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Tabby Cat Personality Traits | What Makes a Tabby Tick?

Adorable tabby cats look a lot like purr-fect little tigers with dark-line markings on their coats. These felines come with an array of personalities and a fascinating history behind their unique markings.

The tabby cat personality is captivating by nature; their unique patterns come in several patterns, sizes, and colors. Although domestic cats are common breeds with tabby markings, it’s not a specific cat breed but rather a coat pattern.

Morris, Garfield the cat, and The Cheshire Cat are a few Disney cat characters that depict tabbies’ diverse personalities. Many exhibit mischievous kitties, while others are complete foodies, like Garfield, the cutest name for a ginger tabby. And Jennyanydots, the musical cat who sleeps all day, is another well-known example of our tabbies’ many personalities. 

Tabbies, just like people, have personalities of their own. Their environments and their upbringing can do a lot when it comes to shaping your kitties’ personality. If you’re wondering what to expect with your own tabby cat, let’s take a look at these types of characters.


Tabby Cats Personality: Tabby Cat Temperament

Before we dive into these adorable felines’ personalities, let’s first understand ‘what is a Tabby cat’?

A tabby, also referred to as a “tiger cat,” is not a specific cat breed; it’s a coat pattern. This can be found on any domestic feline (Felis cactus) with a distinctive ‘M’ shaped marking on its forehead, with stripes near its eyes and across its cheeks, along its back, and around its legs and tail. This makes the tail more eye-catching, making your cat more likely to chase its tail.

It can also be characterized by having flecked, banded, swirled, or striped patterns on its face and body.

Tip: Find out why your cat could be covering its face.

Two tabby kittens

Tabby Genetics

Tabby cats are unique and special little critters because the pattern on their coats has its own genetic and historical roots from modified genes. The presence of the agouti gene is responsible for making the cat tabby.

The dominant (A/A) agouti gene renders an even distribution of pigment with markings and creates a tabby. A feline with the recessive agouti gene (a/a) is a non-tabby cat, meaning they don’t have any markings.

norwegian forest cat vs maine coon tabby winking

Tabby Fur Patterns

Tabby is a type of dark-striped coat pattern found in both domestic and wild cats. Its appearance can vary from stripes and spots to spirals and more.

There are four distinct coat patterns found on tabby cats and a fifth one formed by any four basic markings in a patched pattern. Let’s take a look at each one.

1. Classic Tabby Personality

The classic tabby has a marble coat coloring. It’s frequently referred to as having swirled or bulls-eye patterns. The stripes on these tabbies are wider than the mackerel tabby’s stripes and have a circular pattern on their sides.

bengal kitten sits on table

The whorl pattern on the classic tabby makes it look like there’s a target on the side of the cat’s body. These kitties are also referred to as “blotched” or “marbled” tabbies.

2. Mackerel Tabby Cat Personality

Mackerel tabbies are absolutely beautiful kitties. And no, they’re not named after their favorite fish, though they won’t say no to sampling some.

tabby cat with bowl of raspberreis

These kitties have vertical stripes running parallel on either side of their bodies. There is usually one large stripe going down the cat’s spine and several thinner lines. These felines also have rings around their tails and legs, and bands of stripes around their bodies. It may look like your kitty is wearing pinstripe pajamas – how adorable! And the mackerel tabby personality is equally as adorable as its looks.

⇒ Find out about some of the largest cat breeds in the world, and why your cat sleeps on your legs.

3. Ticked Tabby

A ticked tabby (otherwise known as an agouti tabby cat) has no stripes or spots on its coat. However, if you look closely at their individual hairs, you’ll notice that each of them has bands of dark and light coloring on them.

young Abyssinian cat in action
young Abyssinian cat in action

Abyssinians and Somalis are good examples of ticked tabby breeds.

4. Spotted Tabby

Spotted tabbies don’t have stripes but rather spots. If your fur baby’s spots have a dark outline with a lighter color in the center, these spots are called rosettes. Rosettes can vary in size and often resemble broken stripes.

Egyptian mau cat
Egyptian mau cat

Spotted tabbies can be seen in various breeds such as the Bengal, Ocicat, Main Coon, Arabian Mau, Egyptian Mau, Savannah, Australian Mist, and Serengeti cats.

5. Patched Tabby

Patched tabbies have ‘patches’ of dark or greyish brown, red, orange cat colors on their coats with tabby markings. These felines are often referred to as tortoiseshell tabbies because of their brown and orange patterns, similar to the shell of a tortoise. 

young-tabby persian-cat lying on pavement outside

Tabby Cat Breeds and Personalities

Because these kitties exist across a variety of breeds, tabby cats’ personalities are more distinct to their breed rather than the markings that identify them. The tabby pattern can be seen in a range of purebred and mixed breeds.

Every tabby is completely unique, so generally speaking, they are friendly and intelligent kitties. They are often considered the most outgoing of all domestic felines, keen on playing and exploring. Plus, these kitties offer endless cuddles and make perfect family pets – for kids and adults alike. Tabby cat behavior is generally very pleasant, and they get along with other animals for the most part. 

Let’s take a look at the tabby cat personality traits of some breeds with tabby markings. Whether you want to find out about the female tabby cat personality or the male tabby cat personality, you’ll find the answers below.

1. Abyssinian

Abyssinian, nicknamed “aby,” cats are highly active, curious little felines. These felines are always looking for a place to climb up or something to chase around. Aby cats love playtime. If you have one or five of these kitties, it’s best to invest in a scratching post or an interactive cat toy to use up their energy.

Abyssinian Cat lying down

These felines love heights and would probably adore having a tall cat tree in the home. If you’re thinking of adding an Aby cat to the family, it’s best to stock up on cat toys to keep them occupied.

2. American Shorthair

American Shorthairs are smart and sociable felines. Although they have a middle-of-the-road personality type, they enjoy playtime but are not overly demanding of attention. These kitties are also seen as the most classic of tabbies and come with all the best tabby cat characteristics.

american shorthair kittens
american shorthair kittens

These adorable balls of love won’t hide under your bed when strangers come over. While they don’t enjoy being cuddled and held, they do like snuggling up on the couch to sleep next to you or may sleep at the foot of your bed.

3. Maine Coon

These fluffy felines are the most popular pedigree tabbies. They are known to be the gentle giants of all kitties, often said to be more like dogs than cats.

young-maine-coon cat lying down

A Maine Coon’s personality is known to be good-natured, friendly, lovable, and vocal. They love attention and being with family, often supervising relative gatherings or chasing after a cat wand.

maine coon cat staring at camera from window sill

They are one of the largest domesticated cat breeds, with sizable bodies and a double layer of long thick hair. You’ll find yourself falling in love with your tabby Maine Coon cat in no time.⇒ Find out why your cat could be eating your hair.

4. Oriental

Oriental tabbies come in a diverse range of colors. If you’re looking for a vocal kitty and, well, a little high-maintenance, he’s your guy. These little meow machines crave attention. You’ll often find them sitting on your lap or following your every move.

5. Ocicat

The spotted tabby patterned cat, the Ocicat, makes this feline look like a wild cat, notably, an Ocelot. Ironically, the Ocicat has no feral cat DNA in its gene pool. These kitties got their name through careful breeding.

ocicat cat breed
ocicat cat breed

Ocicats are social kitties and enjoy the company of their families. They’ll gladly play games with you and even walk on a leash – if you train them to do so. Ocicats are one of the more expensive cat breeds.

6. American Curl

The American Curl comes in a variation of tabby patterns. It’s a newer breed of feline, named for its cute ears that curl backward.

tabby cat personality american curl

These kitties are friendly, kind, and gentle. They are moderately active but won’t make much of a fuss being left alone.

7. Domestic Shorthair

The Domestic Shorthair is a group of mixed breeds that come in an assortment of tabby patterns and colorings. And much like their appearance, their personalities vary.

Grey tabby plays with plush mouse

These kitties can be playful, vocal, docile, affectionate, and quiet all bundled into one. But more often than not, they are social felines with playful personalities.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Personality of Tabby Cats

If you want to find out even more about tabby cat personalities, here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding tabby cat traits.

What Problems Do Tabby Cats Have?

Tabby cats are generally pretty healthy cats, although their overall health generally depends on 
their specific tabby breed. That being said, there are a couple of health problems that are reported in tabbies more frequently than others. These include weight loss, urinary trouble, an upset stomach, hyperthyroidism, and vomiting. While none of these sound particularly pleasant, they are fairly mild conditions that can be treated rather quickly with a visit to the vet, while other conditions go away on their own.

What Breed of Cat is the Friendliest?

Unfortunately, tabby cats aren’t among the friendliest cat breeds on the market. Some of the friendliest cats include Persians, Ragdolls, Siamese, Maine coon, Sphynx, Abyssinian, Burmese, and Scottish Folds. 

But just because tabbies aren’t some of the friendliest cat breeds, it doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly cats. A lot about a cat’s temperament is actually influenced by how they are raised. If you get your tabby at a young age and spend a lot of time cuddling, playing with, and petting your tabby, they will likely be incredibly friendly cats when they grow up.

Why Are Tabby Cats So Special?

Tabbies are special cats because they are very intelligent creatures, and they are born with a natural affinity for affection. Because of this combination, they are very good at getting what they want. But be warned, if they don’t get their way, they can get very grumpy with nothing but a moment’s notice.

How Do You Discipline a Tabby Cat?

It’s important to note that disciplining a cat can be difficult, and you should never use physical violence, even if you are being gentle. This is because the cat doesn’t associate the punishment with the behavior but rather with the person administering the punishment. 

If you need to discipline your tabby, it’s best to use a water spray bottle, a can of compressed air or actually to hiss at your cat. Discipline tends to work a little more effectively when you speak in their language – and hissing will do just that.

Do Tabby Cats Have Attitude?

Most tabbies are warm and affectionate creatures, but they can get a little sassy when they don’t get their way. The feistiest tabby cat is the orange or ginger tabby. They are known for having a fiery attitude when they don’t get their way. So it’s best to stay out of their way when they are in a bad mood.

What is the Rarest Color in Tabby Cat?

Tabbies, in general, are rather popular cats and can be found in many households, but there are a couple of colors that are rarer than others. The rarest colors in a tabby cat are Cinnamon, Smoke, Lilac, Fawn, and Cream. 

If you would like a tabby cat but want one that is a little unique, search for breeders that breed tabbies in these colors for a unique furry addition to your household.

Do Tabby Cats Get Jealous?

While tabby cats are generally friendly and even-tempered, they can actually get jealous. They often have feelings of jealousy toward other cats, pets, and even humans in the home. 

They usually get jealous over things like their food, toys, and their favorite human. But if a person or another pet is stealing all the attention, they can get jealous of it too.

How Long Can You Leave a Tabby Cat Alone?

Tabby cats are generally quite content in their home. However, this does depend on how dependent your cat is and how attached to you they have become. Most tabbies are pretty happy to spend 8 hours away from you while you are at work. 

This is particularly easy because most cats sleep for a good portion of the day, so they likely won’t notice that you are gone for very long. But longer periods alone can become problematic, especially if it is taking place on a frequent basis. 

Some tabbies are fine to spend 24 hours away from their humans if they have ample food and water provided for them. But try not to do this too often, or it can be disruptive to your cat’s routine and lifestyle. 

While your cat might seem aloof, they are dependent on their humans for company (even if they act like they don’t appreciate it very much).

Can You Walk a Tabby Cat on a Leash?

The RSPCA does not recommend walking any cat on a leash, although it is legal to take your cat on a walk on a leash under direct supervision. Tabbies are rather intelligent and can learn to walk quite successfully on a leash, but you won’t have the same experience as you would have with a dog. 

While you can take a dog for a walk, the opposite is true of tabby cats. They can take you for a walk. Don’t expect to go where you want to go; instead, you will have to follow wherever your cats want to go. 

Unless you train your tabby from a very young age, it will be a difficult task getting your cat to walk on a lead successfully.

How Long Do Tabby Cats Live?

Tabby cats can live to a ripe old age and generally live between 12 and 15 years (so ensure you are ready for a long-term commitment when you get a cat). But just because most tabbies live between 12 and 15 years, it doesn’t mean your cat won’t live a little longer. 

Some tabbies get to 18 years old or even older, so ensure you are in it for the long haul when you get a tabby cat.

How Do Tabby Cats Show Love?

Tabby cats show love by purring loudly when they are happy or content. This generally takes place more frequently when they are being stroked, tickled, or scratched. But it’s not uncommon for tabbies to simply start purring in your presence. This is because they enjoy being near their human.

Do Tabby Cats Sleep a Lot?

Tabbies are certainly restful creatures and sleep for an average of 15 hours a day. This takes place mostly during the daytime because they tend to perk up at night and become incredibly hyperactive. 

But 15 hours of sleep is generally just the minimum for a tabby. They are often found sleeping up to 20 hours in a 24-hour period. So if you are concerned about your tabbies sleeping habits, don’t worry; a life of slumber is completely normal for these fur babies.

Are Tabby Cats Loyal?

Tabby cats are incredibly loyal, enjoying every second they get to spend with their humans. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to show affection to random strangers too. While their loyalties will always align with their most loved human, they will take love where they can get it and find any human lap that is available.

Is a Female Tabby Rare?

Female tabbies are not particularly rare, but orange or ginger female tabbies are much rarer than males. About 1 in every 5 ginger tabbies is female. This is because ginger coloring is a recessive gene found in the X chromosome. 

Females have the XX chromosome, while males have the XY chromosome. This means that in order to get a ginger male tabby, only one of his parents needs to be ginger. But in order to get a female ginger tabby, both of her parents would need to be ginger. 

So while female tabbies are not rare, it is much more unique to find a female ginger tabby than it is to find a male.

Are Tabby Cats Lazy?

Tabbies are not the most energetic cats, but some tabby breeds are known to be lazier than others. Ginger or orange tabbies are known for their lazy ways, choosing to sleep for considerably more hours than your average house cat.

A Footnote: Tabby Cat Personality

From twirls to stripes and sweet rosettes – tabbies and their personalities are the cutest of kitties. No matter what breed you like, chances are you’ll find a tabby cat to suit your liking.

bengal cat sits on stool

From the mischievous Bengal Cat to the energetic Abyssinian felines and gentle giant Maine Coons, there is a tabby out there that you’re bound to fall in love with.

tabby cat licks human finger

Now that we’ve covered adorable tabby cat personalities and how to identify each one, what are you’ve favorite?

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