American Shorthair vs Tabby: What’s the Difference Anyway?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

american shorthair vs tabby

The American Shorthair is a breed with many variants, with the most common being the tabby-patterned ones. Because of this, American Shorthair vs Tabby is oft-used to refer to the same cat variant. But the confusion starts there. Simply, a tabby cat is not a breed but a trait.

Profile American Shorthair Tabby Cat
Personality affectionate, curious, easygoing, gentle, playful adventurous, friendly, independent, outgoing
Coat Length short hair both short and long hair
Coat Color may include black, blue, brown, cream, red, silver, white black, brown, gray, orange
Coat Patterns bi-color, calico, shaded, smoke, solid, tabby, tortoiseshell Tabby
Eye Color hazel, gold, blue, copper, green blue, gold, green
Hypoallergenic no no
Length (nose to base of tail) 12-15 inches up to 40 inches
Lifespan 15-20 years up to 18 years
Origin United States of America Ancient Egypt
Weight 11-15 pounds (males); 6-12 pounds (females) up to 18 pounds for both males and females

Overview: Are Tabbies and Domestic Shorthair Cats the Same?


When researching cat breeds for pets, one would find many recommendations lauding tabby cats. There would also be those enthusiastic about American Shorthair kitten variants that are all cute and popular.

  • The main difference is that the term tabby cat can refer to any breed bearing the iconic “tabby” pattern of fur.
  • On the other hand, the American Shorthair cat is a distinctive cat breed with multiple variants, including the tabby-coated ones being the most commonly found among documented individuals—pets and ferals.

But looking at the pictures, one might ask: Are tabby cats American shorthair cats? They look basically the same!

The answer is, yes and no.

Tabby refers to cats manifesting a combination of three gene types said to come from Ancient Egyptian Maus, the oldest breed of domesticated cats. The gene combo expresses itself in the striped and multi-colored pattern with the easily seen “M” stripe on their foreheads (though it can be slightly faint in lighter color combinations).

So yes, since there are American shorthair cats that have this trait, tabby cats can be American shorthair. But also no, since tabby cats can be all different cat breeds like the Manx, Maine Coons, the Ragdool, and Scottish folds.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA official site) identifies 25 breeds that can have tabby patterns without affecting their health. Look at that; so many choices!

American Shorthair Coat Pattern Variants


  • bi-color
  • calico
  • solid
  • tabby
  • tortoiseshell

Tabby Coat Varieties


  • Agouti/Ticked – seemingly shimmering under certain angles, agouti has ticked hairs, fur that has multiple bands of color down the length of their hairs;
  • Classic/Blotched – the strip/whorls end in a “target”. American Shorthair tabbies often exhibit this characteristic;
  • Spotted – with distinctive “rosette” spots that then stripe down the limbs and up the face;
  • Striped/Mackerel – the most common tabby pattern (that some vote to have them be the “classic” designation), have stripes down their legs, tails and around their necks with a pair of spotted lines down the abdomen referred to as “vest buttons”.



  • Their distinctive “M” marking on the forehead. This marking is very visible in short haired tabby cat breeds, and fainter in the long-haired breeds.
  • Their active nature—most tabbies also express the personality of a rodent hunter. They like to socialize and be familiar with their surroundings.
  • Both have levels of friendliness and affection for their familiar humans. This also makes them kid-friendly.
  • They don’t mind other pets in the house. They can get friendly with fellow house pets better than other breeds that can get territorial.
  • Both have middling levels of needs with regard to simulating play and exercise.
  • They are also quite average with their shedding and vocalization concerns.



  • American shorthair cats can have patterns that do not have distinctive tabby traits.
  • American shorthair cats can be pedigreed as such, tabbies need to identify their cat breed, and there are ferals and breed mixes that are simply called tabbies due to their coat and not their official identification.
  • Tabbies can get significantly bigger or smaller than American Shorthair cats. The very popular Tabby Maine Coons get so massive they’d loom over the domestic shorthair. And the Munchkins though a newer breed, has some adorably tiny tabby variants.
  • American Shorthairs can be a tad bit more vocal than Tabbies. They can be needier too, with them being bred to be exclusively indoor cats.
  • Tabbies can be left to their own devices overnight without much issue, but they are also often active at night due to their hunter urges. Expect more zoomies from Tabbies. Just sayin’ American Shorthairs would be delicate beauties in comparison.
  • It’s pretty hard to find American Shorthair cats in the wild (they’d be ferals without owners), but the tabby patterned cats can be found anywhere there are small feline habitats, from people’s homes to the deep forests.

Which is the Right Choice for a Pet Between the Two?


When asking the ideal pet between the tabby vs American Shorthair, of course one would have their own considerations in the matter.

Why is one considering these two in the first place?

Is it a beautiful coat with a distinctive pattern? Is it the stature, short hair with its ease of maintenance, and soft fur?

Or is it the active and friendly personality that can easily both adapt to one’s home faster than other pedigreed breeds?

Then you should consider the cost and the home circumstances at this point.

  • Tabbies, in general, are independent, but most American Shorthair exhibits more affectionate behavior. They are bred to be pets, so the domestic shorthair tends to be clingier and more accepting of touching and cuddling.
  • This also translates to their attitude towards children and other pets in the house. American Shorthairs are more tolerant of playing and disturbance than the average tabby.
  • Both shed moderately once or twice a year. But both are identified to be not hypoallergenic, so if one has that concern, then reconsider.


This has started with the question of the difference in American Shorthair vs Tabby cats. Both are similar with their lively, friendly personalities and beautiful coats.

Depending on the home’s situation, one can choose between the milder American Shorthair and the renowned pest-hunter tabbies (which can come in many different breeds ranging from gentle long-haired giants to spicy well-maintained “toy” or mini cats). Either way, they would be a joyful addition to a home that can accompany their families for many years to come.

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