How Long Do Tabby Cats Live + 7 Amazing Trivia That Will Shock You!

I recently had to comfort a friend of mine whose tabby cat recently passed away. It was incredibly heartbreaking because she only had her tabby cat for about three years. At the same time, it puzzled me because my tabby cat has been living with us for seven years. I started to wonder how long do tabby cats live. Is my cat an exception or was the cat of my friend a unique case?

As I began to research more about how long do tabby cats live, I began to discover a lot of interesting trivia I've never known about them until now.

In this article, I will share with you what I learned, including the answer to the question, "how long do tabby cats live?"


8 Amazing Trivia about Tabby Cats

#1: Tabby is not a breed

If you’ve always thought Tabby cat is a breed of a cat, you're not alone. In fact, this is one common misconception people have when it comes to Tabby cats.

The truth is that Tabby is not a type of breed. Rather, the term “tabby” refers to the pattern on your cat’s fur or coat. There are five different kinds of tabby patterns:

  • Classic pattern. Also called the "marbled pattern," this type of tabby pattern is made of dark brown, ochre, black and gray swirls on the sides of your cat.
  • Mackerel pattern. This is the most common type of tabby pattern you'll find and gets its name from the mackerel fish. Cats with the mackerel tabby pattern have vertical, narrow stripes that continuously run down their sides and dark lines that run across their cheeks to the corner of their eyes.
  • Ticked pattern. This tabby pattern is also called the "salt-and-pepper" pattern because of its color and appearance. The strips are not as obvious as the first two patterns. You'll have to look very carefully to see the faint stripes, which often appear around your cat's legs, face, belly, and tail tip.
  • Spotted pattern. As its name suggests, this pattern looks like the spots you find on wild cats. You'll notice this pattern on domestic cat breeds like the Australian Mist, Bengal, and Maine Coon.
  • Patches pattern. The last pattern is made of patches of color are much larger than those found in the spotted pattern. This pattern is often also called “tortoise” pattern because the shape of the patches and dark color of the patches resembles those that you can find on tortoise shells.

#2: All domestic cats are tabby cats

That’s right! All domestic cats are tabby cats because they possess the agouti gene. This gene is often called the "tabby gene" because it's the gene that not only determines whether your cat's fur will have the striped bands but also what kind of pattern will these stripes have.

You're probably wondering why then are there some cats that don't have any stripes if they all have the tabby gene? Well, the reason is that there's what's called a dominant and recessive gene. Cats that have the tabby pattern are those that have a dominant agouti gene while those that have a recessive agouti gene.

You can learn more about the difference between dominant and recessive genes in the video below.

#3: M is for tabby?!


Even if your cat may not have the distinctive, recognizable tabby pattern on its fur, you can tell if your cat’s got the dominant tabby gene by taking a look at its forehead. All cats that have the dominant agouti gene has got a letter “M” pattern on their forehead. The more distinct the pattern, the more dominant the tabby gene is in your cat.

This M-shaped pattern on your cat’s forehead can also be found on the forehead of the African wild cat and is believed to be from where our beloved domestic cats descended. This pattern is meant to help further camouflage the African wild cat when it goes hunting.

#4: The name tabby means silk

There are many speculations as to where the name “tabby” came from. One is that the name originates from the Spanish word ataviar, which means “to decorate,” “to dress” or “to wear.”

The most likely origin is the Arabic word atabi, a type of silk spun in the Attabiah region of Baghdad. The English, who exported this silk, saw that the pattern is similar to those found in cats, and they started calling these cats tabbi cats. Later, the spelling changed to tabby.

#5: How long do tabby cats live?


Cat Age to Human Age Chart. Source:

Tabby cats have a surprisingly long life span. The average age of tabby cats is between 15 and 20 years. That is equivalent to a human living between 76 and 96 years old. Take note that this is the average length how long do tabby cats live. Some tabby cats can live longer than that. It all depends on the amount of diet and exercise that they get.

Just like us humans, your cat will live longer if you feed it with healthy meals and get it to exercise regularly. Without these, they can develop health problems like heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes, which can significantly cause them to have a shorter lifespan.

#6: Indoor tabby cats live longer

One huge factor that determines how long do tabby cats live is where they spend most of its time.

A lot of owners tend to allow their cats to spend a lot of time outside the house because they believe that this will give them the sufficient amount of exercise they need to live longer. In reality, this is actually doing more harm than good.

According to Pet Place, cats that spend most of their time indoors live far longer than those that spend their time outdoors. The average life expectancy for cats that spend their time outdoors is only 5 years, compared to how long do tabby cats live indoors. The reason for this is that cats that spend a lot of time outdoors are exposed to speeding cars, dogs, and viruses they get from fighting with other cats, especially stray ones.

#7: Tabby cats are aloof, not snobs

Another common misconception with cats, especially tabby cats, is that they can be quite snobbish, which is why they don’t really mingle that much with humans.

Tabby cats are incredibly loving and affectionate, but are very selective towards people that they express their affection. That’s because they respond more towards those members that they sense they can trust will take care of them.

#8: Tabby cats are extremely moody


Tabby cats can be as moody—if not, more moody—as their human owners. One minute they can be extremely hyper and playful, and then suddenly be very lazy. They can have days when they're as sweet and cuddly as can be, and then they'll have days when they become extremely grumpy and want to be left alone.

Tabby cats brought up indoors and live longer with a playful personality. On the other hand, those say outdoors end up living short and grumpy lives. Health conditions like hyperthyroidism and Feline hyperesthesia can also make your tabby cat become moody.


We started on this journey wanting to learn more about how long do tabby cats live. In the process, we discovered that they live for a very long time. More important, we found out that there are a lot of factors that can affect how long do tabby cats live, especially when it comes to where they spend their time. That said, I’ll be best keeping my cat indoors as much as I could.

Did you enjoy this article? Which trivia about tabby cats did you find the most interesting? Do you know of other interesting things about tabby cats that I didn’t mention here? If so, tell me more about them in the comments below. I’d love to learn more about them.

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Debby Jackson

Hi there, I am Debby. I am your modern-day cat lady who is just utterly crazy about cats. I am always thirsty for new knowledge on how to keep my feline friends happy and healthy all the time.

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