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NEW YORK (AP) - Now we know how the tabby cat earns his stripes. He just needs the right DNA.

Scientists say they've found the gene that determines which of the common tabby patterns a cat will have -- stripes or blotches.

Cats with narrow stripes, the so-called "mackerel" pattern, have a working copy of the gene. If a mutation turns the gene off, the cat ends up with the blotchy, or "classic" pattern.

One of the authors of the research says it's called the "classic" pattern because cat lovers really like it.

The gene is one of several that collaborate to create the distinctive design of a cat's coat. It's the first of the pattern genes to be identified.

The research appears online in the journal Science.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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