Tabby Cat Coat Colors
Tabbies come in many different colors. They can be shades of brown, grey, and red. Any color a cat comes in, you can find a tabby cat of that color (except white, of course). You can tell what color a tabby is by looking at their stripes’ color and the tip of their tail. These will be the cats’ “true” color.
Some researchers speculate that the tabby pattern was originally camouflage in the wild. However, there is no way to know for sure.
Types of Tabby Cats
There are a few types of tabby patterns out there today. Some breeds have all of these patterns, while others only have a few types available.
The classic tabby coat has blotched, broad stripes that curve over their whole body. This pattern is likened to a marble cake.
The mackerel tabby has continuous or broken stripes that run perpendicular to the spine. They are usually reasonably small stripes.
The spotted tabby has a similar pattern to the classic tabby, but with spots – not stripes. This is a rarer pattern and is not seen in all species.
The final pattern is agouti. The body is solidly colored, but small stripes are on the legs, tails, and face. These stripes are typically skinny.
First Up: Tortoiseshell Cat aka Tortie
Tortoiseshell Cats are so-named for their tri-colored coats that resemble the colorful shell of a tortoise. Like the Tabby cat, the Tortie cat is not actually a breed. Instead, the “Tortie” term actually refers to the coat pattern that results from a certain genetic combination. Several pure breeds, such as Maine Coons and Persians may exhibit the Tortoiseshell pattern. Mix breeds may even express it!
Most often, Torties are black and red or orange, and oddly, they are almost exclusively female. Or…maybe not so oddly. It turns out that the genes that determine coat color are also responsible for determining sex. So it is all linked!
While male Torties do exist, they are incredibly rare- only about 1 in 3000 male cats have the Tortoiseshell pattern! This is because in order to express the gorgeous Tortie coat pattern, a cat must have a mutation in two X chromosomes. Males only have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, while females carry two X chromosomes.
So in order for a Tortie to be male, he must have a genetic mutation that causes him to express two X chromosomes, in addition to the Y chromosome that makes him male. This XXY combination is known as Klinefelter Syndrome in humans and unfortunately, this particular gene variation causes the male Tortie to be sterile.
Also unique to Tortoiseshell cats is their sassy personality. Seriously, this goes way beyond the typically observed “cattitude” that is frequently attributed to most house cats. Studies from the University of California, Davis, confirm what Tortie owners have known along: with a flashy coat, comes an extra fiery spirit.
Difficult to distinguish from their Tortoiseshell/Tabby (Torbie) cousins, the Tortie cat does have at least one notable difference – the black part of their coats will be free of stripes. So just keep an eye out for that little detail!
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