As the largest of all the cat species, the tiger is a gorgeous, awe-inspiring cat. If you're on the prowl for a pet kitten who resembles her wild relative, you have options. There are a few types of domestic cat breeds who resemble miniature versions of the big cat, including the toyger, Bengal and a variety of other breeds wearing the tabby pattern.
The Tabby Pattern
People refer to "tabby" cats much as they do to "tiger" cats, usually alluding to the cat's striped fur coat. Tabbies and tigers are not a breed of house cat, but are a pattern -- the most popular coat pattern among all the various breeds of cats. A tabby cat sports stripes on her coat, including lines on her face and a telltale "M" on her forehead, the mark of a tabby. There are five types of tabby patterns:
- Classic tabby: striking, swirling or circular patterns on the sides of the cat's body.
- Mackerel tabby: thin stripes running vertically down the sides of the body from the cat's spine. When the stripes aren't broken, the pattern resembles a fish skeleton, which is why she's called a mackerel tabby.
- Spotted tabby: has broken stripes resulting in spots on her sides, which can be round, oval or rosettes.
- Ticked tabby: doesn't look like a tabby at first glance but has subtly striped hairs, known as agouti hairs, as well as tabby markings on her face.
- Patched tabby: is a tortoiseshell cat who has one of the tabby patterns in her coat patches.
Often, when someone refers to a "tiger" cat, it usually means a cat with a mackerel tabby pattern.
Breeds Resembling Tigers
The allure of having a miniature version of the tiger inspired breeders to produce house cats that mimic the tiger's beautiful coats, resulting in the Bengal and the toyger.
The Bengal got her start in 1963 when a domestic cat was crossed with an Asian leopard cat. Breeders worked beyond this initial effort to develop a civilized pet cat who resembles a tiger, eventually gaining acceptance into The International Cat Association in 1986. The Bengal's coat is short and soft with either a spotted or marbled tabby pattern and comes in colors such as brown and black, bronze and brown or black, white or light gray with dark gray or black, and cream with light or dark brown markings. She weighs between 6 and 15 pounds.
The International Cat Association accepted the toyger in 1993, a cat who got her start as a mix of a domestic shorthair, Bengal and a uniquely marked street cat from Kashmir, India. The toyger's coat is unique, not wearing vertical stripes or broken spots, but instead sporting a random pattern of dramatic, vertical stripes that branch out over her body to truly resemble a tiger's coat. Each cat's coat pattern is unique to her, with dark markings on a bright orange background on the top of the coat; the underside of the coat is pale in color. The toyger weighs between 7 and 15 pounds and her long and low-slung body profile that resembles a tiger.
Many other breeds of cats wear a tabby pattern, though not all quite as tigerlike as the Bengal and toyger. The ocicat, American shorthair, British shorthair and Egyptian mau are among the breeds that can call themselves tabby cats. The tabby pattern is available in a host of colors, including red, blue, brown and cream.