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Tiger Cat Breeds: wild looking cats to keep at home

If you love the idea of owning a pet that looks like it just stepped out of the jungle, I have news for you. A tiger striped cat really exists and you’ll be pleased to know it’s perfectly domesticated despite its wild appearance.

Is the Tiger Cat a specific breed or can any type of cat develop a tiger striped pattern?

A Tiger cat is simply a cat that looks like a tiger. There are two distinct types of Tiger cat. One is a specific Tiger cat breed with a tiger striped coat and the second is a tabby cat with distinctive tiger stripes.

Cats with striped coats are often referred to as tiger cats but only one breed has been specifically bred to look just like a miniature tiger.

A tiger cat’s stripes are simply bands of fur that are darker than the rest of its coat, closely resembling those seen on real tigers. Striped tabby cats are are the most common type of tiger striped cat.

A Toyger Tiger cat with tiger stripes, seated.
A Toyger Cat AKA Tiger Cat

The Toyger cat breed is a Tiger Cat

The cat that’s been specifically bred to look just like a small tiger is the Toyger.

The name Toyger is a portmanteau of the words toy and tiger. It aptly describes the breed because these cats really look like toy tigers.

The Toyger cat breed was developed in the USA in the 1980s by Judy Sugden, whose mother founded the Bengal cat breed.

The coloration and stripes of the Toyger cat are much more reminiscent of those of a real tiger compared to those sported by tabby cats.

Despite its wild-cat appearance, the Toyger has no wild blood pumping through its veins and makes the perfect pet for those who hanker after owning a pet that closely resembles a real tiger.

The Tabby tiger cat

Striped tabby cats are often referred to as tiger cats, a pattern officially known as the mackerel tabby.

A mackerel tabby is so called because its stripes radiate down from its spine and are reminiscent of a fish skeleton.

Many purebred and crossbred cats can develop this striped tabby pattern and some are more tiger-like than others.

Tiger cats vs tabby cats: is there a difference?

There is a fundamental difference between tiger cats and some tabby cats because not all tabby cats have tiger stripes.

The term tabby cat covers four particular cat patterns: the mackerel tabby, the classic tabby, the ticked (agouti) tabby, and the spotted tabby.

Only a cat with a mackerel tabby pattern is striped. The classic tabby has whorls of pattern, the spotted tabby is more like a leopard than a tiger and the ticked tabby has stripes of color on every hair shaft giving it an agouti pattern.

A Mackerel Tabby kitten

What is a Tiger cat called?

A tiger cat is called a Toyger if it is a member of that particular breed. The Toyger is a breed that has been specifically bred to have tiger stripes.

Any other tiger cat is actually a mackerel tabby and can be a cross breed or a member of one of the many cat breeds that can have tabby coats. These include:

  • Striped Bengal
  • American Shorthair
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Persian
  • Maine Coon

Is there a Tiger cat breed?

Only the Toyger tiger cat is a breed, albeit a relatively new one.

Other Tiger cats are simply striped tabby cats though it is often thought that the tabby cat is a specific breed. The truth is, many cat breeds and mixed breeds can have a tabby pattern.

A tabby cat is basically a cat with a striped or brindled coat. Another way to distinguish a tabby cat is by the dominant M marking on its forehead. It was once thought this was the mark of a Maine Coon but it is really a mark of any breed of tabby cat.

Are Tiger cats good pets?

Like any cat, a Tiger cat can be a good pet as long as it is socialized properly as a kitten. Some tabby cats such as Maine Coons are well-known to be excellent for families with children.

The way a cat is treated by its owner(s) has a huge bearing on its temperament as it matures, so as long as you care for a Tiger cat properly, continue to socialize it, and play with it, it should in return be a loving pet.

Are Tiger Cats real?

Those who love the idea of owning a tiger, will be pleased to know that there is such a thing as a Tiger Cat.

Tiger cat lovers can choose to buy a Toyger or search for a Mackerel Tabby cat among the many breeds that can develop this striped tabby coat.

How much do Tiger Cats cost?

Toyger cats cost upwards of $1500 from a registered breeder but prices will vary depending on demand.

You should expect the purchase price to include a kitten that has been vaccinated twice and microchipped, and some breeders neuter or spay kittens sold as pets to prevent breeding.

If you are buying a Toyger to show or breed you will pay a considerable amount more depending on your kittens lineage.

Other cats that resemble wild cats


The Bengal was created from the Asian leopard cat (scientific name, Felis bengalensis) and shorthaired domestic cats.

They have spotted coats and athletic builds and can vary in size up to 7 kg. Despite their wild appearance, they make wonderful pets.

A Bengal cat sitting on a block of wood.
A Bengal cat

Egyptian Mau

Egyptian Maus are a rare, small to medium-sized short-haired cat breed. Their coats are naturally spotted giving them the appearance of a cheetah. The coloring that forms the spots only occurs on the tips of each hair shaft.


The Ocicat resembles a wild cat but has no wild DNA. It was created from the Siamese and Abyssinian cats and has a spotted appearance.


The Cheetoh is very much a 21st-century creation. Breeder Carol Dryman set out with the intention of creating the wildest-looking domestic cat. A descendant of the Ocicat and Bengal, the Cheetoh has the distinctive coat pattern of a cheetah.

As wild as it looks, the Cheetoh is a perfectly tame domestic kittie and would make a perfect pet for any cat lover who wants to own a wilder-looking feline.


The Serengeti is a cross between the Bengal and Oriental Shorthair breeds. The result is a loving, energetic, and agile cat.

It sports a mixture of cheetah spots and tiger stripes.


The Savannah cat is a hybrid created from an African Serval and a domestic cat. The result is a tall, athletic cat with a striped and spotted coat.

The name Savannah is taken from the biome where serval cats reside. These beautiful, wild-looking cats are expensive, ranging from $16000 for an F1 generation cat to $1500 for an F5.


The Abyssinian is a domestic short-haired cat with a distinctive “ticked” tabby coat, where each individual hair is banded with different colors.

So, this cat has no tiger stripes or leopard spots but does have a wild cat appearance just the same.

What is a Tiger cat? Conclusion

Before the Toyger Cat was developed in the 1980s, a tiger cat was simply another term given to any breed of tabby cat with mackerel stipes as its coat pattern.

Of all the domestic cats, the Toyger has the most convincing tiger stripes. If you want to own your own mini wild-looking cat, this is the breed for you.