Mackerel Tabby Cat 101: Colors, Lifespan, Personality, and Fun Facts

Mackerel Tabby Cat 101

You may find an association between cats and fish – the Mackerel Tabby Cat is, surprisingly, one of them, due to how they’re named. Mackerel Tabby Cats aren’t exactly a breed – they’re a coat pattern that’s commonly found in the Domestic Shorthair (also known as puspin in the Philippines or moggies in the UK). 

This coat pattern is characterized by a fishbone design due to its stripes, which is the raison d’être for its name. The patterns may come in various colors and some of them might be a bit darker than others. You’ll also see the M-shaped markings on the forehead of the cat.

So, how do you know if you have a Mackerel Tabby Cat? Well, the chances of having this cat are very likely since they are quite common and are seen in a variety of breeds (not just mixed breeds or shorthairs).

Mackerel Tabby Cat Colors 

The Mackerel Tabby Cat often comes in these prominent colors:


Sometimes called a Gray Mackerel Tabby Cat, this coat has a mix of light gray and dark with slight hints of cream and tan on their undercoat. Technically, breeders call them “blue” despite the gray color appearance. 

This color might be a bit confusing to describe, but it does exist as a Mackerel Tabby color out there. They typically have yellow eyes.


The Brown Mackerel Tabby is probably one of the most common colors that you’ll see in the streets. It’s easy to spot them because of their frequency in a clowder (a group of cats). 

The brown shade may also look like bronze at some point because it is a combination of dark brown (that resembles black) and light brown (which is kind of like cream or tan). Brown Mackerel Tabbies also usually have a dark end color for their tail.


The Cream Mackerel Tabby has a light orange design, which makes it look like a regular Domestic Shorthair with light orange color. Cream Mackerel Tabbies are not that common due to the lightness of their coat as you’ll most likely encounter more cats with a darker shade of orange instead.


The Red Mackerel Tabby is yet another common color among pet owners who take and rescue cats from being strays. The color is like a coffee shade for the darker lines and cream or tan shade for the rest of the body, giving off a Garfield-like design.

Oftentimes, the Red Mackerel Tabby can also be called an Orange Tabby due to its color combination. These cats are quite common among Domestic Shorthairs.

Regarding their color, red genes are usually inherited if they have the red color gen O codes, which produce phaeomelanin. To get a Red Tabby Cat, a Red father is usually paired with a Calico or Tortoiseshell mother.


Also known as a light gray cat, the Silver Mackerel Tabby has a cooler tone than the Blue variation with a much lighter shade. In some cases, the cat may also have much darker stripes so it’s more akin to a zebra-like design, which might also remind you of the Classic Tabby Cat.

Mackerel Tabby Cat Lifespan

So, how long does a Mackerel Tabby Cat live? Well, like most tabby cats, they will live between 15 and 20 years old depending on the following factors:


What are you feeding your cat? There’s a big difference between feeding them with quality food that’s appropriate for their age and other factors and feeding them with random grocery store food (or even human leftovers). 

While domestic or mixed breed cats aren’t very picky with human food, they’ll get more nutrients from the food that’s specifically tailored to them.

A Mackerel Tabby Cat will live longer if you give them quality food. Most pet owners prefer organic food and they also set proper scheduling to avoid weight issues and the like. You’ll have fewer frequent trips to the vet if you focus on good food habits for your cat.


Like all cat breeds, purebred or mixed, the Mackerel Tabby Cat will need sufficient exercise or at least time to play around and explore. Locking them up in your apartment, condo unit, or room all day would result in weight issues. 

If you suspect that your Mackerel Tabby Cat is overweight for their age and normal size, you should take them outside more often or give them stimulating toys to play with. You could also invest in a puzzle feeder to slow down their food intake.


Cats that have a troublesome medical history (according to the breeder) would have more risk for life-threatening diseases. That’s why you may want to consider consulting your vet on the best kind of diet and lifestyle for your Mackerel Tabby Cat if that’s the case.

With that said, since the Mackerel Tabby Cat pattern appears in most domestic cats of mixed breeds (and rarely on purebred cats); they are most likely not very prone to certain diseases.

The personality of a Mackerel Tabby Cat

A Mackerel Tabby has the following key personality traits:

  • playful and active
  • curious around their area
  • packs intelligence and problem-solving skills
  • sometimes stubborn

Time outside

Did you know that indoor cats tend to have a longer lifespan than those that spend most of their time outside? That’s because when your cat is outdoors, they are exposed to all kinds of dangers, such as vehicular accidents, bad weather, communicable diseases, attacks from cat predators, and even as far as being stolen for profit or abuse.

Usually, a spayed/neutered Mackerel Tabby Cat will most likely spend their time indoors rather than go outside. That’s why if you’d like to adopt a cat from the streets, it’s best to get them spayed/neutered to make sure they won’t encounter much of the dangers that lurk outside.

A way to extend your cat’s lifespan is to keep them indoors most of the time with proper pampering. When your cat is often indoors, it’s easy to tell if they’re sick so that you can take them to the vet right away or give them first aid.

Fun Facts about the Mackerel Tabby Cat

Now that we know the basics about the Mackerel Tabby Cat, let’s take a look at some interesting facts/trivia about them:

The mackerel pattern is the OG tabby pattern

Did you know that the Mackerel pattern is the first tabby pattern recognized in domestic cats? Most cat experts and breeders agree that the Mackerel Tabby Cat originated from the African and European Wildcat due to the distinctive stripes that are common in tabby cats.

Eventually, the Mackerel Tabby Cat became the most prominent type of tabby pattern and was easily found in many domestic cats, specifically crossbred or mixed breeds.

Mackerel Tabbies were a witchy favorite

Back in the days, it was said that witches use cats as their “familiars”. These familiars are believed to be the reincarnation of human souls who were victimized by the spell of a witch. In which case (pun not intended), the Mackerel Tabby is a common favorite due to their pattern. 

Contrary to popular belief, the witchy companion cat wasn’t always the black cat, but mostly the tabby cat. That’s because tabby cats, during the 16th and 17th centuries, were commonly referred to as female cats owned by witches.

If you own Mackerel Tabby kittens, prepare for a bumpy ride

Mackerel Tabby kittens are quite troublesome due to being too mischievous. Make sure you kitten-proof your home because otherwise, they will destroy a lot of items around your house. Or better yet – socialize them early to avoid wrecking items too easily when they’re older!

Mackerel Tabbies have an M-shaped forehead pattern

Like most tabby cats, the Mackerel Tabby has an M-shaped pattern on their forehead, which has a lot of origin stories.

For instance, it could have come from Mohammed, from Mary (mother of Jesus Christ), or from the Egyptian word for cat, which is “Mau”.

Mackerel Tabbies are great for camouflage tactics

Due to their natural tabby pattern, these cats are excellent at hiding behind foliage. Think of how tigers easily blend into their surroundings to catch prey with ease.

With that said, Mackerel Tabbies are also awesome mouse hunters due to their enthusiastic and playful nature. So, if you simply want to get rodents out of the house, call a Mackerel Tabby Cat to do the job (and don’t forget to reward them with the appropriate food afterward).

A Mackerel Tabby was once the world’s fattest cat

The Guinness Book of World Records once awarded Himmy, an Australian Mackerel Tabby, as the world’s fattest cat. He was 10 years old, weighed 46 lbs. and 15.2 ounces, and had a 33-inch waistline.

Nonetheless, this is regarded by most veterinarians as a record that’s not worth getting for because it compromises the cat’s overall health. Himmy died subsequently and Guinness decided to discontinue this record to avoid making pet owners overfeed their pet. 

We think that this is the best course of action because cat obesity is just not a good idea. Any cat (or pet, for that matter), should have a balanced weight to avoid health problems so that they’ll live longer.

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