What Is a Mackerel Tabby Cat?

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A mackerel tabby is a domestic cat with a coat pattern consisting of a background of gray or orange banded hairs and darker vertical stripes running down the torso. The thin vertical stripes are likened to fish bones, hence the name mackerel tabby.

The mackerel tabby pattern is the most common tabby pattern, although there are others. All tabby patterns consist of a background color called agouti, made up of banded hairs. The difference between the patterns is in the darker, solid markings. Some tabby patterns have spots instead of stripes. Mackerel tabby genes are dominant over the genes for the blotched tabby pattern, which produces swirled stripes. However, the genes for the Abyssinian pattern, which is almost entirely devoid of stripes, is dominant over mackerel tabby. All cats with tabby genes have “M” shaped forehead markings and banded stripes on their legs and tails.