7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Grey Tabby Cat

The Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science published a statistical assessment linking a cat’s fur color to its aggressive behavior towards humans and fellow felines. But in this study, a total of 1,274 cat owners were surveyed by a group of veterinarians.

The results show that gray tabby cats were considered to be one of the calmest cats of all.

Even though more studies have to be conducted about the matter, many cat owners seem to agree on the results. In fact, grey tabby cats are known to be friendly, affectionate, and loving companions.

No wonder there are a lot of tabbies being adopted by cat-loving households.

Fascinating Facts about Gray Tabbies That You May Not Know Yet

These fascinating facts about gray tabbies will make you adore them even more.

1. Gray tabbies are not considered as a specific breed.

This fact might be known by some cat lovers, but many people still get confused. Contrary to common misconception, gray tabby cats are not a specific type of breed.

As a matter of fact, you can find a gray tabby in any cat breed. It’s like the tortoiseshell and calico cats that you can see in purebred, mixed breed, and even domestic felines.

It is the unique coat pattern that is considered as “tabby” and it’s the most common cat pattern throughout the globe.

grey tabby friendly cat rolling and asking for attention

2. Gray tabbies come in 4 different patterns.

It is fascinating to know that they do not come in a single form. There are classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked tabbies.

It is believed that these differences are caused by their particular genes.

The gray classic tabby catshave large swirls that finish in a circular pattern at the side. They are also known as “blotched” tabbies in some countries.

Their bold circular pattern is a bit similar to a marble chiffon cake. There are times when the swirling smudges on a classic tabby’s body somehow look like a bullseye.

The gray mackerel tabbies are the ones that look very much the same as a tiger. This is due to the narrow stripes running down in parallels all the way to the cats’ sides.

Normally, all their stripes stem from a single stripe on the top of their back, running all the way down their spine. If you are wondering why they are called mackerel tabbies, the simple reason would be their coat’s resemblance to a fish skeleton.

The gray spotted tabby cats pride themselves with cute spots on their back and sides. It is fascinating to note that these spots come in a darker gray color and comes in different sizes.

You can find them in small circles, oval or even rosettes. Sometimes, they even look like broken mackerel tabby stripes.

There is no wonder why some people believe that they sort of originated from mackerel tabbies. However, this information is not confirmed.

The gray ticked tabbies, on the other hand, do not have the typical stripes pattern or swirls when you first look at them.

You may think that they are just your typical gray cat. However, if you look close enough, you will notice that they are actually a gray and white tabby cat.

Their hair is just striped in a subtle way. They have “agouti hairs” which look like dark and light colored bands.

Most of the time, ticked tabbies also have a faint necklace.

3. Their “tabby” name is associated with the word “silk”

Have you ever wondered where the term “tabby” came from? The word only began to show up in the English language around the mid-1600s – referring to particular silk fabric.

Before the term “tabby” was invented, cats that possess a tabby fur were simply called tiger cats.

The beginning of the word “tabby” is still uncertain up to this day. However, there are two possible origins.

First, some people claim that the term “tabby” was derived from Attabi—a kind of silk that was manufactured in Baghdad and exported to the British Isles in large quantities. When the British people observed the similarities between the pattern of Attabi and the fur of tiger cats, they began to call them “tabi cats”, and then later on “tabby cats”.

Some people, on the other hand, claim that the word comes from a French translation of the phrase “silk taffeta with a stripe pattern”. In fact, the dictionary defines the word “tabby” as “a piece of fabric with a watered pattern, usually silk”.

Whether any of these is true, one thing is for sure: the term tabby could be linked with patterned silk due to their similar pattern.

4. Their fur color and pattern benefits them in the wild

The unique gray tabby fur doesn’t just boast its good looks, but its ability to protect cats in the wild.

Camouflage has always been one of nature’s protection bestowed upon some animals. If gray tabbies stand still behind the tree, they could be really difficult to spot.

The pattern on their skin provides an effective built-in camouflage so they can hide safely from hunters or other predators. Aside from that, their coat helps them sneak up undetected on their prey too.

5. Gray tabbies are found in both sexual categories equally

Even though “Tabby” seems to be a common name given to female cats, you must not think that gray tabby cats are mostly female.

Gray tabby cats can be found in both sexes equally – unlike orange tabbies that are mostly male. Studies show that the ratio of male to female gray tabbies is 50/50; unlike in orange tabbies that is 80/20.

6. Gray tabbies are usually friendly, but often lazy

In different parts of the world, most gray tabby cats are known to get along with people very well. But since they are friendly and affectionate, they do not exert much effort physically.

Most of them just lie down and spend the whole day sleeping; only waking up during mealtime.

Scientifically, animal personalities are not based on the color or pattern of their coats. There are few statistical assessments published showing the possibility of having a connection between the two, but more studies have to be made.

After all, these surveys were based on human perceptions; not actual scientific research.

7. The “M” marking on their foreheads is surrounded by several legends

One last distinctive feature that is common to gray tabbies is the “M” marking on their foreheads. Interestingly, there are at least 4 different types of beliefs as to how this unique marking came about.

One of the theories behind the “M” mark is from the Egyptians. They believe that the letter stands for the Egyptian term for a cat, which is “Mau”. Since the ancient Egyptians are known for worshipping cats, the marking could be related.

The second theory is related to the prophet Muhammad – a founder of the Islam religion. Muhammad was known to be a cat lover and he owns a tabby cat named “Muezza”.

For this reason, some people believe that he must be the one behind the marking. They say that he must have placed his hand over his beloved cat’s forehead and the “M” mark started to appear since then.

The third theory, on the other hand, is related to Christianity. Some people claim that when baby Jesus was born, a cat was present with him at the manger.

And when baby Jesus couldn’t sleep due to the extreme cold weather, a tabby cat began to purr and snuggle next to him – causing him to sleep soundly and feel warm. In light of what happened, the Virgin Mary then thanked the cat by marking its face with the initial of her name.

There is one more theory but it doesn’t relate to any religion. Some people suggest that the marking doesn’t signify anything related to the letter “M”. Rather, it is just a set of frown lines that are caused by the lengthy periods of waiting outside a mouse hole.

Out of all the fun theories, this is the silliest one, don’t you think?

Final Thoughts

There is really something captivating about gray tabby cats that make them a household favorite. Even if they are pure breeds or you just got them from the streets, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is how fascinating they are and how they look as beautiful as their fur. But even if you look beyond their coat, you will still find a feline that is worthy of your love and affection.

Are you planning to own a feline or you want a new one to join your cat family? If you are, why not go for a gray tabby kitten?

Jo Singer is a former breeder of pedigreed cats, including Siamese, Russian Blues, Burmese and Oriental Shorthairs.

1 thought on “7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Grey Tabby Cat”

  1. These are some interesting facts about Tabby cats. I always have a special place for these cats in my heart since my first cat Precious was a tabby.


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