What’s so special about orange tabby cats? Well if you are an orange tabby cat fan read on. Because you are about to find out!
The Happy Cat Team have put their heads together to bust some myths and to bring you lots of fascinating facts about orange tabbies!
Before we get going, we have to admit that we are just a little biased. Billy, chief toy tester on the Happy Cat Team is an orange tabby cat and we have a huge soft spot for orange cats in general.
Okay, let’s get started with fact number one!
#1 All Orange Cats Are Tabby
That’s right. Not all tabby cats are orange, but all orange cats are basically tabby.
Even if a cat looks like it is solid orange in color, you’ll be able to see evidence of his or her tabbiness somewhere.
It may be in the form of a faint M on the cat’s forehead, or some pale shadowy stripes on their legs. Orangeness is inextricably linked to tabbiness through a cat’s genetic code.
We’ll dip a bit further into that topic in a moment
#2 Orange Tabby Cats are not a breed
Orange tabbies are a type of cat, defined by their color (orange or ginger) and their pattern (stripey or tabby), but they are not a distinct cat breed.
Some purebred cat breeds like the magnificent red Maine Coon above have orange tabby as a color option, but many orange tabby cats are mixed breed rather than purebred.
#3 Orange Tabbies come in different shades
There is a surprising range or variety in the depth of color that you can find in orange cats. From a pale biscuity orange to a deep rich ginger or reddish brown.
Many people prefer the darker shades but the paler, brighter oranges can be strikingly beautiful too.
#4 Brits call them Marmalade Cats
Here in the UK, orange tabbies are often called Marmalade cats after the gingery color of one of our breakfast favorites – Marmalade, or Orange Jam.
We often say the the M on an orange cat’s face stands for Marmalade too! Or Magnificent. Or Magic. Or Marvellous! And when we are not calling them Marmalade Cats, we tend to call them Ginger Cats.
#5 Orlando was one of the first orange cats from literature to become famous
Orlando The Marmalade Cat was featured in a series of children’s books published in the Uk in 1938. Author Katherine Hale created the books for her own children.
Based on their real life cat, Orlando
Orlando even made it onto the radio and into a ballet.
#6 The color orange is produced by a chemical called pheomelanin
Pheomelanin is a pinkish pigment that creates the orange colored fur we see in many of our pets. And has a role to play in human hair and skin too.
Through color dilution, the chemical can create a range of shades from rich burnt orange to pale yellow or cream
#7 People prefer darker orange
People may prefer their orange cats to be a really dark ginger in color rather than the paler yellow shades of orange.
A study published in 2015 showed that although in general lighter colored cats were rehomed sooner than darker cats, yellow colored cats sadly had the longest stay in the shelter
#8 It’s true! Orange Tabbies are usually male
You’ve probably heard that orange tabbies are usually male. And it’s true. They are. More than three-quarters of them
It’s all to do with the way that the color orange is passed down on the cat’s chromosomes.
Our chief science writer Sarah Holloway explains it all very nicely in this article: Are All Ginger Cats Male – The Link Between Gender And Coat Color In Cats
#9 Orange Cats can be long or short haired
Cat coat hair length is inherited independently of color.
And while the typical orange ‘street’ cat is often short coated, our orange friends can be either long or short haired.
Long haired orange tabbies, need regular grooming, just like other long haired cats, to avoid matting and keep them looking handsome!
#10 Morris, the 9Lives orange tabby cat was rescued from a shelter
Morris was an orange tabby cat that featured in a range of TV commercials in the 1970s.
The original Morris became hugely famous, but his illustrious career only came along after he was rescued from a Chicago shelter. After he died, the cats that subsequently stepped into his shoes were shelter cats also
#11 Orange tabbies come in several different patterns
Not all orange tabbies have exactly the same markings. Some do have the traditional stripes. While others have a ‘ticked’ pattern and some have swirls or a marbled appearance.
The Cat Fancier’s Association have some nice illustrations and explanations of the different tabby markings on their website.
#12 The gene responsible for tabby patterning is called Taqpep
The full name for the gene that is responsible for the variation in tabby patterns in domestic cats is called Transmembrane aminopeptidase Q
That’s a bit of a mouthful, so it’s reduced to Taqpep for short
#13 Tabby patterns are designed to hide a hunting cat!
The purpose of tabby patterning is to provide camouflage for the cat when he or she is hunting.
It’s harder to prey to spot a predator whose coat is broken up with little marking, than it is to spot a cat or any other predatory that is a solid color
#14 Orange is one of the two dominant cat colors
There are two colors that are dominant in cats. Orange (also called red) and Black.
By dominant we mean that these two colors ‘over-ride’ other colors. So if you cross a cat that is a dominant color with one that is a recessive color, all their kittens will usually be colored like the dominant parent.
It’s a little more complicated than that of course. You can read more about the genetics of cat color at the University of California’s Integrative Biology website. And in the other resources you’ll find at the foot of this article
#15 Winston Churchill’s favorite cat was an orange tabby
Winston Churchill had several orange cats but his favorite was probably an orange tabby cat called Jock. Churchill made provision for his beloved Jock to stay on at Chartwell after his death.
And there is reportedly still a ‘Jock’ living at Chartwell (now owned by the National Trust) today
#16 Orange tabbies usually have gold or green eyes
Our Billy has pale gold, almost yellow eyes. But many orange tabbies have deep gold, or even green eyes
We’d be interested to hear about other eye colors in ginger cats, so let us know if your cat is different
17#A Street Cat Named Bob won Best British Film
A Street Cat Named Bob is the story of how an orange tabby cat named Bob saved his friend James Bowen from heroin addiction.
Bob is now arguably the most famous orange tabby in the world
Bowen’s book has sold over a million copies and been translated into over thirty languages! It was released as a film and won the honor of being named Best British Film in 2017
#18 Orange tabby cats often have freckles
Black spots or freckles are commonly found on the skin of orange tabbies. Billy has one on the edge of his lip.
The freckles are only really noticeable on the lips or nose where there is no fur.
#19 Garfield is the most syndicated comic strip
Orange tabby cat Garfield and his canine friend Odie were created by cartoonist Jim Davis.
Garfield currently holds the world record for being the most widely syndicated comic strip
#20 Orange tabby fur can be mixed with white patches
Our Billy is ginger all over. But like many other cat colors, orange tabby can be mixed with white patches.
White patches are most often found on the chest and belly or on the paws and tip of the tail.
#21 Orange tabby can occur as ‘points’
You will be familiar with some of the more exotic cat breeds that come in pale colors with dark points or markings on face, paws and tail.
Cats like the siamese breed for example.
What many people don’t realize is that cats can also be found with the same pale bodies and orange tabby points! These cats are often strikingly beautiful, like the lovely Siberian cat above
#22 Orange cat personality – myth busted
Many people think that orange cats are especially friendly, and even lazy. In fact, lots of different personality traits have been attributed to our feline friends based on color.
A study published in 2012 showed that people attribute friendliness to ginger cats, tolerance to tri-colored cats, and aloofness to tri-colored and white cats.
Yet a study published in 2016 showed little difference, between aggression for example, in cats of different colors, even when their owners reported that these differences existed.
That suggests that we read more into color that actually exists
The fact is, the personality of your cat is largely determined by the extent of his socialisation before he left his breeder. More of that in our excellent article by behaviorist Claire Hemington, on How To Raise A Friendly Cat.
Orange Tabby Cat – Summary
We hope you enjoyed our collection of orange tabby cat facts. It seems that we are still very much in love with our ginger cats, and no matter what the experts say, most of us think that they are the friendliest, most laid back cats in the world.
Billy is certainly very affectionate to his family. Though he isn’t overly friendly with passers by in the way that some cats are.
Don’t forget to tell us about your orange cat in the comments box below! We’d love to hear what they are like.
References and further reading
Delgardo, Munera, Reevy. Human Perceptions of Coat Color as an Indicator of Domestic Cat Personality. Anthrozoos 2012
Brown, Morgan. Age, Breed Designation, Coat Color, and Coat Pattern Influenced the Length of Stay of Cats at a No-Kill Shelter Journal Of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2015
Stelow E et al The Relationship Between Coat Color and Aggressive Behaviors in the Domestic Cat. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2016
Kaelin et al Specifying and Sustaining Pigmentation Patterns in Domestic and Wild Cats. Science 2012.
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