The Mackerel Tabby: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

The mackerel tabby is the most common tabby cat available. It is basically a domestic cat with a coat pattern made of orange or gray background banded hairs and darker vertical stripes. These vertical stripes are highly reminiscent of fish bones, which was the inspiration behind the name: mackerel tabby. The patterns are usually differentiated by dark, solid markings. Some patterns have spots as opposed to stripes. All cats with the tabby gene feature prominent “M” markings on their forehead, as well as banded stripes on their tails and legs. If you are looking to adopt one, a little research may come in handy. Here are five things you didn’t know about the Mackerel Tabby.

1. Mackerel tabby cats are playful and highly intelligent

The mackerel tabby cat loves to play and explore. They can follow you around like a puppy and even play fetch. Additionally, they are considered to be more intelligent than other types of cats. They are clever and amusing, and maker wonderful companions.

2. The mackerel tabby is the origin of the tabby pattern

The first tabby pattern to appear in domestic cats was the mackerel tabby. It is believed to have originated from the European Wildcat and the African Wildcat, both of which have a faint, striped tabby pattern. When these breeds were mixed, the mackerel tabby coat became more distinct and was available in all domestic cats. Due to selective breeding and gene mutations, more tabby patterns began appearing. While this gene is still in the cats’ DNA, some breeds tend to hide the tabby pattern.

3. They were once associated with witchcraft

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the term “tabby” was used to refer to a female cat. More specifically, it was used to describe a female cat belonging to a witch. During those days, witches cats were known as “familiars.” They were believed to be possessed by a human soul or demon, and were often regarded as a reincarnated human or a victim of a witch’s spell. The tabby pattern was actually considered to be the witches’ favorite color, as opposed to black according to popular believe. As a result, people assumed that mackerel cats had magical powers and, of course, nine lives.

4. Mackerel tabby kittens can be overly curious

Mackerel tabby kittens are extremely active and adventurous. They may be slightly head strong and put themselves in precarious situations before learning their limitations. If you are considering to get a kitten, kitten-proofing is recommended. Additionally, you should restrict them from high furniture and be extra careful when holding the wriggly little youngsters, especially when carrying them across tile floors or hard wood.

5. They are associated with some interesting legends

With a history as old as methuselah, the mackerel cat has definitely gathered its own share of legends over the years. Some of the most popular ones include:

*Mary – Legend has it that during Jesus’ birth, the manger became so cold that it became virtually unbearable for a baby to survive. Mary tried to pull up the animals in the shelter around Jesus, but they were too big to provide snuggle up to him. Finally, a tabby cat was able to lie next to the baby and provide the necessary warmth. Mary subsequently gave the cat the M mark (her initial) on the forehead as a sign of gratitude.

*Mau – During the ancient Egyptian era, cats were called “Mau,” probably due to the sound they make. As a result, some people believe that the M actually stands for “Mau”.

*Mohammed – Prophet Mohammed is alleged to have had a soft spot for cats. In one particular story, upon waking up to go for his prayers, the Prophet found his cat “Muezza” resting on the sleeve of his robe. Not wanting to disturb the cat, he decided to actually cut off the sleeve instead. Many people believe that the M on mackerel tabby cats refers to Mohammed – the protector of cats.



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