Dear Christopher Cat: What is the difference between a tabby and a tiger cat? Is a tabby a purebred?

Christopher responds:
I am a long-haired tabby, born to a female barn cat and a tomcat that visited one spring. In other words, while I am outstanding in many ways, I am not purebred or even what one might call well-bred.

Tabby is actually not a breed, but a coat pattern common among purebreds and mixed-breed cats, referred to as domestic short- or long-haired cats.

The classic tabby has a blotched or swirled pattern of dark markings over a lighter coat color. A classic tabby often has a bull's eye on each side or a butterfly shape on top.

A marbled tabby is a classic tabby whose coat has a cloudy appearance.

The mackerel tabby, often called a striped tabby or a tiger cat, has narrow stripes of dark fur instead of the blotches or swirls of the classic tabby. In the broken mackerel, the stripes appear as dashes or broken lines.

Other tabby variations include the spotted tabby, which has dark spots instead of stripes or swirls, and the ticked or Agouti tabby, which is flecked.

Tabbies have thin, dark stripes on the face, expressive markings around the eyes, and an "M" on the forehead. Some tabbies have white bellies and feet.

We tabbies come in a variety of colors, including brown, orange, gray and my own black and silver. Female tabbies can even be calico (a combination of orange, black and white) or tortoiseshell (orange and black.)


Dear Daisy Dog: When I chop vegetables for soups, stews and other dishes, I invariably drop some pieces onto the floor, where my dogs immediately devour them. I worry that some of the veggies may be toxic. Which should I be especially careful about?

Daisy responds:
Most vegetables are safe for us dogs, except onions, garlic and chives. They can damage red blood cells and cause anemia, so make sure they don't fall from your cutting board.

If one of your dogs has a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones, it's best to avoid oxalate-containing vegetables, such as leafy greens (including rhubarb), beets and potatoes.

The root of the jicama is safe for dogs, but the seeds and other above-ground parts of the plant are toxic. Because the root is usually sold by itself, you shouldn't have a problem unless you grow jicama in your garden.

Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, produce gas, so you should be careful not to let large quantities drop to the floor.

Otherwise, most vegetables are tasty, low-calorie, nutrient-rich, high-fiber treats your dogs can enjoy.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices at Bernville Veterinary Clinic. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com, 610-488-0166 or P.O. Box 302, Bernville, PA 19506-0302.