Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Purrfect 10: Fascinating Facts About Tabbies

We love reading and researching anything and everything about cats, and wanted to find a fun and unique way to share the interesting facts we learn with you! Since top 10 lists are very popular in the blogosphere, we created The Purrfect 10 as a way to present 10 educational or fascinating tidbits about a wide variety of cat-related topics, everything from health issues to cat breeds to famous felines.


My best friend and childhood companion for the first 15 years of my life was an orange tabby named Patch. I guess you could say he was the one who kick started my passion for all things feline from my days in the crib, and to this day I have such fond memories of the little guy.

In honor of National Tabby Day, here are some fascinating facts about these beloved cats...

1) Just like with tortoiseshell cats, tabbies are not a breed but a coat pattern. It's the most common of all feline coat patterns. In fact, regardless of a cat's colors or markings, they all have the tabby cat gene (agouti) even if the patterns are hidden. Solid color kittens sometimes show their underlying tabby pattern before shedding their kitten coat and growing their adult one, and in solid color adult cats you can sometimes faintly see the tabby pattern in bright sunlight.

2) There are four tabby coat patterns: classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked. A fifth includes tabby as part of another basic color pattern. The "patched" tabby is a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches (the latter is called a "torbie").

3) One thing you will never encounter is a solid red, orange or cream cat without tabby markings. That's because the gene that makes a cat those particular colors also makes the tabby markings visible.

4) Orange tabbies, also fondly referred to as "gingers" and "marmalades" in England, have a predominance of a pigment known as pheomelanin—the same pigment that produces red hair in humans.


5) Orange tabby cats are about 80/20 percent male to female because of the X chromosome that is responsible for the orange coloring. Females possess two Xs and males possess XY, so male cats only need the orange gene from their mother whereas females need it from both parents.

6) Unique to all tabbies is the distinctive “M” on their forehead. One legend states that Baby Jesus wouldn’t stop crying until a cat climbed into the manger and started to purr, sending him off to sleep. In gratitude, the Virgin Mary marked the cat’s face with the first letter of her name. Islam legend has it that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats. One day Muhammad was sitting with his favorite cat Muezza on his lap. He heard the call to prayer but didn't want to wake his sleeping cat so he took out his knife and cut off the part of the robe kitty was sleeping on. Others believe the "M" is for Mau, the word for cat in ancient Egypt.

7) The origin of the word “tabby” is believed to have come from attabi, which is a type of silk taffeta with an irregular wavy finish that was manufactured in the Attabiya district of Baghdad. English speakers modified the word to tabby in the early 1600s. Within a few decades of the adoption of the word tabby, the word was also being used to describe the markings on the coats of some cats. By the late 1700s, the word was being used to describe the cats themselves as well.


8) Tabbies have long been pop culture favorites. Two of the most famous cats in the world are tabbies: Morris and Garfield! Many major pet brands use both grey and orange tabbies in their brand advertising: Friskies has an orange tabby and so does Meow Mix, Arm and Hammer cat litter and Fresh Step. Tabby stars of the small and silver screen include Crookshanks (from Harry Potter), Milo (from Milo and Otis), Jones (from Alien), Orangey (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Puss in Boots (from Shrek 2), Spot (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Orion (from Men in Black). And let's not forget real-life superstars such as Lil Bub and Bob the Cat (from A Street Cat Named Bob.)

9) One of the first mass-produced stuffed toys, the Ithaca Kitty, was inspired by a tabby cat. The toy was based on a gray tabby named Caesar Grimalkin, whose owners had his likeness painted onto a pattern. The design was sold for one cent a yard to Arnold Print Works, which then sold the printed pattern as "The Tabby Cat" on half a yard of muslin for ten cents each in late 1892. Nearly 200,000 were sold that first holiday season! The toy made appearances at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and in the windows of Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. The Ithaca Kitty was reportedly so lifelike that it was used by farmers to scare away birds and the Central Park police to frighten mice!

10) A tabby was once even the mayor of a town! Stubbs was the honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska from 1997 until his death in 2017.

Tell us about the special tabbies in your life!

17 comments:

Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat said...

This is a bit of a tangent ... but Breakfast at Tiffany's was ruined for me when Cat was left out in the rain. Tabbies do rock though!

Summer at sparklecat.com said...

Did you know that I am a tabby cat? I'm of the ticked variety, and even though my ticked fur blends together with no stripes (the stripes for Somalis and Abys are contained in each fur strand), I still have the Tabby M on my forehead!

Mickey's Musings said...

We liked these 10 facts about Tabbies.
JJ(our Tabby) really liked them too :)
Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ

Terra Heck said...

Those are all fun, interesting facts...especially #3 and #6. I don't own any tabby cats but think they're pretty. I follow Little Bub on Instagram.

Brian said...

I think tabbies are pretty special too MOL!

The Island Cats said...

Wally was our special favorite tabby. What a friendly guy he was!

Patricia T said...

Great info, Melissa!

World of Animals, Inc said...

Happy Tabby Day, Mudpie. We just love the wonderful facts that you share. We got to learn so much new stuff from you. Maybe we will see a Mayor Mudpie one day. We would vote for you. Thanks for sharing. Have a great rest of your day.
World of Animals

The Swiss Cats said...

Great facts ! Happy National Tabby Cat Day ! Purrs

Timmy Tomcat said...

Those are all wonderful Tabby Cat Facts and I am so glad to be a Ginger Tabby. Yes I rule my home MOL

Eastside Cats said...

The PO'M is our only tabby, and his tail looks like a raccoon's!

The Menagerie Mom said...

What a purrfect Purrfect 10 for National Tabby Day! This here human's 4 kitties consist of 1 orange tabby, 2 grey/brown tabbies, and 1 calico with tabby markings. It's all about tabbies around here!

pilch92 said...

Great post. I love my tabbies Prancie and KaTwo.

Three Chatty Cats said...

What a great list of 10! We have two tabbies here. Love the legend of cutting the robe so not to bother sleeping kitty.

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

TBT here. In all my adult life, all my cats except LC, Ayla, and Iza have been tabbies.

meowmeowmans said...

We love tabbies! Moosey was a tabby, even though he was mostly white ... he had tabby spots, and half of the M on his forehead. :)

Ruby's Rescued Life said...

I always wondered why orange cats are almost always orange. And I had no idea there were so many varieties of tabbies. Happy May!