In "The Tiger," poet William Blake wrote, "What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" Well, some domestic cat breeders try to frame that symmetry by producing house cats that look like tigers. If a tiger on the tiles is your desire, certain breeds fill the bill.
Dating only to the end of the 20th century, the toyger is a domestic cat bred for its resemblance to the tiger. The toyger features a black and orange coat, but other than its markings is pretty much the same as any other house cat in personality and size. Its ancestors consist primarily of tabby cats. An American breeder set out to create a miniature tiger, crossing tabbies that most resembled these big cats, with some Bengal domestic cat blood mixed in.
This exotic breed more often resembles a leopard, but some Bengal cats have tiger striping. While the spotted Bengal pattern is more leopard-like, the marbleized pattern echoes a tiger's appearance. Bengal cats come in a wide range of colors, with base coats including gold and orange. Since the marbleized pattern is always darker than the base coat, you can find reddish Bengals with brown or black marbleizing.
Every cat carries the tabby gene, which is why tabby kittens can show up in litters where the mom and dad did not have apparent tabby markings. Tabbies are a coat pattern, not a breed, and come in various colors. Tabby markings include tiger striping or leopard spots -- reflective of the ancient kinship with their larger cousins. Tabbies always have the M marking on the head. While legends attribute the M to all sorts of famous persons or influences, perhaps it just stands for "meow," a cat's greeting no matter what his origin.
If you're searching for a tiger lookalike, visit your local shelter or cat rescue. Odds are that a tiger-striped domestic short- or long-haired kitten or cat is waiting for a home there. Tiger striping is common in randomly-bred cats. You can also look online at area shelters for a cat fitting this description. Adopting a tiger-striped shelter cat is much cheaper than buying a purebred animal. You also have the satisfaction of knowing you saved this purring tiger's life.
- Siberian Tiger 3 image by amethyst from Fotolia.com
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