteristics).
While the orange tabby personality is most closely associated with the “friendly” tabby gene, all versions have developed a reputation for being lovable and socially oriented.
Of course, any temperament and personality is not just down to the coat, but to the breed. And, many cat breeds can show these wonderful coat patterns.
#15 Many Different Cat Breeds Have A Stripey Version
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 the:
• American Curl
• American Wirehair
• Egyptian Mau
• Scottish Fold
• Turkish Van
• Turkish Angora
• British Shorthair
• American Shorthair
• Maine Coon.
#16 Stripey Cats Go Back A Long Way
The original fur pattern most closely matches that of the African wild cat (Felis Silvestris Lybica) and the European wild cat (Felis sylvestris silvestris).
These petite wild cats can trace their respective origins back as far as 131,000 years. However, as far as we know, 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 kitty and its closely linked wildcat cousins.
With this rich history, one of the most amazing facts of all is that nobody knows where the name ‘tabby’ came from!
Tabby Cat Name Facts
The origin of the tabby’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 it for their very own!
#17 Stripy Cats Might Be Named Because Of Silk
Some believe that the name “tabby” came from the neighborhood of Attabiyah in Baghdad, Iraq, which historically produced famous silk cloths bearing a similar pattern.
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 these kitties became known as “tabby,” one of the most convincing begins with tabby-appearing cats called “tiger cats” during the Middle Ages.
These then became “atabi cats” after the famous patterned silk. Then, “tiger” and “atabi” combined to become “tabby cat” – voila!
While we are looking at the Muslim world, what does the ‘M’ on the forehead of our beloved tabbies stand for?
#18 Does M stand for Mohammed?
Legend has it that the characteristic “M” marking on the foreheads of true tabby cats stands for, and is a gift from, the prophet Mohammed. This theory arose because Mohammed had the habit of resting his hand on the forehead of his favorite pet, a tabby named Muezza.
Christianity has an alternative answer.
#19 Does M Stand For Mary?
A competing theory states that a caring tabby cat curled up beside the baby Jesus in his cradle to keep him warm. After that, Jesus’ mother, Mary, stroked the cat’s forehead in gratitude, leaving behind the signature “M.”
Perhaps the Ancient Egyptians offer another great legend for how the kitty got its ‘M’ marking.
#20 Does M Stand For Mau?
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.”
Of course, these are beautiful stories, but modern science has a very different, if much less romantic, answer.
#21 M Is All In The Genes
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 kittens will display the traditional tabby coat coloration, and the specific markings (ticked, patched, striped, classic, mackerel), a kitten’s DNA tells 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!
To add to that, 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!
#22 Garfield Once Said…
Jim Davis’s uber-famous cartoon cat Garfield is an orange tabby cat.
In one famous quote from Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, he says: “In my mind, the sky is blue, the grass is green and cats are orange.”
#22 Freddie Mercury Loved His Ginger Tabbies
Rock singer Freddie Mercury had many cats: one was an orange rescued tabby cat named Miko, and another was 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.
#23 David Bowie Was A Tabby Fan
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. In one of his best-known official press photographs, he was pictured holding an Abyssinian tabby cat in his arms.
#24 So Is Betty White
Actress Betty White began her lifelong love of cats as a girl with an orange tabby cat named “Toby.” He 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.”
#25 Mark Twain On Tabbies
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.”
Twain is a major mover in US history. On that note, what is the history of this cat? Where did they come from and why did they thrive?
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 kitty’s fascinating history!
#26 This Is Where Tabbies Come From
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.
#27 The First Domestic Tabbies
People managed to tame just one of the five original genetic strains of wild cat successfully, These were African Wildcats, Felis silvestris lybica, and these first tame pet cats were all tabbies.
These early, domesticated tabby cats were probably pets of Mediterranean farmers. These farmers saw firsthand how cats could help to keep stored grains and hungry rodents separated!
From there, domesticated tabbies spread throughout Europe, often traveling by ship to reach other countries.
#28 Non-Mackerel Tabbies Come From Turkey
The first true domesticated “tabby” cat coats that did NOT look like the original “mackerel” wild coat have been traced back to Turkey in the 14th century!
Historians attribute this deviation from the first tabby/mackerel coat colors to deliberate breeding efforts. Breeders wanted to produce different pleasing coat colors and patterns for pet tabby cat owners.
Of course, as any domestic cat owner will tell you, did we choose cats, or did they choose us?
#29 Cats Chose Us
Undoubtedly, ancient people tolerated the first domesticated cats primarily for their rodent-hunting skills. But, biologists state that the most prominent genomic (DNA) change 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, biologists suggest this shows proof that cats “domesticated themselves”. This was something they did in order to continue to enjoy the many advantages of their partnership with humans.
This included protection from predation and a steady supply of food.
#30 Tubby Tabbies
Today’s tabbies have evolved in other notable ways to separate them from their wildcat ancestors. This includes their tendency to enjoy resting, napping, and eating thoroughly
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!
Tabby Cat Summary
We hope you have enjoyed this curated list of 30 awesome tabby cat facts! As you can see, the lazy domestic tabby curled on your lap is much more interesting than you would believe.
If you know a fact about tabbies 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.
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