Tabby cats come in a variety of beautiful and unique coat patterns, from the common mackerel tabby to the classic, ticked and spotted tabby. Now, a newly discovered gene helps us understand what’s behind one variation of the tabby cat’s distinctive stripes and spots. Scientists say they have identified a gene, referred to as Taqpep, which determines the type of tabby coat pattern a cat will have. The researchers studied feral cats in California to identify the responsible gene. Cats with the “mackerel” tabby pattern with narrow vertical stripes running parallel along the sides of the cat carry a working copy of the Taqpep gene. A mutation that turns that specific gene off causes the common mackerel tabby stripes to turn into the classic or “blotched” tabby pattern.
Cat coat genetics are complicated and fascinating, and science has brought us a little closer to understanding the mysterious feline.