Mackerel Tabby Cat – Origin and Important Facts

This article dedicated to my love for Mackerel Tabby Cats. Once a famous theologian and a writer, Albert Schweitzer said “There are two means of refuge from the worries of life: Music and Cats“. His love for cats was never hidden. Do you love cats? If yes, then you would probably say that they are cute! Are you too a fan of their classy black stripes and coat patterns?

Mackerel Tabby Cat

Well, these dark-colored marks on the cat’s fur are called ‘Tabby‘. Sounds cool! Aren’t these patterns captivating? Striped or Mackerel is the most common tabby cat. Generally, Mackerel cats have a distinctive’ mark on their forehead. Are you intrigued to discover more about Mackerel tabby cat? Then, let’s quickly take you to an info-ride!

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All About The Mackerel Tabby Cat Pattern

Mackerel tabby cat is Felis Catus (domestic cat) with stripes in almost every part of their body. Have you ever seen the beautiful eyes of girls adorned with eyeliners? Similarly, these cats also have beautiful dark lines from the corners of their eyes.

The black stripes also cover their legs, back, cheeks, neck, chest, flanks, stomach, shoulders, and what not! The circles around their tail resemble rings like that on a tree trunk. The ‘M’ sign generally occurs on their forehead.

All About The Mackerel Tabby Cat Pattern

Their distinctive striped pattern reminds masses of the tiger. Therefore, they are occasionally referred to as ‘tiger cats‘. Well, don’t forget that Tiger is the largest animal of Felidae (Cat family)! So, some similarities can be expected from them, right?

So Mackerel tabby cat is a breed? Absolutely not. It is a pattern of stripes that can be seen on various cat breeds. Norwegian Forest Cat when bred to the Maine Coon, gave some gorgeous tabby markings!

Stripes of Mackerel tabby are almost perpendicular to the body part length. The streaks are continuous but can be broken too in the form of spots or bars. These stripes are akin to fish-bones and henceforth another name for Mackerel tabby, ‘fishbone tabby‘.

These facts are interesting but the story behind the name, ‘mackerel tabby‘, is more fascinating. Want to know about it? Scroll down then.

Origin of The Name Tabby Cat And Mackerel Tabby Cat

Did you know that the word ‘tabby’ associated with your cute little cat has roots in Arabic silk? The fur of tabby cat resembles striped silk taffeta, which was originally manufactured in Al-Attabiyah, a quarter of Baghdad. Al-Arabiya is supposed to be named after the Omayyad dynasty’s prince ‘Attab‘.

This cloth was called ‘Atta’ in Arabic. When French visited the place in the fourteenth century and saw the cloth, they called it ‘tabis’ in their own accent. The English speakers then modified it more, making it ‘tabby’.

However, until the late eighteenth century, there was no connection between tabby, a plane weaved silk cloth with wavy moiré patterns and cats. After this period, people started to associate the striped pattern on the cat’s coat with striped silk taffeta.

Origin of The Name Tabby Cat And Mackerel Tabby Cat

Such a long leap from silk to the cat is bewitching. Isn’t it? Nevertheless, when tabby began to be associated with cats, silk was left unchaperoned. Wondering about the word ‘mackerel’? Surprisingly, Mackerel originally refers to “a predatory marine fish with greenish-blue back”. It is an important food fish.

How is fish associated with cats? Well, the association between cat and fish makes more sense than that of silk and fish! Don’t you agree? However, there is a reason behind it. The streaks coming out from the cat’s spine bear a resemblance to the fish skeleton. Hence the name ‘mackerel’!! (drum rolls in the background)

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mackerel Tabby

1. They Are Related With Legends

Mackerel tabby is more elite and historic (sort of!) then you think! You might have not received any chance to get associated with any legend but this pussy has it already checked in her list. From spiritual leaders like Mary and prophet Muhammad to mysterious Egyptians, they are there in all stories!


The most recent story related to the origin of the letter ‘M’ is by writer Jim Wills. He in his story ‘Beloved of Bast’ says that when Bast, the cat of sun goddess Ra visited Mother, a cat, she was so impressed by her kindness that she blessed all Mackerel tabby cats with the letter ‘M’.


When Jesus was born, he was kept in a manger surrounded by hay all over. It was very cold outside and baby Jesus started to shiver. He couldn’t manage such low temperature and began to cry. Mother Mary rocked and covered him with blankets but nothing worked.

She then called all the animals to surround him so that he could feel some warmth, but nothing was obstructing the cold breeze. A Mackerel tabby was watching this from distance. She then entered the manger and started to snuggle next to him. The cat’s purr made Jesus asleep. Impressed by the efforts, Mother Mary blessed the tabby with ‘M’ sign on the forehead.


Ancient Egyptians called cats as ‘Mau’. Have you heard this name before? Exactly! It is the sound of a cat. Some people also say that the letter ‘M’ on cats’ forehead represents their sound i.e. meow.


It is said that Prophet Muhammad loved cats. Once, when he was about to leave for prayer, he saw his cat Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his robe. In spite of waking her up, he chopped off the sleeve. Later, it turned out to be a good omen for him. Therefore, the letter ‘M’, as some people say, stands for Muhammad, the protector of tabby.

2. Mackerel Tabby Cats Are Playful and Intelligent

American singer-songwriter Paula Cole rightly said-just watching my cats can make me happy. Have you ever sit to study and your cat started to play with your book? In spite of shooing her, did you call her cutest distraction?

An experienced owner knows that cats love playing. Let it be with her woolen ball, toys, or even with you. They love to play fetch and are almost excited to spend time with the owner.

Additionally, they are more intelligent as compared to other cats. They are alert and quick at making decisions. Their ability to make superb companions might shock you. Also, they are a good source of entertainment. Their innocent looks with cleverness might amuse you.

3. Mackerel Tabby is The Origin of The Tabby Pattern

Already shocked before reading the description? Yes, you saw right. It is the Mackerel tabby which is the mother of the tabby pattern. European wildcat and African wildcat, both have a dull and striped tabby pattern.

When both of these breeds were bred together, the resultant was Mackerel tabby coat. Now it is distinct and found in almost all domestic cats. Then why don’t all of them show tabby patterns? Most probably because their genes for the same are not so dominant and hence masking the effect.

With some more efforts in selective breeding and gene mutations, more desired tabby patterns can appear. We might find a stunningly unexpected pattern with unique breeding combinations!

4. They Were Once Associated With Witchcraft

Can’t help imagining the Harry Potter series and The Maleficent? Even in the horror movies, black cats with shining eyes, are shown standing outside the haunted house. Their eerie scream works as a horror sound effect in movies and shows.

However, in earlier times, there was more superstition than today. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these cats were either thought to have been possessed by a soul or as human cursed by witch’s magic.

The word Tabby was generally referred to as a female cat of a witch. In the movies, a stereotyped black cat is shown as ghostly, but in ancient times, tabby pattern cats were usually considered as witches’ favorites. These cats were called “familiars“.

5. Mackerel Tabby Kittens Can Be Overly Curious

As discussed before, Mackerel tabby cats are intelligent. In addition, they are also very curious by nature. They love to explore the unexplored. When introduced with any novel object, they might get triggered to use the object without actually knowing anything about it. ‘What would happen if I jump off this high shelf?’

These kinds of wild ideas roam around their head and you might not have a little idea about it. Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, these cats should be kept at bay from high furniture, shelves, and ladders.

They can also try to reach out to your little kid and try to play with them out of curiosity. This can turn out to be very dangerous for your little one. Extra care needs to be taken in this case.

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According to you, which story explained the origin of the letter ‘M’ the best? Well, your pick could be any. There are some biological reasons behind it too. Some experts say that it is the result of either unprotected sexual relations or self-mimesis.

There are some interesting explanations too like their habit of continuously staring at the rat-hole with narrowed lids, made them develop lines akin to the letter ‘M’ on the forehead.

Never mind! It is gripping how these cats can be risky and friendly at the same time. Their intelligence is often overshadowed by their over-curious nature. Their blend of curiosity and cleverness might result in fatal outcomes. Interestingly, it is said that cats have nine lives. It could be because they have the unending curiosity to explore the world more and more? Who knows!