What do famous cats like Garfield, Morris, and Milo have in common? They are both orange tabby cats. The orange tabby isn’t a breed, but it’s certainly one of the most iconic (and some would say cutest) cats.
While the term “tabby” doesn’t refer to a specific breed of cat, it does represent one of the most common hair patterns in the feline world — both wild and domestic. Tabbies are known for their striped coats, and while they come in a variety of colors, orange tabbies are very pretty.
How can you not love ginger cats, especially cats with tiger stripes?
Because an orange tabby is not a breed-specific cat, it can be difficult to make generalizations about things like temperament and personality. With that being said, there are some interesting facts about orange tabby cats that you should know. Read on to find out what they are!
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What makes an orange tabby so special?
All cats are beautiful, but the orange tabby is known for its colorful fur and unique patterns. The term tabby refers to the combination of stripes, spots, and swirls that cover a cat’s body.
Depending on the cat breed and its individual genetics, the tabby pattern can be limited to patches or certain body parts, or it can cover the cat’s entire body.
There are five different varieties of tabby patterns:
While tabbies come in a variety of patterns, most cats have some degree of stripes in their fur. In some orange tabby cats, the stripes may be thick and clearly visible along the cat’s back and the length of the body. On other cats, the stripes are much more subtle, or appear only on the cat’s legs and tail.
While every orange tabby is different, in general, tabbies have specific characteristics that are easily identifiable. These include:
- There is an M-shaped imprint on the forehead
- white or dark lining around the eyes
- pigment on paws and lips
- Thin “pencil” lines on the face
- pale chin and abdomen
- strapped to the legs and tail
Now that you have a better understanding of the physical characteristics of an orange tabby, let’s take a closer look at each of the five tabby patterns.
1. Mackerel Orange Tabby
When you hear the words “orange tabby,” this is probably the breed you picture. The mackerel tabby is the iconic “tiger cat” with thin stripes that run parallel the length of the body. In an ideal pattern example, the stripes are evenly spaced with no dashed lines.
While they may look like tiger stripes, they actually branch off from a stripe that runs along the cat’s spine, creating a pattern that resembles the skeleton of a fish, hence the name “mackerel.”
2. Classic Orange Tabby
While the mackerel tabby may be the quintessential tiger cat, the classic tabby is the most common. These cats have a striking swirl pattern on their backs, similar to the marbling you’d see on a cake. They have a series of random swirls of dark and light orange, much like a bullseye.
3. Spotted Orange Tabby
Tabbies are primarily known for their stripes, but they can also have spots. Spotted tabbies have bright spots of varying size on both sides, which can be difficult to distinguish from mackerel tabby patterns. In fact, experts aren’t quite sure whether spotted tabbies evolved from mackerel tabbies or if they’re just genetically different.
4. Orange Tabby
This tabby breed is the most distinctive and can be difficult to identify as a tabby due to the absence of distinct spots or stripes. Ticked orange tabbies have the typical tabby markings on their warm and same agouti fur, but any stripes or spots are very subtle and may not be visible except in bright light. The most common tick tabby species are the Somali and Abyssinian species.
5. Bicolor Orange Tabby
While traditional tabbies usually display the same solid orange tabby pattern all over, orange tabbies often have bicolor patterns. These tabby cats have a combination of markings that are darker than the rest of the body. A common example of a bicolor orange tabby is an orange tabby with solid white patches.
In feline genetics, traits like coat color and pattern are on the X chromosome. Female cats have two X chromosomes (XX), while male cats have one X and one Y (XY).
Cats inherit a combination of genes from their parents, although the many colors you see in cats come from just two main colors: black and orange (or red). A kitten inherits two copies of each gene (one for each gene) from its parents, and each gene can be either dominant or recessive.
The orange gene is dominant (O), so a kitten only needs to inherit one copy of the orange gene to display a certain degree of orange in their fur.
This interesting fact explains why most orange tabby cats are male.Because a female orange tabby must have two X chromosomes become female, only about one 20% An orange kitten is likely to be a female.
Whether a kitten displays a tabby pattern depends on whether it has inherited the dominant or recessive agouti gene. The term “agouti” refers to hair that has alternating bands of light and dark colors – this creates a blotchy or “salt and pepper” appearance.
Kittens inheriting the dominant agouti gene (A) will display a visible striped pattern, while those inheriting the recessive gene (a) will not. If solid colored cats inherit two copies of the recessive gene (aa), they can still display the subtle tabby pattern – often called “ghost stripes”.
character and temperament
Because the orange tabby is not a breed in itself, it can be difficult to make generalizations about things like personality or temperament. When it comes to an orange tabby’s personality, a better gauge is the cat’s breed and upbringing.
Unfortunately, if you adopted a cat from a shelter or stray, it can be difficult to determine your cat’s breed. One way to learn more about your cat’s genetics is to use the Basepaws Feline DNA Test.
Basepaws swabs your cat’s saliva and performs a thorough DNA test that compares your cat’s genetics to the world’s largest cat DNA database. You will receive a detailed report detailing the breed group your cat belongs to and a list of feral cats to which it is genetically related.
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To give you an idea of what breed your orange tabby may be, here’s a list of cat breeds with tabby colors:
The American Curl is known for their unusual ears that curl back from the cat’s face. These cats are born with straight ears that begin to curl after a few days. American Rex cats have soft, silky coats and a friendly demeanor—they also tend to form strong bonds with their owners.
The Egyptian Mau is a small to medium breed and quite rare. These cats are the fastest of all house cats and they are very friendly, playful and loyal.
Javanese cats, sometimes called colorpoint longhairs, are a variation of the Oriental breed. These cats have long, silky fur, and they tend to be quite vocal. They love to play, and they can be very needy, following their owners around the house for constant attention and cuddles.
The Ragdoll is another color point breed known for its large, muscular body and soft, silky coat. These cats are naturally relaxed, but they also tend to have bold personalities. Because of their high tolerance for children, Ragdolls make great family pets.
While you can’t generalize about all cats with a particular pattern, orange tabby lovers have been known to describe their cats as friendly, intelligent, and tolerant of children and other household pets. Remember that your orange tabby’s genetics and upbringing play a large role in determining his personality in adulthood and later in life.
Fun Facts About Orange Tabbies
Here are some fun facts about orange tabby cats that you may not know:
- Orange tabbies are often nicknamed ginger cats or jam cats. These nicknames have been used over the years to distinguish traditional cats from orange tabbies.
- Due to their unique genetics, most orange tabby cats are male. The coat color gene is carried on the X chromosome, so male cats only need to inherit one copy, while female cats need two copies. Only about 20 percent of orange tabby cats are female.
- The gene for orange coat color is dominant over all other coat colors except white. This may be why many bi-color orange tabbies have white as their second color.
- Orange tabby cats tend to have dark freckles on the nose and mouth – This is common in tabby cats and these markings tend to appear by 2 years of age.
- An orange tabby’s personality is influenced more by its breed than its color. Orange tabbies can be found in a variety of breeds, including British Shorthair, Maine Coon, American Rex, Manx, Ragdoll, Somali, and more.
- All orange cats are technically tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange. Many orange tabby cats develop “ghost stripes,” which are faint stripes that you may only notice on the legs and tail in bright sunlight.
- One of the most distinctive markings of all tabbies is the M-shaped mark on the forehead. Tabby cats have inherited the markings from their wild ancestors, including the African wildcat (Felis lybica lybica), European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) and Asian wildcat (Felis lybica ornata).
- Although the temperament of orange tabby cats varies widely, National Geographic reports that personality may have something to do with coat color. They also suggest that orange tabbies tend to be more talkative than other cats.
- Garfield (the cat who loved lasagna) is one of the most famous orange tabby cats. He made his American cultural debut in 1978 and holds the Guinness World Records title for the most joint comic strips.
- Winston Churchill owned an orange tabby named Jock, which he received for his 88th birthday. Churchill was so fond of the cat that he ordered an orange cat to live in Churchill’s house forever, even after his death. The current resident is Jock VI, an orange tabby with a white bib and four white socks.
- Morris, the 9Lives cat food mascot, made his TV debut in 1968. The original Morris died in 1978, but the current mascot is in the care of Rose Ordile in Los Angeles.
- Stubbs, a ginger cat, is the honorary mayor of a small town called Talkeetna in Alaska. The town doesn’t have a human mayor, but Stubbs was given the job to attract tourists. He has served successfully for nearly 20 years.
frequently asked questions
Are all orange tabby cats male?
No, but due to genetics, most orange tabby cats are male. Male cats only need to inherit one copy of the orange tabby gene, while females need two – which is why there are three times as many orange tabby males as females.
Do orange tabby cats have health problems?
Certain breeds of cats are more prone to health problems than others, so your orange tabby’s health is more likely to be related to his breed than his color/pattern.
How Long Do Orange Tabby Cats Live?
In general, the average lifespan of an indoor house cat is 15 to 20 years. Providing your tabby with a healthy diet and regular veterinary care can help maximize his lifespan.
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