So what exactly is a tabby cat? Are they hypoallergenic? Here are your top 10 tabby cat questions and their answers, ranging from questions about their personalities, breed, and lifespan to information on how you can get a purr-fectly adorable tabby cat of your very own to be your fur-ever friend.
I’m pretty paw-tial to tabbies because my very first cat was a gray tabby named, well, Tabby, of course! Not only was Tabby my first cat, but my first pet rescue too! We rescued him from a pet store that was giving him away to a good home.
You see, Tabby had reached the ripe old age of 6 months old, and no one wanted to pay for a kitten that “big.” So he kept getting passed over for the little ones. But we thought he was perfect and brought him home.
So in memory of my own special Tabby, here are some tabby cat facts that answer 10 of your most-searched-for questions!
1. What Breed Is a Tabby Cat?
Although some people think tabbies are a specific breed, the distinction actually refers to their coat pattern. There are different types of tabby patterns that fall into several categories:
- Classic Tabby: Often described as a “marbled” look, the classic tabby pattern (or blotched tabby) boasts bold, swirling patterns that almost resemble the intricate designs you’d find in a rich piece of agate. Occasionally, as with a black cat, the stripes on a classic tabby can be almost invisible unless you happen to catch a glimpse of them when the kitty is basking in bright sunlight.
- Mackerel Tabby: The mackerel tabby coat is perhaps the most iconic of the tabby patterns. If your feline friend looks like she’s wearing sleek, vertical stripes reminiscent of a fishbone, then she’s flaunting a mackerel tabby coat. It’s no wonder they’re often likened to little tigers!
- Spotted Tabby: These kitties look like they’ve been sprinkled with a dash of wild essence. Spotted tabbies have random spots scattered across their bodies, ranging from tiny speckles to large blotches. If mackerel tabbies are little tigers, spotted tabbies are little leopards!
- Ticked Tabby: Also called agouti, tabbies with this type of coat pattern have individual hairs showing multiple colors. Instead of bold stripes or spots, these cats have a warm, speckled appearance, almost like they’ve been kissed by the sun.
- Patched Tabby: Also known as “tortoiseshell tabby” or “torbie,” these cats combine the traditional tabby markings with patches of red or cream. It’s like they couldn’t decide on just one outfit, so they chose the best of both worlds!
One thing all tabby cat patterns have is the distinctive “M” on their forehead. There are several legends on how the tabby cat got this one-of-a-kind mark.
The most popular legend tells us that a tabby snuggled up to the baby Jesus to keep him warm in the manger. To show her gratitude, Jesus’ mother Mary marked the forehead of the cat with her own initial.
Another legend says it came from a cat staring at a mousehole for so long and so seriously that it developed little kitty frown lines!
No matter how the tabby came to be, they are wonderful, loving companions who all deserve fur-ever homes
2. Where Do Tabby Cats Come From?
The word “tabby” originated from the striped fabric associated with the “Attabiy” district in Baghdad. The old French word “atabis” changed over time to the English “tabby.” The tabby pattern itself, however, came from a tabby’s direct ancestor, the striped Near Eastern wildcat. DNA studies show that the distinctive tabby pattern dates back to domestic cats in ancient Egypt and became common in the 18th century.
3. What Is a Tabby Cat’s Personality?
While every cat has its own unique personality, there are some traits that tabby cat parents say are more common in their M-marked feline friends. Tabby cat personality is often described as playful, friendly, affectionate, and loving.
Since around 70% of cats have tabby patterns, this means most kitties, in general, are playful, friendly, affectionate, and loving—and I think most cat parents would agree with that!
If your tabby cat belongs to a specific breed, like the adorable American shorthair, the good-natured Maine Coon, or the playful and curious Abyssinian, they are likely to have the personality traits associated with that breed.
4. Are Orange Tabby Cats Friendly?
Some people say orange cats, in general, are more feisty than their less fiery-colored companions.
Another stereotype says that orange cats with tabby markings are lazier than other cats—though some suspect this is due to the popularity of a certain cartoon orange tabby who eats lasagna and hates Mondays.
There haven’t been any studies that show orange cats are more aggressive or lazier than other cats, but we do know that treating our kitties with love and affection encourages them to be friendly and affectionate, no matter what color they are. Interestingly, orange tabby cats almost always are males, with only about 20% of these orange kitties female.
5. Do Tabby Cats Shed?
Yes, tabby cats do shed.
You may be surprised to learn that whether your tabby cat has long hair or short hair doesn’t really affect how much they shed.
Since “tabby” refers to the tabby pattern on your cat’s fur, tabby cats can come in all different breeds. Your tabby cat’s breed definitely affects how much they shed.
For example, the beautiful long-haired Siberian tabby cat doesn’t shed much at all! If you’re looking for a short-haired tabby that doesn’t shed much, there are cats like the impish Devon Rex or sweet and loyal Bengal.
Even if your tabby cat is from a more shed-tastic breed, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your house fluff-free.
Brushing your cat regularly can be a big help. You can use a regular slicker brush or a de-shedding tool like a Furminator. These are especially helpful for cats with thick undercoats (Side benefit: it’ll help your cat have fewer hairballs too!).
For the hair that manages to escape your regular brushing and go fluffing around your house, a vacuum cleaner that’s designed to suck up pet hair is your best friend.
6. Are Tabby Cats Hypoallergenic?
Despite what you may have heard, there is actually no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic cat.
However, if someone is allergic to cats, there are cat breeds that will probably cause less of an allergic reaction than others.
When people are allergic to cats, it’s not the hair itself that they’re reacting to—well, not exactly. They’re allergic to a specific protein that is found in the cat’s saliva, dander, or urine, and since cats lick their fur to clean themselves, the protein gets on the hair too.
If you have mild cat allergies but are still interested in adopting a tabby cat, looking for a breed that has low levels of this protein is your best bet. Interestingly enough, this includes some of the “low shedding” cats mentioned above: the Siberian and the Bengal.
7. How Long Do Tabby Cats Live?
Tabby cat life expectancy can be 15 to 20 years. There’s a lot you can do to help your cat reach that goal, including keeping your kitty indoors, feeding her nutritious food, and making sure she gets her regular veterinary checkups.
Our pets give us so much love and joy, and one of the best ways we can show we love them too is by doing what we can to give them long, happy, and healthy lives.
8. How Much Do Tabby Cats Weigh? What’s the Average Weight of a Tabby Cat?
The average tabby cat weighs about 6–10 pounds.
It’s important to remember that we call a cat a “tabby” because of the tabby pattern on her fur, not her breed—and some breeds weigh a lot more than 10 pounds! Some cats, like Maine Coons, weigh 15–20 pounds or more.
What’s more important than the number on the scale is whether your tabby is at the ideal weight for her. There are some quick checks you can do at home to see if your kitty may need to lose a few ounces.
If you suspect your kitty may need to trim down a little to live her best life, please speak to your veterinarian to create a weight loss plan that is safe, effective, and tailored to her specific kitty needs.
9. Do Tabby Cats Have Spots?
Yes, tabby cats can absolutely have spots! They also can have swirls all over their body, stripes down their sides like a tiger, patches of color, or hardly any patterns at all.
The one thing they all will have in common is that distinctive “M” on their forehead.
Fun Fact: The tabbies with patches of color are tortoiseshells, and a tortoiseshell tabby cat is called a “torbie.”
10. Do Tabby Cats Get Along With Other Cats?
Every tabby is going to have its own unique personality, just like people do.
For example, if someone asked, “Do children get along with other children?” that’d be a hard question to answer. Some children get along great with other children. Some get along horribly. And even if they do get along well with other children, sometimes they’re going to have an off day.
Tabby cats are very similar to that. If a tabby has been around cats or other animals since they were little, they’ve probably learned how to get along with (or at least tolerate) them.
Tabby cats that weren’t socialized with other animals when they were little may have more difficulties.
If you’re getting ready to adopt a tabby cat of your very own and already have pets in your household, please speak with people who work at your local rescue shelter and let them know about your concerns. They probably will have information about which cats play well with others (It may even already be noted on the kitty’s information sheet!).
11. How Much Does a Tabby Cat Cost?
That’s one of the best things about getting a tabby cat of your own—“tabby” isn’t a breed, so you don’t have to pay big bucks to a breeder or pet shop!
You get to go to the best possible place to find a new furry family friend: your local rescue shelter.
You will most likely have to pay a small fee to cover (or partially cover) the cost of spaying or neutering and vaccinations, but then you’ll get to take home a beautiful boy or girl who will be fur-ever grateful for their new loving home.
The Tail End
Tabby cats are beautiful animals that make wonderful family pets. They have a wide range of personalities and a wide range of looks, so there’s pretty much a perfect tabby for everyone. If you’re interested in giving a pretty little tabby their fur-ever home, please head to your local rescue shelter and have a look.
Happy National Tabby Day!