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The Tabby Cat, (Felis familiaris,) was made the official state cat on July 11, 1988, in response to the wishes of the schoolchildren of Massachusetts.
The word TABBY, is thought to be derived from the word ATABI, which is a type of silk manufactured in the Attabiah region of Baghdad. They exported quantities of this fabric to England, where the striped pattern was compared to the striping on the 'tiger' cat. This type of cat then became known as the TABBI, which was later modified to TABBY.
Tabby cats are often mistakenly thought of as being a particular breed of cat, but it is the coat pattern that is known as "tabby", and this pattern can occur in all breeds of domestic cat. All breeds of domestic cat carry the tabby gene.
A tabby is any domestic cat that has a coat featuring distinctive stripes, dots, lines or swirling patterns, usually together with a mark resembling an M on its forehead. Tabbies are sometimes erroneously assumed to be a cat breed. In fact, the tabby pattern is found in many breeds, as well as among the general mixed-breed population. The tabby pattern is a naturally occurring feature that may be related to the coloration of the domestic cat's direct ancestor, the African Wildcat, which (along with the European Wildcat and Asiatic Wildcat) has a similar coloration.
There are four tabby patterns that have been shown to be genetically distinct: Mackerel, Classic, spotted, and ticked.
A fifth includes tabby as part of another basic color pattern. The "patched" tabby is a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches (also known as "caliby" and "torbie", respectively).
All those patterns have been observed in random-bred populations. Several additional patterns are found in specific breeds. A modified Classic tabby is found in the Sokoke breed. Some are due to the interaction of wild and domestic genes. Rosetted and marbled patterns are found in the Bengal breed.
The Mackerel tabby pattern has vertical, gently curving stripes on the side of the body. The stripes are narrow and may be continuous or broken into bars and spots on the flanks & stomach. An "M" shape appears on the forehead along with dark lines across the cat's cheeks to the corners of its eyes. Mackerels are also called 'Fishbone tabbies' probably because they are named after the mackerel fish. Mackerel is the most common tabby pattern. The legs and tail have dark bars as do the cat's cheeks.
The Classic (also known as "Blotched" or "Marbled") tabby tends to have a pattern of dark browns, ochres and black but also occurs in grey. Classic tabbies have the "M" pattern on their foreheads but the body markings have a whirled or swirled pattern (often called a "bullseye") on the cat's sides. There is also a light colored "butterfly" pattern on the shoulders and three thin stripes (the center stripe is dark) running along its spine. Like the Mackerel tabby, Classic tabbies have dark bars on the legs, tail, and cheeks.
The Ticked tabby pattern produces agouti hairs, hairs with distinct bands of color on them, breaking up the tabby patterning into a salt-and-pepper appearance. Residual ghost striping or "barring" can often be seen on the lower legs, face and belly and sometimes at the tail tip.
The Spotted tabby is a modifier that breaks up the Mackerel tabby pattern so that the stripes appear as spots. Similarly, the stripes of the Classic tabby pattern may be broken into larger spots. Both large spot and small spot patterns can be seen in the Australian Mist, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, and Ocicat breeds.
The law designating the Tabby cat as the official Massachusetts state cat is found in the General Laws of Massachusetts, Part 1, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 30.
Massachusetts General Laws Annotated.
Part I. Administration of the Government.
Title I. Jurisdiction and Emblems of the Commonwealth, The General Court, Statutes and Public Documents.
Chapter 2. Arms, Great Seal and Other Emblems of the Commonwealth.
§ 30. Cat of commonwealth
The Tabby cat shall be the official cat of the commonwealth.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Tabby Cat
Species: F. catus