Tabby Genetics Guide
hi hi, so i noticed some people have trouble with identifying/understanding how the tabby gene works, so i thought i would make an easy guide for you!!
*Note - all red cats are tabbies. There is no such thing as a “solid” red or cream cat. If a red/cream cat appears solid, it is because they are a ticked tabby.
There are, in essence, 2 tabby patterns - Mackerel (tiger stripes) and Classic (blotched). The other tabby patterns seen in cats are gene modifiers that affect the tabby gene and change it.
Most dominant to most recessive -
The color on the hair shafts alternates, giving these cats a “salt-and-pepper” look. The ticking gene “masks” the regular tabby gene on the body, which is why ticked tabbies still have stripes on their face, tail, and legs - these are called residual markings.
If a kit inherits 2 copies of the ticking gene (meaning both parents are ticked), then they will NOT have the residual markings. These cats will have a light underside and dark back/body. This is most evident in breeds like the Somali, Abyssinian, and Singapura!
(this kitty has the black ticking along her spine, forehead and tail, but doesn’t have any tabby stripes!)
The charcoal tabby is a wild variation of the agouti gene that causes a random distribution of black on the pelt. Charcoal tabbies are most common in the Bengal & Savannah breeds, and they have very distinct facial markings. NOT to be confused with smoke tabbies. The tabby gene usually shows through the ticking, although the ticking is still evident.
The spotted tabby gene “breaks up” the tabby pattern into spots. These spots follow the fur direction and can vary in size. Since this gene “modifies” the regular tabby gene, these kitties still have horizontal stripes on their legs, tail and face. This tabby type is pretty common and is seen most in the Ocicat, Egyptian Mau and British Shorthair!
There are many different variations of the rosette gene (arrow, pawprint, donut, cloud). This is a spotted tabby with the agouti gene, which causes the hairs in the center to be lighter and ticked. These markings look like leopard spots and are almost exclusive to the Bengal breed.
This is the most common and familiar tabby type. This is also the “default” tabby type. These kitties have “tiger stripes” on their body. Stripes can vary in closeness and size by individual
Broken Mackerel Tabby
These mackerel tabbies stripes break and sometimes form “spots” or bars, but don’t be fooled - this is still a mackerel tabby. These tabbies are also very common
(see how the stripes break up into spots on the shoulder and near the stomach??)
In the Toyger breed, the mackerel tabby gene has been modified to create thicker and more wavering lines to resemble a tiger. This is called “candle-flame” or braided.
This is the recessive form of the mackerel tabby, and is also pretty common. The classic tabby markings will spiral and create big blotches of pattern on the body. An ideal classic tabby has a “bulls-eye spiral” on their side and is most often seen in the Maine Coon or British Shorthair!
Sometimes also called a Clouded Tabby, these cats are a modified version of the classic tabby. Agouti (ticked) hairs appear in the center of the tabby stripes, usually in the bulls-eye, which gives them a two-toned tabby look. This is evident in breeds like the Bengal and Sokoke!
OTHER TABBY PATTERNS
This is a colorpoint cat with the tabby gene. Colorpoints have partial-albinism that causes the cooler parts of their body to develop color, such as the face, tail and legs. These tabbies can come in any of the other tabby patterns ^ and paired with the colorpoint gene. These cats will display tabby markings where there is pigment.
Torbie / Tabico / Caliby
This is a tabby-tortie, or tabby-calico. These cats are also sometimes called patched tabbies. They can come in any tabby variation ^ . These cats display two or 3 colors (black & red, blue & cream, chocolate, cream & white etc) and also have the tabby gene. These can sometimes be hard to identify against regular tabbies because the colors can blend and mix to be almost indistinguishable. They will carry the same tabby marking all over
This is a tabby cat with the smoke gene. The smoke gene is a variation of silver, where the roots of the hair are pigmentless. These cats usually have a dark face mask and darker paws and tail. They can come in any tabby pattern
(black smoke tabby vs black silver tabby)