There are four genetically distinct types of tabby kitten patterns with many variations. All four tabby patterns share some similar characteristics, such as a darker colored “M” on the forehead.
The eyelid skin is dark and surrounded by lighter colored fur, giving it an eyeliner appearance. The chin also has lighter colored fur. The roots of the whiskers appear dark, as do the backs of the hind legs and the tip of the tail.
The mackerel or striped tabby pattern is the most common. Kittens have striped rings around their tails and legs and stripes on the chest and sides of their bodies.
The classic tabby pattern, also known as blotched or marbled, appears as whirls that end in a “target” on the side of the kitten and often has high contrast. There are darker colored spots running along two lines on the stomach. There is also a light butterfly pattern on the shoulders. Classic tabbies have dark bars on the tail, legs and cheeks.
Spotted tabbies are similar to the mackerel pattern, but the stripes appear as spotted lines. Both large and small spotted lines are characteristic.
Ticked patterned tabbies have hair with distinct bands of color that breaks up the tabby pattern so that it appears as salt-and-pepper. The overall look of a ticked pattern tabby is more of a solid tone, but there is often ghost striping on the legs, face and belly and sometimes on the tip of the tail.