Skip to content

12 Interesting Facts About Black Tabby Cats


I’m sure you’ve seen a black tabby cat before. Black tabbies are brown cats with black stripes, or so you’d think. But, they are black cats with the tabby gene giving them brown, agouti stripes. Agouti hair is the hair that gives the black tabby their pattern. Their hairs are banded with black and brown colors in between solid hair, making the tabby markings. Keep reading for more interesting facts about the black tabby cat.

1. All Cats Carry the Tabby Gene

All domestic cats carry the tabby gene. This gene gives them the agouti hair that helps make the pattern you see on the black tabby cat. So when you see a cat with a tabby pattern, it has dominant tabby genes. If you see a solid-colored cat, the tabby gene is recessive, meaning it doesn’t show.

2. Tabby Cats isn’t a Breed

The black tabby cat isn’t a breed. Tabby refers to patterns or markings on a cat’s coat. Since all domestic cats carry the tabby gene, it stands to reason that every cat carries it. However, that doesn’t mean it shows in all breeds. In some breeds, the tabby gene is recessive and won’t show.

3. Black Tabby Cats Come in Many Colors

Black tabbies aren’t the only tabby color. Even black tabbies aren’t called black tabbies. They are known as brown tabbies. Some colors are the modified version of the black tabby, such as the chocolate tabby, the dark stripes on these cats is a dark chocolate brown. The silver tabby is another example of a modified black tabby. These cats have the dilute gene showing, so they are silver or gray if you prefer. Other tabbies have the red gene and are called red, orange, or ginger, depending on their location. There are other colors as well. They are all due to different modifying genes.

4. Black Tabby Cats Have 5+ Patterns

There are five basic patterns for black tabby cats. Mackerel tabby is a tiger-like striped pattern similar to fish bones, mackerel to be exact. Classic tabby is a swirled pattern, kind of like a cinnamon roll. There isn’t a uniform pattern in these cats like you see in the mackerel tabby. Spotted tabby is just like it sounds. The black on these tabbies becomes spots. The ticked tabby has tiny black dots with a striped pattern on the legs and tail. Finally, Agouti tabby is all banded hair, with no black design. The plus in this category is for the modified, breed-specific, or unrecognized patterns you may find on the black tabby. Broken mackerel tabby, these cats’ stripes are broken into dots and dashes but still follow the fishbone pattern. The Marble or clouded tabby is found in hybrid mixes or the wild. Think of the clouded leopard.

Oceloid pattern. Again, this is found in hybrid mixes but can be seen in the Ocelot. Pinstriped tabbies have the mackerel pattern, but the stripes are thin and close together. Candle flame or Braided stripes. This is another pattern you might find in hybrid mixes, but in the wild, you’d see this pattern on a tiger. The rosette pattern, again, is one you’d find in hybrid mixes but may be seen on leopards and panthers (panthers are what is known as ghost tabbies). Finally, we have the freckled or speckled pattern. You would see these in Indian domestic cats or Poljun cats.  

5. Black Tabby Cats Inherited Their Patterns From a Wild Ancestor

The tabby pattern comes from the direct ancestors of the domestic cat. These three ancestors are the reason for the tabby gene in all our domesticated cats. These cats are all the same breed. The only difference between them is where they settled. These cats are:

These wildcat species have different fur patterns, tails, and sizes. For example, the European wildcat has long fur, a bushy tail, and a rounded tip. The smaller African wildcat is faintly striped and has a short sandy-gray coat with a tapering tail. Finally, the Asiatic wildcat has spotted fur.

6. There are Ghost Tabbies

Ghost or Melanastic tabbies are cats with the same color pattern as their coat color. That means you can see the design, which is a bit lighter than the primary color. Some ghost tabby patterns can only be seen in a particular light. For example, if a black cat looks completely black until napping in the sun, you can see the tabby pattern in their coat.

7. Tabby Cats Have a Distinguished M On Their Foreheads

Black tabbies have a distinctive M-shaped mark on their foreheads. There are several stories about the origins of this mark. However, the truth is that this mark is because of genetics, and the genetics chose to imprint an M on tabby cats’ foreheads.

  •  Mary’s Mark – The story goes that baby Jesus became uncomfortable on the straw he was laid on. Even though his mother, Mary, wrapped him in a blanket, he wouldn’t be consoled. Then, a tabby cat stood beside Jesus, purring loudly. It wasn’t long before baby Jesus stopped crying. Mary drew an M on the cat’s forehead as a sign of gratitude. This story has different versions, but the central theme is that the tabby cat comforted Jesus, and Mary was grateful to the animal.
  • Muezza, Muhammed’s Cat – The story goes that a snake slithered into the sleeve of Prophet Muhammad’s robe, and the cat killed it. The Prophet petted the cat’s back three times. This is said to have given cats the ability to land on their feet. He then placed his hand on the cat’s forehead, tracing the letter M as a sign of his initial M as a sign of love for cats. It’s also said that this cat, Muezza, was Muhammed’s favorite cat. One day while preparing for prayer, he found Muezza asleep in the sleeve of his robes. Instead of waking Muezza, he cut the sleeve off his robes.
  • Mark of the Moon – This legend comes from ancient Egypt. Cats were called Mau, probably because of the meow sound they make. However, mau also means to see or light. Therefore cats were called mau because their eyes were bright at night, like the moon’s shine. Tabbies descended from these Egyptian Maus. The M marking originated there, so they still carry the mark.

8. Tabby Cats Have The Personality of Their Breed, Not Their Pattern

Because the tabby pattern exists across breeds, their personalities fit their breed rather than their pattern.

9. Tabbies Were Named After a Baghdad Silk

Black tabbies earned their name because they were compared to silk from the Attabiy district in Baghdad. This silk has stripes like the tabby cat. The fourteenth-century middle French word was atabis, which may have been dumbed down to tabis, eventually becoming the English tabby.

10. Black Tabby Cats are Considered Good Luck

Many cultures worldwide see the tabby cat as good luck. In ancient Egypt, they were worshipped as gods, and in medieval Europe, they were considered magic. Tabby cats are often given as gifts to new businesses and families to symbolize good luck in Japan. In China, They are thought to ward off evil spirits. Some people in the United States believe they bring good fortune to businesses.

11. Tabby Cats Were Considered Familiars To Witches

In A.D. 906, Medieval England believed black tabbies were witches’ familiars. It was thought that these tabby cats transformed themselves into black horses that the witches rode. These beliefs led to women being persecuted for not following the accepted religion. For example, they were persecuted if they went against society by practicing medicine. The authorities would also do away with the woman’s cat if she was convicted of witchcraft. With this going on, a decline in the population of tabby and black cats happened in England. These days this idea is considered an old wives tale, and cats and witches are not persecuted for their existence.

12. Tabby Cats Have a Day Of Their Own

April 30 is National Tabby Day. This day is for everyone to celebrate these beautiful cats. This day was started when The Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals held an event that featured a book signing and cat adoptions on April 30, 2016. These events were to benefit Bideawee and a local NYC shelter for cats and dogs. After that, pet owners noticed it and celebrated it on April 30 every year.


We found some pretty interesting facts about black tabby cats, including why they are black but not usually called black tabby cats. In the breeding world, they are called brown tabbies. Also, there is a tabby cat day on April 30 every year, so people can celebrate their tabby cats no matter their colors. What about the myths about how the tabby cat got that M symbol on their foreheads? They were interesting, but we know that M is just a play of genetics. We hope you have found this article to be informative and entertaining.

We look forward to hearing from you, so if you have any questions or comments, you can leave them below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *