little boy sits side by side with his tabby cat which has agouti colour in its fur

7 Common Tabby Cat Questions Answered


Recent Blog:

Facebook Posts

Tabby cats are one of the most popular cats according to Google search data. This brings us to an interesting question… what breed are tabby cats and, following on from this, are they common or rare? Also, what’s the mysterious word ‘agouti colour’ that seems to somehow be connected to these marvellous meows?

These are some of the top questions being asked about these wondrous felines online today.

In this article, PD Insurance is answering these questions and others. Find out what the difference is between a tabby cat and a normal cat as we explore the different types of tabby cats, coat markings and more.

Here are seven top tabby cat questions answered:

owner pets their tabby cat which has agouti colour fur that catches the light

1. What breed are tabby cats?

OK, so top question: what breed are tabby cats? Many of us are familiar with Siamese cats, Russian Blue cats, Maine Coon cats and many other breeds. Why then is the tabby shrouded in mystery?

Simply put, it’s because the tabby isn’t a breed of cat. Tabby is a way of describing five specific patterns found in some cats’ fur. From spotted to striped, the reason for the patterns isn’t necessarily the breed of cat. Rather, it comes down to the patterns of pigment in a cat’s fur.

Specifically, it comes down to a cat having agouti colour in its fur.

2. What is agouti colour in cats?

Agouti colour in cats is a genetic or inherited fur colouring. We’re used to hearing about different colours of fur. For example, you get black, white, grey, ginger cats, and many other colours and colour combinations. What’s pretty unique and cool about agouti colour, however, is that it’s when one strand of fur is two or more colours.

This creates a velvety effect. When a cat has agouti colour, the light kind of ripples across its fur when it moves, creating an iridescent shimmer. Beautiful!

Q: How did the cat get its stripes

A: Agouti colour!

It’s not just cats that have agouti fur. Dogs do too along with many rodents. In fact, agouti colour takes its namesake from a family of rodents otherwise known as the genus Dasyprocta.

agouti colour fur on a ginger tabby cat shimmers as it sits on its owner's shoulder

3. Are tabby cats common or rare?

Now that you know tabby cats aren’t actually a breed of cat, let’s answer the next question… Are tabby cats common or rare?

Tabby cats are considered the most common cats around. That’s because many different cat breeds are tabbies. Regardless of their fur colour or breed type, if they have tabby patterns running through their fur, they’re considered tabby cats.

Agouti colour cats are in fact so common that they make up about 80% of all cats today. Some would say that all cats are actually tabby cats, but only some are visibly so. Others may have fur that obscures or conceals the tabby coat patterns.

4. What is the difference between a tabby cat and a normal cat?

So is there a difference between a tabby cat and a normal cat? Not really. However, even if you don’t know what breed of cat yours is, you might still know it’s a tabby cat.

As a result, people often call their cats tabbies. For example, you might fill in ‘tabby cat’ on your vet form or when signing up for online cat insurance.

As we’ve explored, a tabby cat is a normal cat with agouti fur patterns. But these aren’t just any old patterns. There are five specific agouti or tabby colour patterns.

5. What are the 5 types of tabby cats?

In no particular order, the five types of agouti colour patterns in tabby cats are:

  • Mackerel. Also known as the tiger tabby, a mackerel tabby has balanced stripes running down its sides. The pattern resembles the skeleton of a mackerel fish. Mackerel tabbies are also known as striped tabbies.
  • Classic. The classic tabby has ‘butterfly’ patterns on its shoulders and three stripes along its spine. The middle stripe is the deepest in colour. This tabby also has thick bars of stripes on its legs and tail. A thick swirling pattern flanks each side and there’s a ‘bullseye’ in the centre.
  • Spotted. Spotted tabbies, as you can imagine, come with spots! Tabby spots come in a myriad of variations from rosette-shaped patterns to small or big circles or ovals. The spots can be highly defined like in Bengal cats or they can look like broken mackerel stripes.
  • Ticked. Perhaps the most elusive of the tabby coat markings, the ticked tabby is sometimes called an agouti tabby. This meow may not have evident patterns but its ticked coat has the iridescent glow of multiple tones.
  • Patched. Patched tabby cats can have a medley of any of the other agouti colour patterns in combination. A common example of a patched tabby is a tortoiseshell cat.

Have you heard about Creme Puff? She was a tabby cat and is the oldest known cat to ever live. Read about her and other golden oldies in our article on how long cats live for.

6. What does the M on a tabby’s forehead mean?

Now that we’ve answered what breed tabby cats are and several other questions, it’s time for other wow-meow facts. Did you know that in addition to the shimmery fur and coat patterns all tabby cats have an ‘M’ shape on their forehead?

While the agouti colour creates this pattern, both history and religion have looked for inspiration for this shape. Here are three cute cat inspiration stories behind the classic tabby ‘M’:

😸History/LanguageIn Egypt, the word ‘Mau’ means cat (it also means sun). There’s even a breed of cat called a Mau and its tabby coat is naturally spotted. It’s sometimes said that the ‘M’ on a tabby’s forehead is the ‘M’ in Mau.
😸Religion (Christianity)Another story is that a tabby cat helped baby Jesus fall asleep by curling up beside him. Mary kissed the cat’s forehead, blessing it with the ‘M’ shape.
😸Religion (Islam)Another given meaning is the ‘M’ in the prophet Muhammad’s name, or the name for his tabby cat, Muezza. Muhammad loved Muezza and this brave tabby even saved Muhammad from being bitten by a snake.
😸Science Of course, we now know all breeds have the tabby cat marking whether or not we can see it. Naturally, another reason for the ‘M’ is blending into the environment for stellar camouflage.

7. How to protect your agouti colour cat?

Regardless of what breed your cat is or whether they’re a tabby, give them your love and protection. Besides cuddles, a healthy diet and playtime another way you can protect them is with pet insurance.

Cat insurance helps you cover a myriad of cat health costs from x-rays and surgery to prescription medication. Depending on the level of cover you choose it can also include dental cover. That’s good because cats and dogs can also get oral health problems like gum disease and more.

Sign up today and get one or more months of FREE cat insurance. Click below to get your quote.

Share On:

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?