|silver mackerel tabby & white Exotic kitten from
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Tabby Pattern vs. Agouti
The way tabby works was very confusing to me when I first started learning about it.
Partly, it was because many breeders who already understand how tabby works, talk about it in "shorthand".
This shorthand skips some important concepts.
I will try to explain it in a very simple way.
I hope it helps.
The original pattern for cats is tabby.
Tabby stripes provide excellent camouflage and protection from predators.
Just ask a tiger.
Tabby IS NOT a breed.
Tabby is a PATTERN and comes in a variety of colors.
Many breeds come in tabby.
There are 2 genes that affect tabby.
There are tabby pattern genes.
ALL cats have tabby pattern genes.
Then there are agouti genes.
Agouti genes allow the tabby pattern to show.
Tabby pattern genes come in 4 patterns:
Classic is recessive, you need 2 copies to be classic;
Mackerel is dominant, you only need one copy to be a mac;
Spotted is a modification of mackerel;
Ticked I don't know enough about, seen in Abyssinians.
Tabby pattern genes can create "ghost" tabby patterns to appear on
solid color and smoke kittens.
These "ghost" tabby patterns usually fade away by adulthood,
although sometimes unwanted barring is left behind.
Ghost tabby markings can let you know what tabby pattern your kitten carries.
The agouti gene is dominant, you only need one copy.
To have an agouti tabby, you MUST have at least one agouti tabby parent.
An agouti tabby is often referred to as a "true tabby".
Any black colored tabby is an agouti tabby.
|When a tabby cat is not a tabby....or is it?
A red tabby can be an agouti tabby or not.
Because of the way the tabby pattern genes work,
a red cat can look exactly like a red tabby.
This is partly because the tabby genes for that red tabby cat "look-a-like" are so strong.
For a more specific discussion,
check out one of the genetics sites on my links page.
So, how do you know if your red tabby is a "true" tabby?
The scientific way....
You can do a DNA test to find out if a cat carries the agouti gene.
The DNA test will also tell you if your tabby has 1 or 2 agouti genes.
A homozygous tabby is very valuable to a tabby breeding program because it will only produce tabby
kittens no matter what color or pattern cat it is bred to.
The trial & error way....
If a red tabby is bred to a black colored mate (any pattern), and produces a black tabby,
then you know the red tabby is a "true" agouti tabby.
NOT producing a black colored tabby does not necessarily mean the red tabby is NOT agouti,
it may just mean the genes didn't show up in that breeding.
A calico can show heavy tabby markings in its red patches.
The patching pattern on the calico pictured above mimics a tabby pattern.
Her mom is a calico and her dad is a silver tabby.
if there are no tabby markings in the black patches,
then it is not a tabby, it is a calico.
Tortoiseshells can also "look" tabby because of how their tortie pattern turns out
or if they have a lot of red.
When in doubt, do a DNA test if it's important to your breeding program.