Cool Facts about Orange Tabby Cats

Picture of a Orange Tabby Kitten

All tabby cats are special, beautiful, unique creatures. Those who own orange tabby cats will likely argue that their kitties are the most special of all tabby cats. Their orange color makes them stand out from the rest, whether they are at a shelter vying for attention and a home, or in the wild, looking for the next morsel of food. Because they are laid back and friendly kitties, orange tabbies are great cats to adopt. They will often make their presence known if you are “shopping” for a rescue cat at a shelter, nosing their way in to rub against your legs and purr loudly. Here are some facts you might or might not know about orange tabby cats.

The Orange Color and Its Meaning

Today’s researchers have discovered that orange is the color of appetite, adventure and social communication. In Goethe’s psychology of colors, orange is also the color of warmth and happiness. These color definitions might lend themselves to some of the orange tabby’s personality traits (see below).

The orange color found in the orange tabby cat comes from a pigment called phelomelanin. This pigment also produces red hair in humans. In orange tabbies, it can manifest as an orange, reddish or cream color, depending upon its variations.

For reasons that seem self-explanatory, orange tabbies have been called ginger or marmalade cats over the years, in various regions and locales.

Orange Tabby Cat Patterns

Orange tabby cats are not a breed, but rather, a color variation on a tabby cat pattern. Orange tabbies can be found among a wide variety of cat breeds, including (but not limited to):

  • Maine Coon
  • American Bobtail
  • Munchkin
  • Abyssinian
  • Persian

Each orange tabby cat is beautiful and bright, and different from the next orange tabby cat. If you see an orange cat, it will definitely be a tabby cat – no question about it. All orange cats are tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange.

The orange tabby cat can have one of five tabby cat patterns in its fur. They are mackerel, ticked, patched, spotted, and classic/blotched. You will never see an orange tabby with a solid-colored coat. Their genes have determined that they will always have some sort of striping or pattern on their coats. They are descended from tigers, with whom they share 96 percent of their DNA. This explains why  many of today’s domesticated orange tabbies still resemble wild tigers (and might act like them at times as well!)

Orange tabby cats also traditionally have the M-pattern on their foreheads, sported by most tabby cats of all colors and patterns. It is believed that the M-pattern evolved over time to help tabbies become camouflaged in the wild. This trait won’t really help orange tabbies to be camouflaged, however, as it’s tough for their beautiful, bright orange colors to blend in with anything – they tend to stand out!

Male or Female?

A greater percentage of orange tabby cats will be male (80 percent) than female (20 percent). This is determined by genetics. The orange gene is related to the x chromosome. As female cats have two x chromosomes and males have xy chromosomes, in order to produce a female orange tabby, it will need an x orange gene from both its mother and its father. A male orange tabby, on the other hand, needs only the orange x-linked gene from its mother.

Personality Traits

Owners of orange tabby cats say that their cats are more talkative than other cats. Additionally, orange tabbies are known to have the color-linked traits mentioned above: a greater appetite, and a sense of adventure. Orange tabbies are also affectionate and cuddly, seeking love from their owners much of the time. They are also known to be lazy (like most felines). All cats are different from each other, however, so if your orange tabby cat does not sport these personality traits, don’t fret – he or she is an individual with unique traits of his/her own!

Famous Orange Tabbies Throughout History

There have been a variety of famous orange tabby cats throughout history, including (but not limited to, of course):

  • Sir William Churchill owned an orange tabby cat, named Tango
  • Garfield, the famous lasagna-loving cat from the comic strips, created by Jim Davis
  • Toby, the first orange tabby cat owned by animal lover and activist Betty White
  • Oscar and Miko, two orange tabby cats owned by the late lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury
  • Morris the Cat, the orange tabby cat from the 1970s television commercials for 9 Lives Cat Food
  • Orlando the Marmalade Cat, the star of a series of kids’ books in the United Kingdom
  • For more cat trivia… click here 



3 Responses

  1. Wow never owned a cat till I rescued 1 recently when I found an abandoned kitten on my property.I had to feed it with a syringe it was so tiny and not knowing I used cows milk,and I did think it would die as it was so small.Anyway it survived it’s now 4 months old I called it baby girl thinking it was a girl and recently realised it’s a boy lol.
    I still call it baby girl he comes to his name he sits and lyes down on command and is so affectionate which I love,being disabled and a WIDDOWER and just read up on tabby he is orange and just learnt heaps but I find it hard to put weight on him but in saying that he’s got a good appetite and is well seems to be a happy very happy loving cat which has no idea he’s a boy called BABY GIRL lol.

    1. Hi, for the first time i “own” a cat but sounds funny how you though was a girl and he is a boy same happened to me

  2. Ken Pye: I’m so happy that baby girl has brought you joy. Boy or girl no doubt it loves you dearly.
    I have 2 ginger girls, from animal shelters. They are cheeky and beautiful. They love sitting on my laptop because it’s warm, or falling asleep on my lap (heat seeking furry friends).

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