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Ask the Vet: Tabby a Common Feline Coat Pattern, Not a Breed

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: What's the difference between a tabby and a tiger cat? Is a tabby a purebred cat?

A: Tabby is not a breed, but a coat pattern common among purebreds as well as mixed-breed cats, usually referred to as domestic short- or long-haired cats.

The classic tabby has a blotched or swirled pattern of dark markings over a lighter coat color. This coat pattern often has a bull's eye on each side or a butterfly shape on top.

A marbled tabby is a classic tabby whose coat has a cloudy appearance.

The mackerel tabby, often called a striped tabby or a tiger cat, has narrow stripes of dark fur instead of the blotches or swirls of the classic tabby. In the "broken mackerel" coat pattern, the stripes appear as dashes or broken lines.

Other tabby variations include the spotted tabby, which has dark spots instead of stripes or swirls, and the ticked or Agouti tabby, which is flecked.


Tabbies have thin, dark stripes on the face, expressive markings around the eyes, and an "M" on the forehead. Some tabbies have white bellies and feet.

Tabby cats come in a variety of colors, including black, gray, silver, brown and orange, sometimes accented with white. Female tabbies can even be tortoiseshell, which is black and orange, or calico, a combination of black, orange and white.

Q: Tank, my 3-year-old Rottweiler, backpacks with me most weekends. I think he's old enough now to carry his own pack. How much weight can he carry safely?

A: Tank is a lucky guy to spend time outdoors with you, and backpacking sounds like fun.


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