Do tabby cats have striped skin? The answer is no but it is an interesting question and it is quite a difficult question to fully answer in my opinion. You won’t find the answer in books but you will find an answer on the internet but it might not be the correct one. I will try but I can’t guarantee a 100% success. This article is a little vague because that’s the nature of the topic for me.
There are three initial points to make. The first is that tabby cats can be striped, blotched and spotted so the question is a little wrong but I get the gist of it.
The second is that if you look at Sphynx cats, which as you know are hairless cats, they often have patterns on their skin. In fact they have bicolour-type patterns1. There are dark areas and there are skin-coloured areas. If these hairless cats had fur they would be bicolour cats such as black-and-white cats. This is evidence that skin markings are the same as fur markings i.e. the skin markings on the skin are reflected on the fur. But I think you’ll find that the pattern is on the fine hair strands and not in the skin itself.
However, if you look closely at the individual hair strands of the fur of a tabby cat you will notice that there are bands of dark brown and light yellowish tan color along the length of the fur. There might be three or four bands. The colour of the top band i.e. the bit of the hair strand which is near the surface dictates the layout of the dark blotches, spots or stripes which are the patterns of the tabby cat.
The band of the hair strand which is near the skin is, I believe, a similar colour in all cases and that’s why I’m going to argue that the pattern on a tabby cat when looking at his or her fur is not replicated on the skin. You only get that replication of the pattern on the skin of cats in bicolour cats in my opinion. In bicolor cats the white strands have no pigmentation and the other hair strands are uniformly colored along their length.
I live with a tabby cat and I can’t see any marking on his skin which follows the pattern in his fur. His skin is uniformally grey/white.
The pigmentation that goes into the hair strands is produced in specific cells called melanocytes in the skin. They produce melanin.
As I said, I can’t be 100% sure of this but based upon what I’ve seen over the years that’s my best answer at the moment. The best person to ask on this topic is Susan Hartwell of the messybeast.com website.
As mentinoed, for the hairless cats, I believe that the bicolour markings that we see are caused by the very fine hair over their body rather than the skin itself being pigmented.
P.S. If you have a shaved cat make sure that you are not looking at hair stubble and not the skin itself.
P.P.S. Please don’t shave your cat to check his/her skin color. The normal skin color of domestic cats skin is pasty white.
Note 1: Bicolor means 2 colors, being usually no color (white) and a dark color such as black.