The 4 Tabby Color Variations (Cute Photo Alert!)

About half of the world's domesticated cats are rightfully described as tabbies. Check out the 4 different tabby color variations.   Read More

Contrary to popular belief, tabby is not a breed of cat — it’s the pattern of a cat’s coat. About half of the world’s domesticated cats are rightfully described as tabbies.

Tabbies come in all colors and classes. The color of the tip of the tail determines the actual color of the tabby cat. Long-haired cats have less obvious markings than short-haired cats since the length and thickness of the fur tend to hide the patterns somewhat. The markings can be better identified on the head, legs and tail of kitties with short hair. A true tabby usually has a lighter chin color.

The four tabby color variations are represented by the ridiculously cute kittens below:

1. Mackerel (Striped)

Striped tabby kitten
By far the most common tabby cats, these felines have narrow stripes that run vertically down their backs in parallel positions. Often referred to as “tiger cats,” they also have one stripe that runs along their back down the spine that resembles a fish skeleton, hence the name “mackerel.”

2. Spotted

Spotted tabby kitten
You guessed it — various-shaped spots, large and small, run all along the sides of the spotted tabby. Sometimes the spots appear to be broken mackerel stripes. The belly of the spotted tabby will have rows of spots known as “vest buttons.” The forehead, as in all other tabbies, is marked with an “M,” while the legs and tail feature fine, close lines.

3. Ticked

Abyssinian kitten sleeping
Two examples of the ticked tabby are Simalis and Abyssinians. These cats may not seem to be tabby at first, since they do not have the traditional body markings. However, the markings of the coat pattern on the face, along with the agouti hairs that are striped with alternating light and dark bands on the body, are proof enough that these are indeed tabbies.

4. Blotched (Classic Tabby)

Classic tabby kittens
This pattern consists of circular, swirling smudges, much like a marble cake. A blotched tabby’s body looks almost like a bull’s-eye. The shoulder markings are likened to an open-winged butterfly ready for flight. Blotched tabbies have “vest buttons” on their bellies. The “M” on their forehead and parallel head lines are broad, while the rings around their tails and legs are broad and well spaced. There may also be wide bands on the neck, as if they are wearing a necklace.

Any domestic cat is likely to have the gene for a tabby pattern. Even a supposedly smut-black feline may have hidden tabby markings, noticeable only on the sunniest of days.

Do YOU have a tabby cat? If so, what kind of markings does your cat have? Tell me in the comments below!

Photos, top to bottom: Sarah_Jones, Jacob Davies, John Morton,


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  1. Guest Reply

    Orange blotched with orange eyes and some white spots.

    1. KD Reply

      Mackerel, Spotted, Abyssinian, Classic (long hair) and a Van.

  2. Gayla Templeton Reply

    I have a Maine Coon with long hair.  He has the face markings of a tabby but the rest of him is black with white paws and chest. The underside of his tail is gold. His face looks like the blotched tabby but from there on I can’t tell. He is my favorite out of my three but I’m trying to recover from a massive infection from him biting my arm. He’s an inside cat, declawed and neutered but when he sees a cat outside he wants at it. I came in and before I knew what was going on he was past me and almost to attack a very tiny female stray I’ve been feeding. I grabbed him from behind and he must have thought the other cat had him because he buried his teeth in my forarm.  It’s been ten days and it’s not nearly well. I’ve been in the hospital twice for IV antibiotics and I’ve seen my Dr in her office three times and it’s not over. It’s actually more painful today and I’m thinking I need another IV.  It’s a nightmare and I know he didn’t know who he was biting. For the first few days he wouldn’t even look at me and I gave him his space, not knowing what was going on in his head. We have slowly made up. I let him come to me and he did finally. If a cat could act sad, it’s him and I don’t blame him. He’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever been around with the whole family but of course that’s the Maine Coon personality. I’ve told all the children to never touch an angry cat and I’m the one who made a mistake. It’s a very painful and expensive one. About the second day my arm was twice the normal size from elbow almost to my wrist. Think about this if you think you can do anything to break up a cat fight. You can’t. If I had stopped to think he has done this before and although they make a lot of noise they have walked away from each other w/out injury.

  3. Terry DiLeone Reply

    I rescued my Tabby when he was very little. He is a Classical Tabby w/ circular markings all over his body. He has the “M” marking and he has a goatee from his mouth to his chin. His best friend is my service dog. He is only a year old and he’s as big as my Min Pin. His tail is the longest anyone has ever seen on a normal Tabby. The tail is almost as big as his body. He’s just a cool cat. I tried to upload a better photo but your site would not let me. Thank you Terry D.

    1. David Deleon Baker Reply

      Your cat sounds really cool. Sorry you couldn’t get the photo to upload here. I’m not sure what the problem is (third-party commenting system). I would have loved to have seen the goatee.

  4. Val Rubida Reply

    I have a large problem……A stray cat crawled into one of my large planters and gave birth to 5 kittens. I already have 4 and cannot handle 5 more. I live in the mountains of Costa Rica, and there is no place to take them (like a shelter). I was told that if I put them in a box after the mother goes away, and put them in the garden, she would find another place for them. Of course I would pick them up with a towel so as not to leave my scent on them. If anyone has any suggestions PLEASE help me.

  5. Benny Abreu Reply

    Yes, I do have a tabby (Long haired) and he’s world’s most lovable and fuzziest cat to ever walk the earth!

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      We love pictures! 😀

  6. Joan Reply

    A couple months ago we brought home a cat who shortly became my 2nd child 🙂 at first we thought we thought he was an American short hair but his face isn’t as round, so we thought maybe he is a classic gray tabby DSH but he doesn’t really have the M on his forehead like tabbys are supposed to have? He does have two lines, one above each eye like the long parts of the M but is missing the middle part of the M. could be still be a tabby DSH without having a full M shape on his forehead?? He also doesn’t have vest buttons instead his swirl pattern is reversed on his belly. Belly

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      I think cats are so hard to peg versus dogs. With dogs, there are so many recognizable traits – like the poodle’s curly coat, or the lab’s solid head. Cats are tricky!

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Chloe is ADORABLE!! <3

  7. Carmella Adams Reply

    I would say mine is blotched, but he is half white and does have a 3rd color on hind legs and belly. He does NOT have the “M” marking on his head.

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      He sounds adorable!

  8. namelessghost Reply

    This is Paisley. I think her coloring is brown tabby and white. What do you think?

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      She’s gorgeous! I tend to agree with brown tabby – but to me she looks like a lil tiger! Rawr!

      1. namelessghost Reply

        Thank you! She’s a rescue kitty that we adopted two months ago. She’s a great cat and we love her tons! And she’s quite like a lil tiger 😉

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Absolutely adorable!!

  9. Lavindyre Reply

    My daughter and son-in-law have a 1yr old male orange tabby, short thick hair and his sister from the same litter, who is grey striped, is significantly smaller.. They mated and five kittens arrived with very different colors. 2 were orange like the father, 1 is a short haired cream color with a distinguished white spot on its side, 1 is medium length grey striped with some tab around the eyes and 1 is medium length solid grey, no stripes at all..

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      They all sound adorable to me!

      1. Lavindyre Reply

        Thank you! T hey are, however one passed away three days before it was six weeks old.. He just stopped eating but was active until the last day.. The rest are fat and healthy.. The solid grey one choose me, and she lays on her back lol

        1. Melissa Smith Reply

          SO CUTE!!

  10. Samantha Rittgers Reply

    Here is my new kitty. Stratus. Trying to get a hold on what he is considered in color.. 🙂

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Omg he’s adorable!

    2. Lavindyre Reply

      Aww like a mini leopard! So sweet

  11. Samantha Rittgers Reply

    Here’s another!

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Omg <3

    2. Cheryl Sansom Reply

      Awwwee adorable

  12. Kori Reply a stray that I’ve been taking care of brought me a kitten I believe it’s hers but there’s only one she’s nursing it so I let her inside in there own box together the momma is solid black with green eyes her baby is a tabby ( spotted ) tiger like but also cheetah like ! Is it normal for a cat to have 1 baby ??

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Hi Kori! While it’s probably not ENTIRELY unheard of, I’d think it would be unusual. It is likely that her other kittens did not survive. 🙁

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Hm….maybe blotched? Not entirely sure, but he is definitely cute!!

  13. Angel Wurster Reply

    Not sure what she is. She has the body of a bloched tabby but a calico face. She’s so pretty

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      She’s absolutely gorgeous!!

  14. Cheryl Sansom Reply

    Hi I have a male blotched tabby and a female mackerel tabby and all three babies came out exactly same as mom. However second litter we had two solid black and one grey tabby

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      I’d have to wonder who the dad is of the second litter LOL. But kidding aside, they’re all adorable!

      1. Cheryl Sansom Reply

        Lol too gunny but neither parent is ever outside. Was told that mom’s sister looked nothing alike. So who knows really. All I know is that they r sooo cute.

        1. Melissa Smith Reply

          Hey that’s what’s important – they ARE cute!!

  15. Temporal Lobe Reply

    Definitely a classic tabby! Very thick, symmetrical stripes. His tummy is spotted and he does have the M on his forehead.

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      How sweet!!

      1. Temporal Lobe Reply

        Thanks! He is a sweet boy, besides being too pretty for his own good. Love your article and everyone’s pics!