page title icon Extraordinary Facts About Mackerel Tabby Cats

by Linda Mathews Last Updated December 27, 2022

One in a million is an overstatement, but mackerel tabby cats are definitely not average kitties. There are many tabby patterns, but mackerel is the most common tabby cat pattern and the most recognizable one!

Featuring a tiger-stripe pattern and a distinctive “M” mark and a center stripe on the forehead, these cats may resemble wild cats externally, but the mackerel tabby personality can be gentle and sweet.

In this article, we will talk about the genetics, appearance, personality of these cute tabbies and share with you some fun facts connected with various tabby cat breeds.

What is a Mackerel Tabby?

What is a Mackerel Tabby?

Mackerel tabby cat (Felis catus refers to one of five genetic clusters) is the most common tabby patterning, which is distinguished by evenly distributed light and dark vertical stripes on the coat.

These stripes resemble a fish skeleton, that is why this pattern is called “mackerel” fish. The thickness of these stripes varies from thin to wide and spectacular. Mackerel tabbies may be of various colors and breeds.

You will definitely fall in love with gray tabby Maine Coons, chocolate Domestic Shorthair with a classic tabby pattern, or Norwegian Forest cats that can boast a luxurious tabby coat of many shades.

Mackerel Tabby: Fun Facts

Mackerel Tabby: Fun Facts

Mackerel tabbies are cute fur balls that can make you laugh, smile, and definitely bring joy into your life. Here are common, rare, and fun tidbits about felines with a mackerel tabby pattern.

Mackerel tabbies are associated with witchcraft

Ancient Egyptians believed that cats had “divine energy” and worshiped many domestic cats. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word tabby was used to refer to a female cat that belonged to a witch. Known as “familiars,” these cats were thought to be reincarnations of humans or witch victims. People believed that such cats had magical powers.

Mackerel was the first tabby pattern

According to some theories, the mackerel pattern originated from a cross between a European wildcat and an African wildcat. As the crossing progressed, the striped pattern became more and more pronounced. Other tabby patterns are believed to have originated from mackerel tabby coloration.

Mackerel tabbies are highly intelligent

These cats are very intelligent, they love to explore their surroundings, play with other cats and family members, and will happily learn new tricks. They have a dog-like personality, that is why tabbies are perfect family companions.

There are many mackerel tabby colors

The first thing that is associated with the mackerel tabby pattern is a gray mackerel tabby with black stripes. Actually, there are different types of tabby cats. You can meet orange tabby cats (these felines have a combination of the orange gene (O) and black (B) gene, causing them to be brown or cinnamon), brown mackerel tabby cats, and many orange tabbies with white or silver patches.

Mackerel Tabby Appearance

Mackerel Tabby Appearance

Undoubtedly, a tabby appearance is striking and is quite unusual for domestic cats.

Striped, a.k.a.“mackerel”, or sometimes referred to as “tiger” is the most common tabby pattern. Even, vertical stripes run parallel on the feline’s body coat, sometimes they can be broken into spots or dashed dark lines.

On the tail and legs, these stripes are horizontal. Besides, there are “eyeliner” stripes under the eyes. Just like other tabby relatives, these beauties feature an “M” mark on their foreheads.

Depending on the breed, mackerel tabby felines be short-haired, medium-haired, or boast a sleek or fluffy long coat. Their blue, yellow, or emerald eyes will definitely capture your heart. How big do mackerel tabby cats get? A striped tabby cat may weigh between 18 and 16 pounds and reach a height of up to 16 inches, depending on the breed.

Mackerel Tabby Genetics

The genetic instructions for a tabby coat pattern are believed to be located in the tabby locus in their DNA. A locus is a specific place in the genetic code that stores instructions for a specific trait.

The Agouti gene is the gene that makes up the basis of the Agouti tabby feline. Besides, there are three genes responsible for a tabby pattern.

  • Ta is responsible for the ticked tabby pattern
  • Tm creates the mackerel tabby pattern
  • Tb makes the blotched tabby pattern

As Wikipedia states, “the Tabby gene on chromosome B1 accounts for most tabby patterns seen in domestic cats, including those patterns seen in most breeds.” TaM is the dominant gene that produces mackerel tabbies, and the recessive allele Tab produces classic or blotched tabbies. Sometimes, random patterns occur.

According to the research of tabby pattern genetics, these random patterns arise from events that are stochastically initiated (like inactivation of an X chromosome in females or survival of a melanocyte cluster) but stably maintained, either through epigenetic mechanisms as with X inactivation, or a developmental process, as with a limited window for neural crest migration.

Mackerel Tabby Colors

Ticked tabbies, classic tabbies, orange tabbies, patched tabbies, spotted tabbies… There are so many varieties you can choose from, and they are not limited to orange color and dark stripes. Actually, there are various mackerel tabby colors you can encounter.

  • Black stripes on a brown background;
  • A combination of light and dark stripes;
  • Grey mackerel tabby;
  • Red mackerel tabby and solid orange stripes (cats with this coat pattern are sometimes called orange tabbies);
  • Ticked tabby coat pattern with white patches;
  • Chocolate mackerel tabby;
  • Dilute fawn, cream, lilac, and blue tabby.

Mackerel Tabby Temperament

Mackerel Tabby Temperament

What does shape the personality of a cat that looks like a tiger? It is known that such factors as breed, sex, and cat-parents’ personalities influence the temperament felines have.

Some people assume that there is a link between a cat’s coat and the mackerel tabby cat personality, but no studies confirming this fact have been conducted. It is impossible not to mention their so-called “tabbytude”. Every cat owner knows about the cattitude felines possess, and it’s reported that tabby cats have it in spades.

However, we can claim that every feline is individual, so it’s impossible to predict which personality your new family member will have. If you want to reveal the secret of your pet’s character, then become acquainted with its parents (if you buy a cat or kitten from tabby breeders), or spend some time with them in the shelter or rescue, if you’ve decided to adopt a bewhiskered friend.

Mackerel Tabby Health And Care

The health of a cat does not depend on its color and pattern, and there are no studies confirming that tabby cats suffer from rare diseases. Like any other cat, tabby cuties need a proper diet, love, and attention, as well as careful coat care. Oftentimes, tabby cats do not belong to a specific pedigree, so they do not have hereditary diseases.

Caring for a cat depends on its physical characteristics and needs. If you have cute shorthair mackerel kittens, then keeping them clean will not be a problem. Long haired mackerel tabby cats, on the other hand, will need careful grooming – regular brushing is essential if you want to get rid of dead individual hairs and reduce shedding. To prevent various health problems, remember to visit a veterinarian regularly.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some answers to questions regarding mackerel tabbies.

What is the difference between a mackerel tabby and a classic tabby?

A classic tabby pattern means the presence of thick swirls and dark stripes of different thicknesses on a light background. A mackerel tabby pattern means that a cat has a combination of dark narrow stripes or thick stripes. These stripes can be either vertical or horizontal.

How much is a mackerel tabby cat worth?

When it comes to the mackerel tabby kitten price, the options are almost limitless. The mackerel tabby cat price depends on the pedigree of tabbies, living conditions, breed, and health condition.

Overall, randomly bred mackerel tabby kittens will cost $100 or even less. It is believed that purebred tabbies can set you back with $700-$1500.

For instance, a Maine Coon tabby cat will cost about $600. Exclusive tabbies, e.g. Bengal, can cost around $2000 or even more.

Are mackerel tabby cats aggressive?

Many cat lovers know about the so-called “tabbitude”. They are lovable, playful, affectionate, but sometimes they can be too playful and/or overstimulated. Many scientists have conducted various studies to understand whether a cat’s coat color and character are related.

For example, according to the study conducted at the University of California, black and white, black and gray, orange cats, and calico female cats were the most aggressive, while tabby cats (this group included an orange tabby cat, patched tabby, spotted tabby, and cats of other colors with tabby markings) were at the very bottom of the scale of aggression.

However, there is not enough data to surely assert that a cat’s color and aggressiveness are interrelated. At the same time, a study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that there is a link between a cat’s temperament and its breed.

Therefore, some tabby cats may be less friendly due to hereditary factors, but not due to their coloration.

Is a mackerel tabby rare?

The most frequent tabby pattern is striped (sometimes known as “mackerel”).

What are mackerel tabby cat breeds?

Mackerel tabby kittens and cats with stripes come in different sizes, shapes, and various breeds feature Mackerel tabbies. The most common breeds known for offering cute tabby babies include:

  • Abyssinian cats are known for their unique look and friendly personality.
  • Domestic Shorthair are the cats of mixed ancestry who are known for their docile and calm personalities.
  • Maine Coon blue mackerel tabby felines are playful, curious, and friendly.
  • Orientals are loyal companions and intelligent tabbies or solid cats.
  • Norwegian Forest cats boast their striking tabby coats and sweet, gentle personalities.
  • British Shorthair blue mackerel tabby cats are known for their family disposition and friendly nature.
  • American Shorthair mackerel tabby kitties are friendly and pleasant companions.


Mackerel tabbies occupy a special place in the cat world. It is impossible to resist the unique appearance of mackerel cats of various breeds, as well as their sweet, gentle, friendly, and sometimes wayward personalities.

If you want to find a unique kitty, then a mackerel kitten can be a great option.