Tabby vs Tiger Cat: Similarities and Differences

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

tabby vs tiger cat

There are two popular and captivating patterns that often catch the pet owners’ eyes: tabby vs tiger cat.

Tabby cats are quite popular among the cat breeds because of their distinct patterns, while tiger cats are tabby cats with a more specific coat pattern, which makes them separate from the tabbies.

In this article, we will explore their differences and key unique traits, including personality, cost, and cat care requirements!

  Tabby Tiger
Size Varies, but generally 9 to 10 inches 12 to 18 inches
Weight Around 10 pounds 15 to 33 pounds
Personality Friendly and affectionate Playful and affectionate
Hair Could be long haired or short-haired Generally short-haired
Cat Care Needs extensive care requirements Minimal to average
Health Good Healthy
Availability High High
Trainability Mid to Difficult Easy
Lifespan 15 years + 12 to 15 years

Overview of Orange Tabby and Orange Tiger



Both tabby and tiger cats have coat patterns and can be seen in a wide variety of cat breeds. But here is the breakdown of the cat breeds that have either tabby or tiger pattern

<strong>Tabby cat</strong>
  • American shorthair
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Maine Coon
  • Ocicat
  • And many more
<strong>Tiger cat</strong>
  • Absynnian
  • Bengal
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Toyger

Tabby cat


Tabby cats are known as a common coat pattern in cats with different cat breeds in the cat kingdom. They are domesticated cats characterized by a coat with patterns such as dots, stripes, and swirls. You can also notice the ‘M’ pattern on its forehead and near its eyes.

  • Friendly and playful
  • Affectionate
  • Available anywhere and easy to find
  • Lovely coat patterns
  • Might be cheaper
  • Cat care might be more extensive
  • Personality varies per cat breed
  • Might need more exercise
  • Have a bit of difficulty training

Tiger cat


Tiger cat, on the other hand, is a nickname used for a specific coat pattern among the tabbies pattern. Usually, a tiger cat has a striped fur pattern that appears on its head, body, and legs. In fact, we can refer to a tiger cat as a mackerel tabby cat because of its pattern.

Thus, all tiger cats are tabby cats, but not all are tiger cats. This specific narrow-striped fur pattern of tiger cats makes them look like wild cats, which makes them separate from most domestic-looking tabbies.

  • Mysterious and active
  • Affectionate
  • Doesn’t need much exercise
  • Pretty easy to train
  • Doesn’t need extra grooming requirement
  • Can be a bit aggressive
  • Might need extra diet efforts
  • Might be more expensive

Tiger vs Tabby Cat Comparison

1. Body Color

Tabby is a colored cat with a wider range of colors than the tiger cats with common colors of orange, beige, and gray, and brown.

Below is an image of a grey vs brown tabby cat:


Tiger striped tabby cat, on the other hand, is usually seen with a beige and brown fur coat. But this also majorly depends on the cat breed.

It should be noted that tiger cats are known for their striped fur pattern with various black, orange, and brown colors, making them popularly known as mackerel tabbies.

Because of this, some owners thought that there were some cream tiger cats. However, that type of cat is considered a tabby cat with diluted orange body color.

2. Coat Patterns

Tabby cats come with five patterns, mainly classic, mackerel, spotted, agouti and patched. Each pattern can be seen in different tabby breeds.

  • Classic coat pattern


For example, the classic tabby pattern cat is usually seen with American shorthairs and has its recognizable swirl on the cat’s body fur. These swirls look like abullseye. Because of this pattern, the cats usually have this pattern are known as blotched tabby cats.

  • Spotted coat pattern


From the name itself, a spotted tabby cat has distinctive spots all over its body. The spots can either be rosettes, oval, or round and can come in any size.

Ocicat is one of the common cat breeds which displays a spotted pattern.

Compared to the tabby patterns mentioned above, agouti or ticked patterns look slightly different from tabbies. The only hints that the cat has tabby patterns are the tabby coat markings and the so-called “agouti” hairs.

  • Agouti coat pattern


The agouti hairs are cat mix of light and dark colors of individual fur. This pattern is mostly seen in Abssynian cat breeds.

Patched tabby patterns are seen in a tortoiseshell breed with a combination of brown and red tabbies.

The usual patches are located on the head and legs.

  • Mackeret coat or tiger coat pattern


Mackerel tabbies, on the other hand, are the most common fur patterns among tabbies. This pattern appears in stripes running down the cat’s sides in vertical and parallel patterns. One of the recognizable traits of this pattern is the darker colors of the stripes on its abdomen or tummy part.

Generally, mackerel tabbies have solid stripes or sometimes have gaps that make the stripes look like a fish skeleton. Thus, calling it mackerel as time passes by.

Mackerel tabbies are also known as tiger cats because of their stripes which make them look like tigers.

3. Cat Personality

Since tabby cats pertain to coat patterns, it’s a bit hard to pinpoint a specific personality trait, which hugely depends on the cat’s breed.

  • Tabby


However, like other domestic cats, tabbies can be considered homely and friendly. They are also known for being active and playful.

They are also very affectionate, although they also want their independence and space occasionally.

Tabbies usually don’t like being surrounded by sudden changes or new environments. This causes them immediate stress and anxiety.

  •  Tiger cat


Tiger cats have almost the same traits as tabby cats, with being friendly and affectionate. However, they also have some wild cats traits for some reason.

This type of cat loves to explore and be adventurous. Often looking like mysterious and intimidating cats, tiger cats are known to have stronger hunting instincts and are kind of hard to domesticate.

Therefore, you can expect some high aggressiveness from tiger cats, especially when they get threatened.

So, if you are wondering if there is a domestic tiger cat, there might be! However, expect that tiger cats would be a bit stubborn to calm down.

4. Cost

Depending on the breed, the cost of either the tabby or tiger tabby kitten still differs. However, just to give you an overview, we have listed applicable costs you may encounter if you are planning to buy either one of the two cats.


Tiger cats are mostly seen both in Toyger and Bengal cats. To estimate the cost of tiger cats:

Toyger Cats For adoption: $500 to $1,000

For breeding: $500 to $50,000

Bengal Cats Average: $1,500 to $3,500

As for tabbies, they cost way cheaper compared to Tiger cats ranging from $70 to $1,000.

Which Cat is Right For You?

If you are torn between buying either a tabby or a tiger cat, these tips might come in handy before you purchase your ideal cat:

  • Consider your budget: If you want a budget-friendly cat, go with tabbies since this type of cat is easy to find and most likely cheaper than tiger cats.
  • Compare which personality traits best fit your home environment and even personality: Although tiger cats are still considered tabbies, tiger cats are more mysterious and display more hunter traits than general tabbies.


I hope this article, “tabby vs tiger cat” has helped you better distinguish between tiger and tabby cats.

Both cats are equally unique in their own ways in terms of appearance, personality, and care requirements. However, whichever you choose, make sure that the cat fits best to your lifestyle, budget, and home environment.

But also considering the cat’s welfare moving forward by providing it with basic needs, care, and love.

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