September 2008 Issue

The Beautiful Tabby

The stripes, spots and whorls are breathtaking and special. But the tabby is not a breed — simply a color pattern.

Without even seeing your cat, Joan Miller, vice-president of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, knows your cat is a tabby. Impossible, you say. My cat is a Persian. Or my cat is a plain black alley cat. How does Miller decide that your cat is a tabby? "Because all cats are tabbies, genetically speaking," explains Miller. "All cats have a pattern of stripes, blotches, spots or whorls. If they have the dominant gene, they’re called Agouti — and they show the tabby pattern. If they receive the recessive gene, they’re known as non-Agouti, and they will be a solid color with no pattern." However, you can often still see the tabby markings underneath as a ghost pattern. The next time you get the chance, look at a black cat in the sun. You should be able to see the hint of a tabby pattern. "This is a lot easier to see in kittens," says Miller.

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