Tabby is often erroneously thought to be a breed designation when it actually refers to a coat type, one found in a variety of cats, pedigreed and mixed breed alike. Read on for how to determine which coat pattern goes by what name, as well which coat types can usually be an at-a-glance indicator of a cat’s gender.
Tabby refers to a coat featuring distinctive stripes, dots, or bands. Tabbies typically have a coat pattern mark resembling the letter M on their foreheads. The tabby coat is the most common of feline coat patterns and comes in four varieties: Striped (also called Mackerel), Blotched (also called Classic), Spotted, and Ticked. A Striped or Mackerel Tabby has tiger-like narrow stripes that run horizontally across the cat’s sides. Blotched is the classic tabby look; this coat pattern is notable for its swirling, rounded, marbleized pattern along the cat’s sides. Spotted Tabbies, as the name suggests, have spots all over their sides. A ticked tabby does not possess the typical tabby stripes or spots but does have the traditional tabby markings on the face. The ticked tabby has a salt and pepper coat, the result of something called agouti hairs. Agouti hairs are individual hairs that are striped in alternating bands of light and dark colour. Abyssinians have a prominently ticked coat as do some mixed breeds.
As the name suggests, tuxedo is a black and white coat. Tuxedo cats are typically black with white paws, chest, and belly. The face is sometimes white or partially white.
A dilution references any one of a number of genes that has created a lighter colour of coat, such as cream instead of white, or grey instead of black.
With a Pointed coat, the “cooler” parts of the body—face, paws, and tail—are a darker colour than the rest of the body.
This three-colour coat is predominantly white but features distinct patches of two colours–often orange and black or the more subdued cream and blue tones. Calico cats are almost always female as coat colour in cats is a physical characteristic related to gender. The genetic coding for displaying orange or black colour is found on the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, so they are able to have two different coat colours plus white to create the calico mix. Male calico cats are usually sterile.
Also known as a patched tabby, a Torbie is a tortoiseshell that has a very distinct tabby pattern on all coloured parts of the cat’s coat (but not on the white).
Tortoiseshell or Tortie
Like the calico, this mix of two colours plus white is found almost exclusively in female cats. The difference between the tortie and the calico is that in the tortie, the coat colours are blended or swirled together rather than being distinct patches. Like the calico, the tortie may also have significant amounts of white.