Tabby cat personality: mackerel, orange, grey, everything you need to know!

What makes tabbies a cut above the rest? For one thing, they are adorable and cuddly. However, the tabby cat personality and unique behavior will make you fall in love with them.

When it comes to physical attributes, tabbies are indeed one of the cutest feline pets that you can flaunt around.

Plus, you have the option to choose from a wide variety of coat colors and body sizes.

One of their most distinguishing features is the unique M-shaped mark on their forehead that gives them their distinct appearance.

Many people often think that tabbies represent a cat breed. However, the truth is, the name ‘tabby' represents a coat pattern and not a breed.

This means that different breeds of felines can have tabby patterns. Moreover, some pet owners prefer to call them ‘tabbies' regardless of their breed.

While some pet owners prioritize the appearance of a kitty in choosing a pet, some instead focus on the pet's behavior.

Although it doesn't denote a particular breed, tabby cat personality is entirely exclusive to tabbies. 

Compared to other kitties of different coat patterns, tabbies possess some unique qualities and temperament that are inherent to them.

However, how did this unique pattern in felines came into existence? Moreover, where did the name ‘tabby' come from?

The tabby pattern can be traced back to the coloration of their direct ancestors which include the African wildcat, European wildcat, and Asiatic wildcat.

However, the origin of its name is still unclear even up to now. Some claim that it originates from the French tabis which means ‘rich water silk.' 

Others would say that it was traced to the Arabic term attabiya as a reference to a place called Attabiy where silk cloth was first made.

Moreover, some also believe that it stemmed from the Spanish word ataviar, meaning ‘to dress' to denote expensive clothing.

In the 1690s, the term tabby was derived to indicate felines with a striped coat. Since then, the name has been frequently used as an indicator of cats with distinct stripes and patterns.

This article will discuss tabby cat personality and their unique patterns as well. Whether you prefer a pet's behavior over its appearance or the other way around, you can never go wrong with tabbies.

Tabby Cat Patterns and Coat Colors

why are orange tabby cats so affectionate

Tabbies are domestic kitties that feature a coat with distinctive stripes, lines, dots or swirling patterns.

The pattern of the coat is determined by the agouti gene which is responsible for giving either light or heavy pigmentation to each hair.

A tabby kitty may have stripes only, or it can also have any combination of stripes, spots, lines, and swirls.

Currently, there are four tabby patterns known to be genetically distinct. These are the following:

1. Classic

Also called ‘blotched’ pattern, classic tabby coat resembles a marble cake due to its wide stripes that curve over the flank and shoulders. Three large stripes run from the shoulder blades to the tail’s base.

2. Mackerel

It has vertical stripes that gently curve on the side of the body. Narrow stripes are either continuous or broken into spots running perpendicular to the spine. This attribute gave them the name ‘mackerel' due to their fishbone-like stripes.

3. Spotted

This pattern has distinct round spots that become more apparent against the background of lighter fur.

4. Ticked

Sometimes called ‘agouti' or ‘stripeless,' this pattern almost has no stripe because the hair has distinct bands of color on them.

This gives the coat a sand-like appearance. However, if you look closely, you'll notice some very thin stripes on their face, tail, and legs.

You can determine the color of a tabby by looking at its stripes and the tip of its tail. Tabby comes in various colors such as:


Orange tabby is probably the most popular among this type of felines. It is characterized by orange markings on a coat of different patterns like classic, mackerel, ticked and spotted.


Markings in grey color are also common among tabby cats. The markings become more prominent against a lighter shade of coat.


Ginger tabbies or often mistaken for orange tabbies due to their resemblance in color. However, ginger tabbies have dark orange markings in contrast to the bright orange markings of the orange tabbies.


Classic tabbies typically have brown stripes and curves. However, brown markings are also standard in spotted tabby pattern as well.


Black markings become more visible against an opposite coat color such as silver or bright orange.

Facial Features of Tabbies

mackerel tabby personality

The best way to distinguish tabbies from other kitties is their distinctive M-shaped marking on their forehead.

There have been several stories and legends to explain this ‘mysterious’ mark on their forehead.

One of the most exciting versions as to how this M-shaped mark came about was derived from the Christian bible.

It is said that when Mary couldn’t stop her newborn baby Jesus from crying, a cat climbed into the manger. The cat began to purr, like a lullaby, to send the crying baby off to sleep.

As a sign of gratitude, Mary wrote the letter ‘M’ on the kitty’s forehead to represent the first letter of her name.

Surprisingly, the Islam also have their version of the story. They believe that the prophet Muhammad left the mark by resting his hand on the forehead of his favorite cat.

On the other hand, some non-religious folks also have their theory to tell regarding the ‘M' mark.

They suggest it is the result of the cat’s earnest staring at a mouse hole while it waits for a mouse to come out. Over time, the set of frown lines above the brow was formed due to the cat’s intense concentration.

All of these stories are fascinating and interesting. Of course, we’re not implying that they don’t make any sense.

However, regardless of how the ‘M' marking on tabbies came to be, there's no denying that only adds to their natural charm.

Personality and Behavior of Tabbies

grey tabby cat personality

Tabbies are more than their gorgeous appearance. Behind their stunning physical features, tabby cat personality is also something that deserves our admiration.

Domestic cats are mainly known for their intelligence and affection towards their humans.

However, compared to other domestic kitties, tabbies possess more desirable characteristics that most owners wish in a pet.

Tabby cat personality among different breeds greatly varies because they borrow the traits of their parents.

Although tabbies are not a specific breed, they do have behaviors and traits in common.

One of the most prominent characteristics of tabbies is that they are fast learners and can quickly adapt to a particular lifestyle.

We could safely say that tabbies are destined to be kept as a household pet because they learn well to live harmoniously with humans.


Tabby cat personality

Tabbies are friendly by nature, and they love to hang around with people. This makes them the complete opposite of aloof kitties that would rather avoid the company of humans.

They are incredibly playful and would enjoy playing with kids for hours. So, if you have kids at home, getting a tabby is the best way to go.


Despite their friendly personality, they tend to be deeply attached to a particular person who spends most of the time with them.

A tabby knows who serves his daily food, cuddles him on a regular basis, and plays with him all the time.

Felines are creatures of routine, and it is likely that they form affection towards that person whom they interact with every day.


Tabbies are responsive pets which makes them easier to train than other feline pets. They learn fast and can easily adjust to your lifestyle.


Some kitties are too aggressive and possessive that they hardly get along with other pets in the house.

However, tabbies are far from those kitties with hostile demeanors. They can get along well with other kitties and even dogs in the house.

With tabbies around, you’ll never have to worry about your household pets fighting each other.


why are orange tabby cats so affectionate

They are often referred to as the ‘dogs of cats’ because they are more active and playful than other kitties.

Domestic felines are often depicted as lazy pets that would prefer lounging in a corner than to play.

That may be true in some kitties, but not with tabbies. With their enthusiastic behavior, they would love to explore the outdoors, climb some trees and play with you all the time.

If you’re planning to get a tabby for a pet, make sure to commit some time to play with them.


Who doesn't have bad moods now and then? Tabbies are known to be merry and playful, but they also have their dull moments too.

If your usual cheerful tabby suddenly turns gloomy, just let it be. It's just a matter of time before it reverts to its usual self.

However, if the behavioral change lingers longer than expected, you may need to consider the possibility of a health problem.

Felines have the unusual behavior of hiding their pain and distress. Determine whether the sudden change in behavior is just them being moody or is it caused by an ailment.

Why Are Orange Tabby Cats So Affectionate?

mackerel tabby personality

Orange tabbies are one of the most preferred colors among tabby cats. You might think that the color is the main reason why most pet owners find them adorable. However, that's not exactly the case.

These orange tabbies are well-loved because of their affectionate nature. Most domestic kitties, regardless of their breeds, are mostly affectionate.

However, nothing can compare to the affection of orange tabbies. However, why are orange tabby cats so affectionate?

Some animal experts believe that a cat's colors have something to do with its personality. So, what does the color orange denote?

The orange color symbolizes an optimistic and affectionate personality that inclines fun, excitement, and stimulation.

True enough, people who own orange tabbies can attest that orange tabby cat personality is indeed tied to their pet’s color.

The bright colored coats and their amazing personality have won the favor of many pet lovers as proven by these iconic orange tabbies:


Did you know that the people of Talkeetna, a town of Alaska, elected a 17-year old orange tabby named Stubbs?

Stubbs served as the mayor since he first swept the vote as a write-in candidate in 1997.

Amazingly, the residents were quite satisfied with Stubbs’ leadership that they have him resume office for 20 years until his death in 2017.


grey tabby cat personality

When you thought that the Sing Sing Correctional Facility is impenetrable, here comes the orange tabby named Tiger to do the impossible.

Tiger managed to find his way into the maximum security prison by squeezing his body through the protective bars.

Since then, Tiger has become one of the inmates and has thrived with a steady diet of canned tuna.

However, he has since gained enormous weight that he can no longer squeeze himself through the bars to break out. Well, at least Tiger is happy inside the prison.


Remember that adorable orange tabby in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s? His name is Orangey, and he will be forever revered as Audrey Hepburn's favorite pet in the famous movie.

However, before he co-starred with Hepburn, Orangey have appeared in the film Rhubarb that won him his first Patsy award. In case you didn't know, Patsy is the animal equivalent of an Oscar award).

Ten years later, Orangey played the role of Hepburn’s kitty pet where he won his second Patsy.


Who doesn’t recognize the advertising mascot for 9Lives cat food?Morris, the cat, first appeared in 1968 as the first spokecat for the said company.

Since then, the face of the cute orange tabby has appeared on the packaging and TV commercials for 9Lives products.

The current advertising mascot is the fifth kitty to represent the brand.

Mackerel Tabby Personality

Tabby cat personality

Aside from orange tabbies, mackerel tabbies are also favorite among cat lovers. Moreover, this may be beyond their fishbone-like markings.

Mackerel tabby personality resembles that of a dog especially when it comes to playfulness and intelligence.

Just like dogs, mackerel tabbies love to be around people and play with them. If you’re patient and determined enough, you can even train them to perform easy tricks.

They are particularly adventurous felines, and they can be ideal companions for hiking or casual strolling.

If you decide to get a mackerel tabby, be sure to have sufficient time to play with it. Moreover, never leave them unsupervised in the outdoors because they tend to explore unfamiliar places.

Remember, mackerel tabbies are curious creatures that will require your supervision if ever you take them to the outdoors.

Grey Tabby Cat Personality

why are orange tabby cats so affectionate

Remember when we told you about the link between coat color and personality? Well, here’s another proof to validate that.

Grey is the exact opposite of orange. From the perspective of color psychology, grey is the symbol for boredom, indecisiveness, detachment, and laziness.

Grey tabby cat personality is known for being quite lazy, and they tend to refuse anything that requires too much effort.

On the brighter side, they can be a perfect pet for those who prefer a quiet pet that won't bother them.

You’ll often see them spending most of their time snoozing and only wakes up when it’s time to eat.

If you decide to adopt a grey tabby, you’ll need to regulate their diet since they lack physical exercise.

Sedentary kitties are at higher risk of obesity and other health issues. However, you can help minimize these risks by providing a well-balanced diet.


Tabby cat personality makes them a fascinating addition to any household.

They have mesmerized the world with their charming looks and desirable behaviors. These are the qualities that made them won the hearts of people from all over the world.

Not only in real life but tabbies have also been the center of inspiration for several fictional works.

There's the world's most famous fictional cat Garfield, Winnie the Pooh's best buddy Tigger, and Calvin's bestfriend Hobbes.

These famous fictional characters have one thing in common: they're all tabbies.

Moreover, if you're looking for an affectionate pet that can mingle with people and other animals, tabbies are the answer.

Once and for all, let us resolve the misconception that tabby is an independent breed. Tabby represents a distinct coat pattern, not a breed.

Since tabby patterns are standard in all feline breeds, tabby cat personality differs from one kitty to another.

Despite the complexity of their physical features and behaviors, tabbies still have some things in common.

Regardless of their color and markings, tabbies are unique in their ways. Instead of trying to fit them into certain stereotypes, it's better to accept their uniqueness and enjoy their company.

Keep in mind that adopting a feline pet is like committing to a lifelong relationship. Moreover, this means that you have to accept both the good and bad personalities of your pet.

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