Ask the Vet’s Pets: Tabby is cat’s coat pattern, not breed

Dear Christopher Cat: What is the difference between a tabby and a tiger cat? Is a tabby a purebred? Christopher Responds: I am a long-haired tabby, born to a female barn cat and a tomcat that visited one spring. In other words, while I am outstanding in many ways, I am not purebred or even what one might call well-bred. Tabby is actually not a breed, but a coat pattern common among purebreds and mixed-breed cats, referred to as domestic short- or long-haired cats. The classic tabby has a blotched or swirled pattern of dark markings over a lighter coat color. A classic tabby often has a bull’s eye on each side or a butterfly shape on top. A marbled tabby is a classic tabby whose coat has a cloudy appearance. The mackerel tabby, often called a striped tabby or a tiger cat, has narrow stripes of dark fur instead of the blotches or swirls of the classic tabby. In the “broken mackerel,” the stripes appear as dashes or broken lines. Other tabby variations include the spotted tabby, which has dark spots instead of stripes or swirls, and the ticked or Agouti tabby, which is flecked. Tabbies have thin, dark stripes on the face, expressive markings around the eyes, and an “M” on the forehead. Some tabbies have white bellies and feet. We tabbies come in a variety of colors, including brown, orange, gray and my own black and silver. Female tabbies can even be calico (a combination of orange, black and white) or tortoiseshell (orange and black.)