An orange and white cat carries the genes for red coat pigment (pheomelanin) and white spotting. All orange and white cats have tabby markings in their orange fur, even if they’re too subtle to make out. Due to the special way coat color is inherited about three-quarters of orange and white cats are male.
- Are they their own breed?
- Dive into the DNA
- Is there a specific orange white tabby cat personality, or does it depend?
- Is a white cat with orange spots the same as an orange/white tabby?
The orange and white cat is something cats lovers encounter fairly often – but many people don’t know much about these tiger-like kitties. We’ll answer all these questions and more, right here!
The Orange and White Tabby Cat
You may have met several orange and white tabby cats. But did their matching coats mean they’re all the same breed? In fact, no.
Tabby is not a breed, but a term to describe a certain coat pattern in domestic cats. A tabby is any cat that has a pattern of dots, stripes, swirling or lines on their coat. These patterns are usually accompanied by unique identifiers like the forehead mark that resembles an “M”. There are different types of tabby cats, including:
And each tabby’s marks have a unique pattern, like a fingerprint. Tabby markings can come in a whole array of colors, and thus, the “tabby” distinction is about coat pattern and not coat color.
Orange and White Tabby Cat Genetics
There are however some interesting parallels to color. For instance, the same gene that makes cats orange or cream colored is the same gene that makes the tabby pattern visible. This is why orange and white cats are almost always tabby-patterned. You’ll rarely if ever see an orange and white cat that doesn’t have any sort of tabby markings in its orange fur.
In fact, even if you have what looks like a pure-orange cat, genetically it’s still a tabby! ALL orange cats are tabbies, even if the signature tabby patterns aren’t visible because the ticking pattern is so fine, or the color contrast is very low.
Interested to learn more about the science behind tabby coat patterns? This scientific study explores the concept in detail.
The Myth of the Orange and White Cat Breed
There’s a common assumption that a white cat with orange patches represents a specific breed. This is untrue! In fact, many breeds of cat can display orange and white coloring. That orange and white cat next door could be an American Bobtail, a Persian, a Munchkin or even a Maine Coon!
Their orange color comes from a predominance of a pigment called pheomelanin. This is the same pigment that makes some humans “redheads”. So, when you look at a white orange kitten the only things that you can immediately know for sure are that
it is a tabby and it has the genes for the pigment pheomelanin.
The Genetics of Color
Cat genetics are somewhat complex, but we can learn some interesting things from the genetics of their coat color. For instance, did you know that among all cats, there are only two types of coat pigment?
Pheomelanin, which we’ve already encountered, is a reddish pigment. The other, eumelanin, is a black pigment. All cat colors, including the creams, grays, and browns, are a combination of these colors in different ratios. White, of course, is a lack of either pigment.
Orange Pigment is Dominant
Orange coloring can also “mask” other colors, including black. That’s because the orange pigment gene – called O – is dominant. If a kitten inherits the O gene from just one parent, he will certainly have some orange coloring somewhere – although it might not be a fully orange coat.
Even light cream-colored cats have the orange gene. But they also have a dilution gene which limits how much red pigment is produced. So there are a lot of variations that can contribute to the coloring of a cat, and the permutations are quite complex – but fascinating!
Are Orange and White Cats All Male?
Another misconception is that all cats with white and orange spots, or any mix of orange and white coloring, must be male. This is not true – but we can see why people think this. Approximately 75-80% of orange cats are indeed male.
How could this be? Again, it’s a matter of genetics. The O gene for orange pigment is contained on the X chromosome, which links it to sex as well.
Male cats only have one copy of the X chromosome, and if it carries the O gene, they’ll be orange. Females have two X chromosomes, which means they can have the O gene on one, and the B gene for black pigment on the other. When this happens, they become a beautiful calico cat!
Of course, they could get two copies of the O gene, and be completely orange, but because they have more options, they end up comprising a smaller proportion of orange cats.
What About a White Cat with Orange Patches?
Does it matter if your cat looks orange with white markings, or white with orange patches? Where does the white come from anyway? White and orange cats owe their white bits to the White Spotting gene, which overlays pigmentless areas on top of the tabby orange base.
These pigmentless areas can cover most of a cat’s body, or just the classic feet, bib, and tail tip. So technically, all orange and white cats are orange with white bits, and not the other way around.
Orange and White Cat Personality
Since orange white tabby kittens and cats look similar, many people assume that they might also have similar personality traits to one another. This is largely untrue. Personality and temperament is more closely linked to breed than color.
Personality is also a product of how the cat is raised – and indeed, there seems to be a somewhat random element to it, as well.
Cats are very unique and independent creatures, and they tend to behave however they want to behave, really! This is part of why we love cats so much – their independent, spunky nature makes them constantly entertaining and quirky.
Whether you fall for a white and orange tabby kitten or adopt an adult white cat with an orange tail, there’s lots of scope for their personality to surprise you.
Exploring Links Between Cat Color and Personality
With all that said, there are certain characteristics that may be more common in orange and white cats, although not much scientific evidence to support them yet. For example, an online survey of 189 cat owners found that orange cats were most likely to be described as friendly.
Anecdotally, many orange cat owners also report that their feline companions are a bit lazy, highly snuggly, and very chatty!
Orange felines may also be prone to greediness (remember Garfield’s affinity for lasagna?) But the problem with all these reports is that they’re based on human perception, which can be flawed and prone to bias.
Final Thoughts on the Orange and White Cat
There is no specific breed associated with orange and white coloring, and indeed many cat breeds can be orange and white. All orange and white cats are orange tabbies underneath, with white patches overlayed on top. It’s one of the most distinctive and admired cat fur patterns there is.
There’s a much higher likelihood of an orange cat being a male, due to the genetic roots of the orange coloring trait. And lastly, each orange and white kitty is a unique little creature!
There’s no putting this cat in a box (although they love boxes!) We often associate them with specific character traits, but there’s no evidence of a biological mechanism underlying this.
Do You Have an Orange and White Cat?
Are they a boy or a girl? Do you think they’re extra friendly? Tell us about them in the comments! Make sure you also check out our funny cat quotes!
- Lyons, et al (2006). “The tabby cat locus maps to feline chromosome B1.“
- Eizirik, et al (2010). “Defining and mapping mammalian coat pattern genes: multiple genomic regions implicated in domestic cat stripes and spots.“
- Delgado, “Human Perceptions of Coat Color as an Indicator of Domestic Cat Personality,” Anthrozoos, 2015.
I have two orange and white beans one is a little more creamy orange(male) and the other is the typical orange (female) both are super friendly and very very chatty. The male will eat anything that he sees, while our little girl only likes to eat meat based foods and toast. Occasionally she eats McDonalds pies
Ana Martinez says
My cat is orange and white. He has mostly white coloring with some orange patches. He is very tall, taller than other cats. He is very vocal and only recently as a four-year-old became more cuddly, but only when he wants. He is not very friendly to other people, only to his family.
Hi I have a wonderful orange and white ca. She’s about a year old, and really a sweetie. She’s mainly fur and rather long haired. She can be crazy but loves to snuggle. A truly wonderful piece of my life.
Hi my little guy is about twice as big as his lynx point flatmate. He will share his wet food but steals dental treats and is sooo personable we often feel bad he lives with just us. We feel he should live in a bookstore or a yoga studio. He tries to make friends with everyone that comes over, even the exterminator. He can’t start or end his day without a hug or snuggles and will give a proper dressing down if this does not occur to his satisfaction.Total orangey stereotype.
I have an solid white cat except an orange patch above the eye and sideways stripes down his tail, thin hair, tall but the most loving playful cat I’ve ever seen he just has this knowingness about him.
Penny L Holt says
I have a orange male tabby named Pumpkin.
He is beautiful. He showed up at our porch one evening, walked in and decided he wants to make it home….he never left
He is very chatty and extremely friendly, but very independent as well. We love him ❤
We have an orange and white that we rescued from a flood victim friend who had to give her up. She is 2 years old and into everything! I keep telling her, “You’re a CAT! You’re supposed to be NAPPING!” She doesn’t do laps much – yet! – but she loves to be petted. She’s the first cat I’ve ever owned who actually LIKES to have her belly rubbed.
Melissa Powell says
I have a 5 year old orange and white, pure white from his chin to his butt. He is a love. He seldom sleeps in the day time. He comes when I call him, ok, about 90% of the time. He is very tiny weighs about 7 lbs. He is a very very friendly boy. His name is Lovey and that is exactly what he is. Also have 2 orange tabbys, one dark gray tabby and a snowshoe Siamese. It is a fun house.
Joyce D. says
I had a cat named Lovey move in with me – and she’s an orange & white creamsicle kitty, too.
My Waffles was Was half orange and half white and was very sweet but a little timid. He mostly stayed in the bedroom except to eat and use the litter box. But when I went to bed he was very cuddly- it was mom and Waffles time and he would sit on my chest to get skritches (even when he was 14lbs!) And if I stayed up too late he’d come into the living room and look at me like “come to bed mom! I want my cuddle time!” He did start coming out of the bedroom more as he got older but, sadly, I lost him suddenly when he was only 4 1/2 years old.
I have a male orange and white cat. The orange allele is sex-linked (X^O) and dominant while the White Spotting gene is autosomal. How can the white spotting gene be expressed only in patches over the dominant orange allele?
I have a half white half orange baby and he is totally the opposite of what is known about them, he is so playful and aggressive, he hates being petted and tend to leave his spot if you touche him. But I still love him so much and won’t change him for world !
Judy Eakman Collins says
We thought when we got our orange and white kitty that it was male because of the fluffy fur under the tail, but Allie turned out to be a girl. She was spayed. She was a sweet and gentle and was a small female. Her nickname was Kitten because she was small. She died in 2017 at 16 1/2. I miss her so.
I have a 13 year old orange and white boy. His name is “Loverboy” and it fits his personality perfectly! He has always loved us and food- although I feed him much less now, he is extremely overweight- 28 lbs at last vet visit. I try to keep him playing for exercise and now only feed him healthy weight management food- But he’s still fat- I adore him- He also wants belly rubs daily! He’s just a doll!
Feline Foster Momma says
I have a 15 lb foster fail (I adopted him and his two foster brothers who were also foster fails due to PTSD 12-12-21) who is orange and white and totally fits the description NEARLY to a T of an Arabian Mau. He is attached at my hip. He has a separation anxieties so I’m not allowed to go into a room without him and close the door with him on the other side or he just cries. I’ve been updating their profiles on Chewy, Amazon and PetSmart this morning when I came across this website. Interesting read for sure. Ty for sharing!
After 4 siamese my white&orange is a big change. He was dropped off near a friend’s house and she rescued him from cold snowy conditions and I ended up taking him home. Named him S’more because he looks like a roasted marshmallow. Probably about 6 months old. Sleeps flat on his back. Very sweet disposition.
I have a 2 year old orange on the top and all white on his belly but he wants nothing to do with boxes or anything really but catnip toys
I have an Orange And white cat for a little over a year named Cookie. All this time i thought the cat was Male until his belly began to grow. I thought it was sick and was going to take it to the vet to check it out. He/she jumped in my lap since night and I was inspecting the belly when i felr a kick. 👀 Needless to say I was shocked to the point where I had to lift it’s tail and check again. 🤣🤣🤣🤣
I had a beautiful orange white cat named Chloe she was my lap buddy loved giving head butts and kneeding me I miss her so much
Teri Shahan says
I had a male orange tabby named Solomon. He was a biter and scratcher to everyone but me. I had to have him put to sleep on Memorial Day weekend at 15-1/2 years. I missed him so (and still do), so I got an orange tabby female. I named her Solomina! I am training her to not bite and scratch, and she is becoming a total love bug! She’s very friendly, and loves my company and cuddles!
I have a orange and white baby, she’s my little tripod sweetie. Mostly white with orange patches, and the first orange girl I’ve come across. She’s admittedly pretty hostile at times, but I think it’s due the the accident that took her leg, because she loves her Mama and our youngest kitten. I’m sure as she lives longer in her new loving home, she’ll grow to trust more.
We have a 9 year old white with orange spots male. He’s very social. Always wants to be around everyone and he likes to snuggle us, but doesn’t like us to snuggle him. lol He really only talks to us when he wants food or for us to turn the water faucet on. He has a resting grumpy face, but we love him!!!
I have a beautiful longhair orange and white girl named Remy! Shes 6 years old! I had no idea how unique she was until I read your article. I adopted her when I got out of the military and she’s brought me a lot of joy! Shes sassy, loving (although only on her terms haha), and very talkative. She’s kept me on my toes making sure I wake up early every morning by sitting on my chest and licking my face! haha I wish I could post a picture!
Stray orange came talking. Set him up in a condo outside he kept talking. Black mom and kittens show up 2 days later. All are here. He is so smart but hates drinking from bowl. Wants faucet on. Get skin issue twice a year.
I have 2 orange and white kittens. A boy and a girl. She’s the runt of the litter, mostly white, the only girl and very shy…Belle. The male, Camael, is a bully and has more orange over white with a large fat cross on his back…Camael is an angel in the Bible..represents strength and war
My orange & white cat, Jack the Lope is quite the talker. He loves any green plant and likes to munch on lemon grass. Whenever it is time to water the plants, The Lope gets very vocal and loves to inspect the watering process.