Things to Know About Orange Tabbies

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Ginger cats, also known as orange tabbies or marmalade cats, are distinguished by their orange or reddish coat of fur. Phaeomelanin (red pigment) entirely replaces eumelanin (black or brown pigment) in cats with orange fur.

Why are Most Ginger Cats Male?

When you come across an orange tabby, more often than not, it will be a male. The reason why is that the gene for whether or not a cat has an orange coat is found on the X chromosome. Male cats, with only one X chromosome can either be orange or non-orange.

The orange allele is O and the non-orange is o. Female cats need O alleles on both X chromosomes to exhibit orange coats. OO produces orange fur in female cats, oo produces black or brown fur, and Oo produces a tortoiseshell cat with orange fur in some spots and non-orange fur in others.

As a result of how this gene expresses itself, the majority of ginger cats are male.

An orange tabby sitting in a basket.

There are No Solid Colored Orange Cats

All orange cats are tabbies. Tabbies are not a breed of cat but a type of coat marking found in many domestic cats. A tabby cat has an ‘M’ shaped marking on its forehead, stripes around its eyes and across its face, stripes down its back, and stripes around its legs and tail.

There are four different coat patterns that tabbies exhibit:

  • The Tiger is another name for the Mackerel Tabby, which has stripes along the side.
  • The Classic Tabby has strong, swirling markings.
  • The Spotted Tabby has both large and small spots, which often resemble broken stripes.
  • The Ticked Tabby has alternative light and dark body markings, and will have tabby facial markings on her face.

Orange cats can vary in the hue of orange with some producing a deep reddish orange coat and other orange cats sporting lighter yellow to orange colors. Breeders refer to orange cats as red cats.

A female orange tabby sitting on a bed.
A female orange tabby with a white chest.

Are Orange Cats More Friendly Than Other Cats?

A common perception is that orange cats are friendlier than other cats. While some orange cat owners will swear by how affectionate their cats are, other owners are just as likely to offer stories about proclaiming their ginger cats are quite so cuddly.

The perceived friendliness of orange tabbies may be partly due to the overwhelming male gender of these cats. One study found that male cats tend to be slightly more affectionate than female cats but research has not proven that orange cats, specifically, are more affectionate than other cats.

A sleeping orange tabby.
A sleeping orange tabby.

Other anecdotal beliefs about orange tabbies are that they are talkative cats and have a tendency to overeat.

In reality, as with all types of cats, each individual orange tabby will have its own personality and temperament.

Orange Cats Can Develop Dark Spots

Orange cats have a tendency to develop dark spots called lentigo. Lentigo is a genetic condition that affects cats with orange coats because they have more epidermal melanocytes. These feline freckles typically develop in cats as they age. While lentigo tends to be a benign condition, any spots of concern should be checked by a vet.

Lentigo on the most of a yawning orange tabby.
Lentigo on the most of a yawning orange tabby.

What Types of Breeds Produce Orange Tabbies?

Orange coats can be found in several breeds including Maine Coons,

Famous Orange Cats

The most famous orange cat is probably Garfield, the lasagna-loving cat featured in a  comic strip developed by Jim Davis.

Winston Churchill was gifted an orange cat on his 88th birthday in November 1962. The cat, named Jock, became a favorite pet. After Churchill’s death, the family requested that an orange cat always remain in residence at Chartwell, which has been managed by the National Trust since 1966.

Dewey Readmore Books was an Illinois library cat from the little town of Spencer. Dewey was abandoned in Spencer in the 1980s, at the height of a financial crisis that had decimated the town and its neighboring areas. Vicki Myron saw the little kitten huddling for warmth in the library’s night drop box and took him in. The orange cat was named in honor of the decimal system used to classify books in libraries. Local residents and library visitors began to notice Dewey and would stop by just to see the friendly cat. A best selling book was written about Dewey.

September 1 is Ginger Cat Appreciation Day

Celebrate the orange tabby in your life on September 1 each year.

References

Ridley, L. (n.d.). Is it true that most ginger cats are male? BBC Science Focus Magazine. https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/is-it-true-that-most-ginger-cats-are-male/

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