Why Are Tabby Cats So Mean?

Why Are Tabby Cats So Mean

To better understand feline behavior, many cat owners have tried to link a cat’s coat color with its temperament. For instance, a tabby cat might be thought of as an aggressive cat due to the distinctive striped pattern of its fur. But are these correlations a fact, or just another rumor?

While the relationship between a cat’s coat color and behavior has not been proven by experts, many tabby cat owners have claimed that their felines tend to be feisty due to their tabby pattern. Naturally, these speculations have left some people wondering – why are tabby cats so mean?

In this article, let us take a look at some interesting facts about a tabby’s personality and the possible reasons behind their alleged meanness!

What is a tabby cat?

Tabby cats are among the most common household pets in the United States. They are often shorthairs, although some can be long-haired, depending on the breed. These beautiful kitties come in a wide variety of colors, including black, brown, red, and orange. They are also sometimes confused with Savannah cats, because of the similarity in their coat colors.

Tabby actually refers to the pattern of a cat’s coat – not their breed. In fact, the word “tabby” is derived from “tabbi”, which is a type of cloth with stripes in it. Since tabbies have similar striped patterns in their fur, they were named as such.

A tabby cat’s striped or banded pattern is determined by the agouti gene, which gives the fur either solid pigmentation or light/dark variations. The tabby gene then creates a variety of patterns – one tabby cat might have a striped pattern, another might be all one color, and another might be a mix of colors. The most common tabby variations are the classic, mackerel, spotted, ticked, and patched tabby. These kitties come in many different sizes, too, and a number of different breeds.

What is the personality of a tabby cat?

The personality of a tabby cat is characterized by a mixture of independence and intelligence. Depending on the breed, they are not too difficult to train and they can be quite affectionate with their owners.

Like any other cat, tabbies also need to be around people they trust. They like to be around their owners, but also enjoy being on their own sometimes. From time to time, you might find them walking around and exploring the great outdoors. Additionally, tabbies do not like being constrained in any way! 

Tabbies can also be very talkative, but they usually take a while to warm up to you. And, once they do, they instantly become your best furry friend!

Why are tabby cats so mean?

Tabby cats are often portrayed as being mean, but the truth is that they are not aggressive. While they are intelligent and playful, they can also be skittish and nervous. And these personality traits are more likely a result of how they were treated when they were younger, rather than due to their coat color.

Some factors that might cause your tabby – or any cat – to be mean are as follows:

1. Rough play aggression

If your tabby is being aggressive during playtime, it may be because they are trying to assert their dominance over you. This type of aggression is usually seen in male cats and can also be a sign that they were not well-socialized during kittenhood.

The best way to deal with this type of aggression in cats is to stop playing with them and ignore their advances. You should also make sure that they have plenty of toys to keep them entertained.

2. Jealousy

Jealousy is a part of life – even for our whiskered friends. Cats are territorial animals, and they do not like it when their humans bring home new pets, or make them share their resources with another resident pet.

So, what can be done to help a cat get over jealousy?

There are many things you can do to prevent jealousy in cats. The simplest way is to ensure lots of play time and interactive toys that will give them the opportunity to expend their energy in a positive way. It can also be helpful to include a second litter box and bed for the jealous cat, in case the other pet is blocking their access.

3. Display of dominance

When we think of a dominant cat, we usually picture a big, mean tabby. But what does it really mean to be dominant?

A dominant cat is not necessarily the one who is the biggest. Instead, it is the one who has control over the resources in the house. As mentioned, cats are very territorial and may want to mark their territory by urinating on furniture and walls. They also like to keep other cats away from their food and toys.

So, how do you know if your cat is dominant? You can tell by observing their behavior around other cats and around you when they are eating or playing with toys. If your cat hisses at other cats when they approach as he is eating, that is usually a sign that he is feeling dominant enough to keep them away from his food.

4. Fear

Some people might think that tabbies are just mean because they want to be dominant over other cats, but that is not entirely true! More often than not, the reason for their aggression is due to past trauma, which has caused them to be afraid of other animals or humans who might hurt them again. This is why they lash out at anyone who comes near them.

Helping an anxious cat overcome their fear can be tricky, but you can try these steps to reduce the anxiety:

  • Provide your cat with a space of their own to hide.
  • Try to determine your cat’s stressors and avoid them as much as you can.
  • Remember that your feline friend can easily pick up your mood, so try to stay calm at all times.
  • Make sure to slowly introduce your cat to any changes in your home, whether it is a new pet, family member, or furniture.
  • If your cat is frightened of something, do not force them to come to you if they prefer to be left alone. Give them privacy if needed.
  • Use pheromone sprays like Feliway to help calm your cat down.

5. Maternal instinct

Maternal instinct is an innate feeling of nurturing and protectiveness that mother cats have for their young. Mother cats tend to be very protective of their litters, and will react aggressively toward anyone who threatens the safety of their babies.

Know that it is not uncommon for felines to display such aggressive behaviors when protecting their kittens. Cats that are usually gentle creatures can become fiercely protective when they are nursing a litter. They will fight to defend their babies, and will not hesitate to bite or scratch with the intent to injure other animals. 

Hence, it is recommended that cat owners provide a separate area for the mother cat and her kittens, to give them security and privacy away from other pets and family members.

6. Loneliness

Some cats just need more attention than others, to feel loved and cared for!

One of the most common ways that cats show loneliness and boredom is by scratching furniture, doors, or other household items. They may also exhibit other destructive behaviors like urinating outside of the litter box, or refusing to eat. 

It is important to give your cat some love and attention when they are feeling lonely, especially if you are not always at home. Do not forget to play with your furry friend in the evening when you get home, or spend some cuddle time before going to bed to let them know that you care about them.

7. Overstimulation

If you’re a cat owner, it is highly likely that you have seen this before – you pet your cat and they suddenly start hissing or growling at you. This is because they have reached their threshold for stimulation. If they have been petted for too long, it becomes an unpleasant experience for them, and causes them to react with aggression. Think of it as like being repeatedly tapped on the shoulder by a friend until you have simply had enough of it.

Know that the petting threshold will vary from one feline to another. Here are some common signs that your cat is overstimulated:

  • Swishing tail
  • Growling and hissing
  • Rolling on the ground
  • Skin twitching
  • Flattened ears
  • Dilated pupils

8. Medical issues

Some medical conditions in cats can lead to aggression, such as pain or injuries caused by illness or accidents. Affected cats may act aggressively when petted or touched on the painful parts of their body. They might also lash out if they are struggling with an injury or disease that is not being treated.

If you notice that your furry companion is suddenly avoiding being touched, make sure to take them to the vet right away for a proper diagnosis.

9. Old age

Cats generally live to between 12 and 14 years old. That said, it is not uncommon for some to live as long as 20 years or more.

But, as cats age, they can become less active, frailer, and more irritable. They may also develop age-related health problems such as arthritis and other joint diseases. Their sense of smell can decrease, too. 

As you might expect, older tabbies may need more help around the house as they age. They will be less mobile, so they may need a litter box that is closer to where they spend most of their time. Many cats with arthritis also require special food and medication, to prevent pain and other discomforts.

What you can do to change a tabby cat’s meanness

Cats are a lot like people. They have their own personalities and they can be mean sometimes. If you have a cat that is mean, there are a number of things you can do to change their behavior.

The first thing you need to do is talk to your vet and make sure that your cat does not have any health issues that may be contributing to the behavioral problem. Once you have done this, the next step is to identify the triggers for your cat’s behavior and try to avoid them as much as possible.

For instance, if you are bringing home a new pet, make sure that it is gradually introduced to your resident tabby. Each pet must be provided with its own toys, food and water bowls, bed, and other possessions. Never show favoritism to one pet over the other, as this will likely trigger jealousy. Make sure that all your furry companions are given equal love and attention.


Tabby cats are not inherently mean. But, like any cat, they can act aggressively if they are in pain or feeling threatened. As a fur parent, it is important to determine the triggers behind your cat’s problematic behavior and take the necessary steps to correct the issue. Otherwise, you will just end up misjudging your kitty due to his tabby coat! 

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