Checking into the genetic modifiers for the dilute cats got me started on analyzing some of the other cat colourings we have around the Sanctuary. It’s frequently been noted that we have a number of black cats, and that they’re not always easy to tell apart – but the same is true with some of our many tabbies. A little Googling led me to identify the four main types of tabby markings, and then it was off to the Sanctuary to match cats up. I quickly realized that the markings were most easily seen in the short-haired cats, and that in longer-haired ones, distinct patterns were blurred by ruffled fur.
Most common would probably be the MACKEREL tabby – distinguished mainly by the clear stripe markings on the sides, and almost always by the clear “M” marking on the forehead. Apparently they’re also called “fishbone tabbies”, though it’s the markings on the side of the mackerel fish that gives the feline patterning its name. Our clearest mackerel tabbies are probably Whisky and Cloverleaf
But mackerel markings can be seen in some of our other coloured tabbies too. Little Orange`s fur shows lovely stripes.
The CLASSIC tabby is also known as a “blotched” or “marbled” pattern – rather than clear stripes, the colours appear in swirls, and sometimes in a bulls eye pattern on the side. I think our most beautiful classic tabby is timid Quinn who hangs out in the back courtyard. He’s often found in Waldie’s hut, but when approached by humans, scuttles away to hide. He can be tempted by a bit of chicken, if you can do it when Owl’s not watching!
This handsome boy in the barn cat pen shows the clear bulls eye.
Pumpkin is a relative newcomer to the back courtyard, but making himself at home. His pale orange shows the markings in the right light.
The TICKED tabbies have fur that changes colour along each hair, called an agouti pattern, which gives the effect of a salt-and-pepper mixture. For the most part, the cats with this sort of patterning also show faint remnants of the other patterns as well. In many of them, it’s their contrast colour, with black patterns.
The SPOTTED tabbies are actually a sub-set of the Mackerel or Classic tabbies – the stripes in the original genetic pattern are broken up to form spots. The clearest examples of this are Lucky, our Bengal, and Emery, who clearly has some Bengal in him.
But this is probably the most common marking, with the remnants of spots or stripes showing through the agouti fur for both long and short-haired tabbies.