The grey tabby cat is one of the most recognizable domestic cats out there. This feline sports the familiar tabby pattern as well as the “M-shaped” marking on the forehead; that’s why they are also called tiger cats.
Grey tabbies are known for their lovely temperament and adorable appearance. They are also praised for their intelligence and trainability. But did you know that grey tabbies can either be purebreds or hybrids?
Which purebred cats can have grey coats with tabby markings? What cat breed mixes give birth to gray tabby kittens?
If you are interested in knowing the answers to all of these and more, read this guide until the very end!
1. Grey Tabby Cats Are Excellent Mouse Hunters
Grey tabbies, as well as most tabby cats, in general, are known for their excellent hunting skills.
These cats are naturally inclined to chase rodents and other crawlers just like wild cats. In fact, a grey tabby cat would make excellent pest control around the house!
One of the reasons why they make excellent mouse hunters is their athletic bodies. Grey tabbies are incredibly agile. These cats are built for speed and flexibility.
Grey tabby cats can jump at least five feet in height without running. Moreover, these kitties can also run blazingly fast at 30 miles per hour!
That said, it might be typical for a gray tabby cat to bring dead rodents and dead birds inside the house. However, nothing is surprising about this!
2. Grey Tabby Cats Are Descendants of Wildcats
Grey tabby cats were first domesticated sometime in the 17th century. The very first tabby cats were bred in Europe. However, they were later on brought to the United States by breeders and owners who migrated.
Tabby cats are believed to be descendants of a wild cat, specifically the African Wildcat, and it’s easy to see why!
Here’s a photo of a grey tabby cat:
Meanwhile, here’s a photo of an African Wildcat:
Notice how the pattern of the grey tabby cat resembles the coat pattern on the African Wildcat. That’s the sole work of genetics!
Of course, not all grey tabbies will resemble the African Wildcat by this much. However, this example serves as a solid clue as to what their ancestors are.
If you want scientific proof that these cats are indeed related, read this article by ABC News.
Moreover, you can also go through the study in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Basically, the study found convincing evidence that confirms the tie between domesticated tabby cats and African Wildcats.
3. Grey Tabby Cats Can Be Purebreds
In case you missed it, the tabby cat is not a cat breed. Instead, it is a coat pattern which, in this case, includes a grey fur color.
Stripes, whorls, or spots characterize the tabby pattern, and it is present in both wild and domesticated felines.
That said, any cat that exhibits tabby fur is considered a tabby cat. Moreover, a kitten with a grey coat color that displays tabby markings is known as a grey tabby cat.
Many purebred cats can be considered grey tabby cats. To be specific, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) lists 25 cat breeds that can exhibit the tabby pattern.
Here’s a list of all purebred cats that can have grey tabby patterns:
- American Curl
- American Bobtail
- American Shorthair
- American Wirehair
- Egyptian Mau
- Short-haired Persians
- Lynx Point Siamese (Colorpoint Shorthairs)
- Maine Coon
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Scottish Fold
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van
As you can see, there are a lot of cat breeds to choose from if you are looking for a purebred gray tabby cat.
Perhaps you can start your search by looking at the grey tabby Maine Coon, grey tabby Persian, and grey tabby Scottish Fold. These cats are fan favorites!
4. Grey Tabby Cats Can Be Hybrids
As expected, not all grey tabby cats are purebreds. There are also hybrid cats that can exhibit a grey coat with tabby markings or patterns. In fact, there are arguably more tabby cat hybrids than purebred tabbies!
Take a look at this photo of a Maine Coon Persian grey tabby mix:
Here’s a photo of a Persian Ragdoll grey tabby cat mix:
These hybrids are only a few of the many possible mixes that result in grey tabby cats. Other possible hybrids include the Persian Rex mix, Maine Coon Scottish Fold mix, and more.
About 60% to 70% of domestic cats are tabby cats. But what exactly makes a cat exhibit tabby markings? Moreover, what is unique with the grey tabby cat?
Feline coat genetics is quite a complicated topic. Luckily, we don’t need to understand its entirety to learn about the grey tabby cat.
For starters, the important thing to remember is that all tabby cats, including grey tabbies, carry a dominant agouti gene or the tabby gene.
The agouti gene controls the agouti signaling protein, which is responsible for switching between coat color pigments. When a kitten has a dominant agouti gene, its hairs create a banding pattern of alternating colors.
The unique thing about grey tabbies compared to other tabby colors is that a grey tabby must have at least one grey tabby parent.
Meanwhile, this is not the case for other colors of the tabby cat. Other tabby cats can be born as long as one of their parents is shaded or tabby.
If you are interested in all of the nitty-gritty of feline genetics because you are one of those devoted tabby cat owners, you can geek out on a published study regarding tabby pattern genetics.
Similarly, you can watch this awesome video to get a grasp on cat color genetics, specifically, the tabby gene:
6. Grey Tabby Cats Can Have Different Temperaments
Since grey tabby cats do not belong to one particular breed, their temperament varies quite widely.
For example, some grey tabbies love belly rubs while others are more self-serving. Moreover, some grey tabby cats are naturally playful, while others are lazy.
This observation suggests that a cat’s grey coat and tabby markings have very little to do with its temperament.
In fact, many pet enthusiasts still believe that the breed weighs more than its coat appearance when it comes to a cat’s behavior.
That said, there are still some common traits present across all grey tabby cats. On average, grey tabbies are friendly and affectionate. These cats can quickly get along with other pets and kids.
However, depending on the breed of your gray tabby cat, you might encounter different quirks. Moreover, if your grey tabby cat is a hybrid, there’s also a chance that its behavior is a mix of its parents’ temperament.
Of course, a study investigated the link between the coat color of cats and their behavior; however, results are inconclusive.
The main takeaway here is that you should check the breed of a grey tabby cat if you are concerned about its temperament. Responsible tabby cat owners do this right before making their cat purchase.
7. Grey Tabby Cats Can Have Different Eye Colors
Grey tabby cats, and tabby cats in general, do not have a limited range of possible eye colors. Instead, these cats can have almost any eye color!
The main reason for this is that the grey tabby is a family of different hybrids and purebreds.
This means the term “grey tabby” encompasses all cats with grey-colored coats and tabby markings. As a result, grey tabbies technically have an extended range of possible eye colors.
Some possible eye colors for gray tabby cats include green, red, orange, copper, blue, and hazel. While it is rare, it is also possible for a grey tabby cat to have odd-colored eyes — a condition known as heterochromia.
Here’s a photo of a grey tabby cat with odd-colored eyes:
The only eye colors that are rare or nonexistent in grey tabby cats are yellow, gold, and odd-colored eyes.
If you are eyeing a particular grey tabby kitten and want to know the possible eye colors, you can look for its specific breed on CFA’s breed standards.
8. Grey Tabby Cats Have Five Different Coat Types
Grey tabby cats can have any one of five coat types. Here are the possible coat patterns for tabbies:
Classic Grey Tabby Cat
A classic tabby with grey coloration also has circular patterns on their coats. The classic coat type in grey tabby cats is characterized by whorls with tapered ends on the side of the cat.
This cat is often thought of as a grey silver tabby due to its patterns on a light background.
Mackerel Grey Tabby Cat
The Mackerel coat type in tabbies is also known as the striped coat. Mackerel grey tabby cats have rings of stripes around their legs and tail.
These cats also have solid or broken stripes on the side of their bodies which resemble a fish skeleton. This is also why they are tagged as mackerel tabby stripes.
The coat type of mackerel tabbies is known as the most common across all tabby cats, including grey tabbies. As such, you can easily find a mackerel tabby by searching nearby catteries.
Spotted Grey Tabby Cat
Spotted grey tabby cats have noticeable oval-shaped spotting on their bodies. These spots can also be slightly more elongated like a stripe. The Ocicat exhibits this tabby coat type perfectly.
Ticked Grey Tabby Cat
A ticked grey tabby cat’s coat has visible stripes. These are often found on their legs, tails, and faces.
However, the rest of their body has no visible striped markings due to agouti hairs. Abyssinian cats usually have this type of tabby coat.
Patched Grey Tabby Cat
A patched grey tabby kitten can resemble any of the other four coat types. The only difference is that the patched tabbies have areas where a third color exists. Patched tabbies are also known as tortoiseshell tabbies.
Regardless of their coat type, gray tabby cats are still easily recognizable.
One of their most distinctive features is their grey coat color and the M-shape marking found on their foreheads (more on this in the following fact!).
9. There Is a National Tabby Day
Tabby cats are so special that they have their own day! In the United States, April 30 is celebrated as National Tabby Day. During this particular day, tabby cats are given extra belly rubs and extra special treats.
However, National Tabby Day is not considered a holiday for humans; instead, this day is exclusive to the lovable tabby cats.
You can check out many Instagram posts with the hashtag #nationaltabbyday to see how tabbies celebrate their special day!
If you plan to get a grey tabby kitten, you might want to wait for National Tabby Day. Some breeders hold price markdowns right around this time.
10. All Grey Tabby Cats Have an “M-shape” Marking
One of the telltale features of tabby cats is the “M-shape” marking on their foreheads. This is present across all tabby cats, including the grey tabby cat. But where did this unique marking come from?
There are actually a few superstitious theories linked to this “M” marking. The first theory can be traced back to Egypt, where cats are known as “Mau.”
Since Ancient Egyptians believe that cats are gods, the “M” markings on tabby cats were previously thought to represent the word, Mau.
The second myth is from Islam. Muslim people believe that “M” represents the prophet, Mohammed.
On the other hand, some Christians believe that a tabby cat accompanied Jesus in the manger and that the “M” stands for the word “Virgin Mary.”
While the truth regarding these superstitions is up for debate, the scientific community strongly argues that this marking is simply the Agouti gene in action!
11. A Grey Tabby Cat Inspired a Famous Stuffed Toy
The Ithaca Kitty is a grey tabby cat plush toy created in 1892. It was one of the very first stuffed toys that gained popularity in the United States.
Inspired by their pet cat, Caesar Grimalkin, two Ithaca women, Celia Mattison Smith and Charity Smith, designed the Ithaca Kitty.
Their creation was patented on July 5th, 1892, and shortly made its way to dozens of toy shops across the country.
The Ithaca Kitty is one of the very first pieces inspired by the gray tabby cat. Nowadays, the iconic look of the grey tabbies still inspires artists and creators all around the world.
An excellent example of this is Pusheen, the adorable cartoon cat inspired by a grey tabby.
12. The “Tabby” in Their Name Came From Their Place of Origin
The popular belief is that “tabby” came from the french word, taffeta — a type of silk fabric.
The earliest appearance of the word tabby in literature dates back to the 1600s when it was used to refer to a very specific type of silk fabric.
However, many cat enthusiasts believe that the word actually came from a 14th-century word, “atabis.” Atabis is a derivative of the Arabic word “Attabiyah,” a place in Baghdad known for its silk products.
Later in the 1960s, the word was shortened to “tabby” and was used to refer to tabby cats. Before grey tabby cats and tabby cats, in general, were named this way, they were simply referred to as “tiger cats” due to their striped markings.
Tabby is a word that is used to describe a silk pattern that has irregular waves. However, the silk-related meaning of the word is nowadays obsolete. Tabby is almost only used to refer to the coat pattern in cats.
13. A Gray Tabby Cat Once Held Two World Records
A grey tabby cat by the name of Mymains Stewart Gilligan, Stewie for short, once held two Guinness’ World Records.
On August 28, 2010, Stewie snagged the title for the longest domestic cat in the world. This grey tabby kitty stretches at an impressive 48.5 inches in length!
Moreover, Stewie also once held the title for the longest tail on a domestic cat. The official recorded length of Stewie’s tail was jaw-dropping 16.3 inches. That’s about as long as the length of most domestic cats!
However, this kitty had a pretty unfair advantage, and it is its breed. Stewie is a grey tabby Maine Coon cat.
Maine Coons are known for their massive size and long tails and they are roughly as heavy as a small dog, sometimes even heavier.
Sadly, Stewie died in 2013. Fortunately, his spectacular size forever engraved grey tabby cats in the Guinness’ Book of World Records.
8 Frequently Asked Questions About Grey Tabby Cats
Are Grey Tabby Cats Rare?
If you are in love with grey tabby cats, you would be pleased to know that these kitties are pretty easy to find. Grey is not a rare color in tabbies.
In fact, grey tabbies are known to be more common than other colors, including chocolate, cream, lilac, ticked, fawn, and lavender.
Are Grey Tabby Cats Hypoallergenic?
In general, not all grey tabby cats are hypoallergenic. While there might be a few that exhibit hypoallergenic qualities, most grey tabbies do not. The reason behind this is relatively easy to understand.
The tabby cat is not a single cat breed. Instead, “tabby” is just the term used to refer to their coat pattern. This means tabby cats can be entirely different from one another when it comes to being hypoallergenic.
Are Grey Tabby Cats Always Female?
Other colors of the tabby cat are more common in either males or females. However, this phenomenon does not occur in gray tabbies. A male and female tabby cat is equally likely to have a grey coat color.
Are Grey Tabby Cats Friendly?
In general, grey tabby cats are friendly. These kitties are very affectionate, and they get along with other pets and kids easily. This is especially true if your grey tabby cat was raised alongside your other pets and kids.
However, there are instances when grey tabby cats do not have a pleasing temperament.
This occurs when the cat was traumatized or undergoing medication. Temperamental issues may also be a result of lack of socialization during its early years,
What Are Grey Tabby Cats Called?
Other names for grey tabbies include grey striped cats and grey tigers. As expected, the alternate spelling also works — grey striped cats or grey tigers. Moreover, some people refer to the grey tabby cats as blue tabby cats.
How Big Do Grey Tabby Cats Get?
On average, a full-grown grey tabby cat’s weight is around 18 pounds and its height is around 16 inches. However, these measurements may vary depending on the breed of your grey tabby cat.
One way to have a rough estimate for its full-grown size is by looking at the size of its parents. It is also worth noting that male tabbies are generally bigger than their female counterparts.
How Long Do Grey Tabby Cats Live?
The average life expectancy of grey tabby cats is between 10 and 15 years. However, few grey tabbies live up to 20 years old.
The exact lifespan of a grey tabby cat depends on its breed, genetic predispositions, health, and living conditions.
Do Grey Tabby Cats Shed?
Yes, grey tabbies do shed, some more than others. The most significant factor affecting their shedding behavior is their breed. As always, the best way to keep shedding manageable is by brushing your cat’s hair every day.
Final Thoughts: Should You Get a Gray Tabby Cat?
Interestingly, grey tabby cats do not belong to a single cat breed. The term “grey tabby” simply refers to the coat color and striped marking of these kitties.
However, because of its popularity in the pet community, the tabby cat is typically, though informally, considered as a cat breed with various coat patterns.
Simply put, it is possible to have a grey tabby cat from different cat breeds. But regardless of its breed, a grey tabby cat is usually affectionate, intelligent, and friendly. Cat lovers would definitely have a great time owning one of these kitties!