The tabby cat (Felis familiaris) was designated the official state cat in 1988, in response to the wishes of the schoolchildren of Massachusetts. Cats are also recognized as state symbols in Maine (Maine coon cat) and in Maryland (calico cat).
A tabby is not a breed of cat but a description of the cat's fur coloring. Tabby cats have distinctive stripes that occur naturally in many breeds of cat (a feature of the domestic cat's distant ancestor, the African wildcat). The tabby cat stripes often form an "M" above the eyebrows as in the cat below:
The stripes can be muted or bold, there can be spots and swirrls, or the stripes can appear in patches.
Tabby cat with "bullseye" swirl pattern - photo by Cassie J on Flickr
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