Tabby Cat Personality and Behavior – Discover Beautiful Tabby!

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What is a Tabby?

tabby cat

First, let's clarify what a tabby isn't. This is not a breed of cat, it is a coat pattern. Due to a resemblance to a distant cousin of Felis domesticus, they're often known as “tiger cats”, though they tend to be of much more gentle temperament.

Due to dominant genes and natural selection, the tabby has become the most common color pattern in cats. The tabby has been domesticated for almost 10,000 years.

The name is attributed to the patterned silk known as “atabi“, named for its origin of manufacture in the Attabiah region of Baghdad. Someone thought the striped cat's fur looked much like this patterned silk.

The most distinguishing characteristic of a tabby is bold striping on the fur accompanied by an M shape on the forehead.

Due to depictions of cats such as Morris, The Cheshire Cat, Garfield and Heathcliff, the tabby is often thought of as slightly mischievous and overly fond of food.

A more fair assessment of tabbies could be found in Jenny-Any-Dots of the musical Cats who only sleeps all day because she's been very busy all night and spends her waking hours being kind and affectionate to others.

Tabbies do have their own personalities, however. Just like people, their upbringing and environment can do much to shape their personality.

Tabby Cat Personality and Behavior

tabby cat lies on his back

Every tabby is a completely unique individual, so this is a just basic generalization. Tabbies are very friendly and intelligent, getting along with many people and animals.

However, they have a tendency to play favorites. Their intelligence just makes them realize some people and animals are more companionable than others. They're rather playful but can get moody sometimes.

Fortunately, they tend to be very easy going and not prone to attacking. If treated well, they can be a very contented and well-behaved member of the family.

Though tabbies are not naturally predisposed to being overweight, their lovable natures can influence people to give them more food than is healthy.

These cats have a natural instinct to both feed whenever they can and do what it takes to please the humans they’ve taken to, so they may not be very good at self control when offered a lot of food.

While tabbies do love a nap, they also love playtime and should get regular exercise to keep tabby from getting flabby. The heaviest cat on record weighed 46 pounds and 15.25 ounces.

Because all this weight took a toll on poor Himmy's health, the people at Guinness Book have retired this record so no one endangers a cat trying to beat it.

The lifespan of a tabby cat, like any other domestic cat, can vary depending on various factors such as genetics, diet, environment, and overall healthcare. On average, tabby cats tend to live around 12 to 16 years, although some may reach 18 years or more with proper care.

Tabby cat temperament

Tabbies are very outgoing and social as cats go. The first domesticated tabbies realized quickly it would be in their best interests to associate with humans. They'd chase away the vermin and in turn the humans would see that they were safe, sheltered and well fed.

Today, not everyone has a granary to defend but the Tabby is still a popular house pet that loves people. Tabby cats are ideal therapy animals that will cuddle affectionately with the patient.

Many cafés throughout America are offering “cat rooms” where customers can have their choice of coffee, tea or me-ow!

The tabby is gentle with children and makes a good first pet. They get along well with other animals, even birds. They're very good at making friends.

Yellow tabby cat

A stray tabby won't be stray for long. She'll find out where the people are, win them over and have a warm and loving home before she knows it.

This popular breed was a favorite of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who took his tabbies everywhere and insisted that his ancestral home at Chartwell in Kent always have a marmalade-coloured (he's British, that's how he'd spell it) tabby with white feet and a bib in residence named Jock.

As of this writing, Jock IV welcomes visitors to Chartwell. Other celebrities who have been charmed by tabbies include Queen front man Freddie Mercury, glam rocker David Bowie, actress and animal activist Betty White and writer Mark Twain.

Tabby cat coat colors and patterns

Cute Tabby cat lies on her stomach

There are four basic types of tabby coat pattern. The classic tabby is the most common with swirls of color creating a marbled pattern. The mackerel tabby has stripes comparable to fish bones, with narrow striped rings around the legs and tail.

The spotted tabby has dark blotches of color, mixing spots with stripes. The ticked AKA agouti tabby has isolated bands of color. A tortoiseshell cat whose various colors fall in a stripe pattern and have the distinctive M shape on the forehead are often called torbies.

Tabbies come in a variety of colors. Many black cats are actually tabbies once you get a good look at their coat in strong sunlight. Orange tabby cats have a tendency to be male.

Many tabbies have patches of white on the paws, underside or tail tip, though occasionally the white on the underside may creep up on the shoulders..

They also come in brown, silver, ginger, blue, gray or red. No matter what color your tabby is, she is a beautiful and unique creature with a sweet and loving nature who will be your best friend for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Cat Genetics
  • Feline Coat Color Tests Veterinary Genetics Laboratory The Regents of the University of California
  • Defining and Mapping Mammalian Coat Pattern Genes: Multiple Genomic Regions Implicated in Domestic Cat Stripes and Spots Eduardo Eizirik, Victor A. David, Valerie Buckley-Beason, Melody E. Roelke, Alejandro A. Schäffer, Steven S. Hannah, Kristina Narfström, Stephen J. O'Brien, and Marilyn Menotti-Raymond
  • The Tabby cat locus maps to feline chromosome B1. Lyons LA1, Bailey SJ, Baysac KC, Byrns G, Erdman CA, Fretwell N, Froenicke L, Gazlay KW, Geary LA, Grahn JC, Grahn RA, Karere GM, Lipinski MJ, Rah H, Ruhe MT, Bach LH. Anim Genet. 2006 Aug;37(4):383-6.

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