A pet owner's guide to the tabby cat

Strictly speaking, the tabby is not a unique breed. Rather, the word "tabby" is used to describe these cats' characteristic coat markings and patterns, which are typified by stripes and swirls. Typical variants include the orange tabby cat, silver tabby cat, brown tabby cat and gray tabby cat, with the color referring to the primary base hue of the animal's coat. Stripes and swirls are usually dark.


A long list of cat breeds show the tabby pattern, especially Maine coon and Abyssinian cats, and it's estimated that up to half of the domesticated cats in the world could be accurately described as tabby cats. Many tabby cat breeders think the distinctive pattern has been around as long as domesticated cats themselves – in other words, thousands of years.


Size: The size of a tabby cat will vary according to its breed. Regardless of the particular breed, an adult cat with a weight exceeding 18 pounds is unusual.

Coat: Dots, swirls or striped typify the coat of the tabby cat. It's also common for these cats to have a white bib, white underbelly and white "socks" on their legs, regardless of the base color of their fur.

Eyes & Ears: Eye shape and color varies according to breed, as does the size and form of the ear.

Tail: Most breeds have tapered tails lightly lined with soft fur, though certain breeds have bushier, hairier tails and others have strong, narrow, whip-like tails.

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Cats are known for their curiosity, wanderlust and aloofness. However, tabby cat breeders hasten to point out that any individual animal's personality is dependent on a large number of factors, including early socialization and the home environment in which it lives. Generally, though, even highly independent cats grow attached to a particular person in the household and seek daily attention from that individual.

Health and Care

Grooming: Cats are very clean animals and look after most of their grooming needs on their own. That said, regular brushing and petting helps remove dead fur and spread essential oils throughout the cat's coat. Some experts also recommend bathing cats during shedding season.

Activity Level: Lap cats can easily become overweight, so take care to feed less active cats a limited diet. More lively breeds will find their own ways to work off their energy, and many cats enjoy going outdoors to do so.

Health Problems: All cats are prone to liver and kidney troubles as they get older. Hairballs can cause respiratory problems. Regular veterinary care is essential. Sexually active cats may also develop a syndrome informally called feline AIDS, and overweight animals are more likely to develop feline diabetes and feline arthritis in later adulthood.

Average Lifespan: Most domesticated cats live for 12 to 15 years. Especially healthy animals may live considerably longer.