One of the better-known types of cats in the world, the orange tabby cat can be found all over the globe, in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Despite common belief, the orange tabby isn’t a specific breed of cat, but a descriptor of the kind of tabby markings, colors and patterns which can be present in all kinds of feline friends.
Over the years, the orange tabby has taken the world by storm, in everything from comic strips (Garfield) to award-winning movies, (A Street Cat Named Bob). There was even a cat called Morris responsible for 58 different “9Lives” commercials throughout the 1970s.
If you’ve always loved the sunny appeal of a beautiful orange tabby cat, these quick facts about this special style of tiger kitty should go down a treat.
1. The Orange Tabby Isn’t a Breed
Let’s start with an important fact, orange tabby isn’t a specific breed, nor is the “tabby” (tortoiseshell cat) in general. The term “tabby” is used to refer to a specific kind of coat style, in which a cat has various markings across its cheeks and body. The “tabby” can have multiple different kinds of tabby patterns and orange coloring marking, from full stripes to swirls and spots.
The orange tabby cat is a very common kind of tabby, present in many kinds of breeds, from the Maine Coon to the Domestic Shorthair. Because the orange tabby isn’t a breed, but a color/style of cat, there aren’t many personalities, behavior, or longevity traits specifically linked to them. While orange tabbies are often said to have very distinct personalities, all of these felines are different.
2. Certain Breeds are More Likely to be Orange
There are many different kinds of feline that can be born with the orange tabby cat coat. However, ginger fur is definitely more common in certain cat breeds. You’re more likely to see the following cats with tango orange fur:
3. Orange Tabbies Have One of Four Coat Types
Orange tabbies can come with a variety of different shades of orange, and multiple patterns. Some tabbies feature a combination of orange, white and brown on their coats. Others are more heavily “orange”. However, it’s worth noting you’ll never see a tabby with a solid orange coat – like you might see a fully black or white cat.
Orange cats always have some sort of pattern, so they can only ever be “tabbies”, or calicos in some cases. The tabby coat pattern can include:
4. Most Orange Tabbies are Male
Certain coat patterns are more likely to occur in one gender of cat than the other. Calico cats, for instance, are predominantly female because their coloring is linked to the “X Chromosome”, of which girls have two. Similarly, most orange tabby cats are male, with only around 1 in 5 (20%) being female. This means you may be able to seek out a female orange tabby, but you’re more likely to get a ginger male from most breeders and adoption centers.
Female tabby cats aren’t as rare as male calico cats, which only account for around 0.1% of the population. Orange tabby cats are mostly male because of the chromosomes in their genes. Female tabby cats would need two identical genes to achieve an orange coat, while a male only needs one orange gene from one of its parents.
5. The Orange Comes from a Unique Pigment
Orange tabbies, as mentioned above, aren’t entirely in the same hue in every different breed or various parts of the world. Just as you can have a brown cat with various shades of brown in their fur, you can see many orange tabby cats with variations of red in their coat.
Most orange tabbies feature various shades of orange, cream, and red all blending into a unique visual effect. The red-headed cats are particularly popular when they feature darker shades of orange, however. One study in 2015 showed darker cats had a better time of leaving the shelter with a new home faster than their light-colored counterparts.
6. Garfield is the most syndicated comic in the world
Garfield is probably one of the best-known orange cats in existence. Originally a comic strip, but also a cartoon and movie character today, Garfield has taken the world by storm. The lasagna loving cat has over 16 million Facebook fans and holds the Guinness World Record for being the most widely syndicated comic in the world.
Garfield was first published by Jim Davies in 1976, and quickly emerged as a top-rated comic strip around the world. The famous cat is now technically 43 years old (at the time of writing).
7. There are Religious Stories about the Orange Tabby
Orange tabby cats are famous throughout history, not just in pop culture, but in the religious landscape too. There’s a cat legend in some religious circles that when baby Jesus was unable to sleep in the manger, an orange tabby cat comforted him. The warm and purring kitty helped Jesus fall off to sleep, and Mother Mary kissed the cat on the forehead in thanks.
This story also suggests the kiss from Mary left an “M” on the cat’s forehead, which eventually became a part of the coat’s pattern. Virtually all tabbies today have this iconic “M” on their heads, but it was an orange feline in the story.
8. Orange Tabby Cats Have Freckles
If you’ve ever noticed little black dots around your Tabby’s nose and mouth, you may not need to panic. Brown and black dots on an orange tabby can sometimes be freckles. Similar to us red-headed humans, ginger cats are more likely to develop freckles than other colors of cat.
Not every orange cat will get freckles, and marks on your feline friend can sometimes be a reason to seek support from a vet, so make sure you keep an eye out for any issues. Most orange tabby cats who don’t end up with freckles will simply retain their pale pink nose.
9. Winston Churchill had an Orange Cat
There’s no doubt countless people have had beautiful orange tabby cats over the years. However, one of the best-known owners of an orange tabby was Winston Churchill. Going by the name of Jock, Winston’s cat was a beloved part of his family, and a very sweet friend according to Churchill. The cat would often attend cabinet meetings during wartime, and nobody would be permitted to eat at these meetings unless the cat was also seated at the table to joint hem.
Orange cats have also become an extremely popular choice in the digital world, with many leading influencers in the pet world regularly sharing pictures of their beautiful tabbies.
10. Orange Cats are Stars of the Screen
Aside from being extremely popular throughout history (and in religion), orange cats have also been a popular choice for a number of movies too. The orange cat Crookshanks was a famous appearance in Harry Potter, and everyone knows Puss in Boots from Shrek.
Other examples of orange cats from throughout movie history range all the way from Jones from Alien to Milo from Milo and Otis, Orion from Men in Black, and Orangey from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You can find a host of fantastic orange cats throughout the stage and screen if you know where to look. An orange cat even won a PATSY award from his performance in Tonto.
11. They Can Overeat
One point worth noting here is all cats are different. A cat’s coloring or coat pattern won’t necessarily guarantee them to be a fat cat. However, orange tabbies do have a habit of eating quite a lot. Garfield’s never-ending appetite in the comics makes a lot of sense, so make sure you’re careful with dosing out the right amount of food through the day if you’re going to be getting an orange tabby.
As tempting as it might be to give your orange tabby cat plenty of treats and food when they’re looking at you with those big, beautiful eyes, obesity can be a serious problem for cats. The more your feline friend eats, the more they’ll be at risk of things like diabetes, and other health problems.
12. They’re Usually Very Brave
Just like the ultra-brave and fearless Puss in Boots, many orange cats are known for their brave nature. This actually comes heavily from the “tabby” aspect of the cat. Many tabby cats generally have a reputation for being bold and confident. These are the kinds of cats who can often get into a lot of trouble, as they’re not afraid to explore.
Orange tabby cats are usually not worried about hanging out with children and other animals. However, you might have a different experience depending on the nature of your cat. Make sure you learn as much as you can about your feline friend before adopting.
13. Orange Tabbies Can be Lazy too
As mentioned above, because an orange tabby is a type of cat, not a breed, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get any specific kind of personality or a certain set of characteristics. For the most part, orange tabbies can be brave and affectionate kitties. My orange tabby Maine Coon is one of the cuddliest and most affectionate cats I’ve ever met.
However, these cats can also be quite lazy. Though they like to hunt from time to time depending on their breed, they can also be more than happy sitting around or enjoying a nap after a quick snack.
14. They Have Plenty of Nicknames
The orange tabby cat has earned a number of great nicknames over the years, thanks to their growing popularity. Most commonly, these cats are known as “red tabbies” or “ginger cats”. However, they can also be called “marmalade cats” in places like the UK.
You’re sure to see plenty of different names all over the world for these furry wonders, if you’re willing to do a little digging.
15. Orange Cats are Famous in Literature
You already know orange tabby cats can be famous in the written world, thanks to the popularity of Garfield. However, there are a handful of great orange cats elsewhere in literature too. One of the best-known orange cats to become famous in literature was Orlando the Marmalade cat.
Featured in a series of British children’s books in the 1930s, Orlando was created by Author Katherine Hale, who wrote the stories for her children. Orlando was based on Katherine’s real-life cat, Orlando.
16. Orange is a Dominant Cat Color
Although the orange hair color is a rare sight to see in humans, it’s not as rare in the cat world. There are two main colors dominant in cat coats, black and orange. Orange (otherwise called red) can appear in all kinds of cat breeds.
In this case, by a “dominant” coat color, we’re not necessarily saying a huge percentage of the world’s cats are orange. Rather if a cat does have the orange gene, this gene is more likely to overwhelm the other genes in your cat.
17. Orange Cats Have Been Present in Politics
We’ve discussed the presence of orange tabby cats in literature, film, and more so far. However, did you know an orange tabby cat also made its way into politics once? Stubbs, the orange cat, was chosen as Mayor for a small town in Alaska called Talkeetna. The cat won the poll by write-in vote in 1998 and served in his position until he passed away at the age of 20 in 2017.
The office of Stubbs was located at Nagley’s General Store, where he regularly had interactions with tourists and constituents on a daily basis. He also lived a pretty great life, drinking water with catnip out of a wine glass to relax at the end of each day.
18. Orange Cats often Have Green or Gold Eyes
Just as there are many different patterns and shades evident in orange tabby cats, there are different eye colors to be aware of too. The classic orange tabby cat generally has yellow, or gold eyes. These eyes can be a lot paler than the standard cat’s eye you might be used to. This coloring is linked to the pheomelanin pigment which makes orange cats their wonderful red color.
Many orange cats also have green eyes – which makes them very similar to our human individuals with red her and green eyes. Of course, there’s always a possibility another eye color might appear from time to time too.
19. They can have long or short hair
Because orange tabby cats come in a variety of different breeds, they can also have either long or short hair, depending on their heritage. If you get a Maine Coon, you can expect a lot of long fluffy hair. Some Maine Coon’s have very dark orange fur, while many have a combination of cream and red in their coats.
Short-haired orange tabby cats may show more obvious markings in some cases, and are definitely a little easier to groom, if you’re looking for a simple cat that’s easier to look after.
20. Every Orange Tabby Cat is Different
While there are a number of specific characteristics and personality traits often associated with the red hair or orange tabby cat, it’s worth remembering this type of cat is just another form of cat. Like any other feline friend, you’ll discover every orange tabby cat has unique differences to consider. Some are likely to be more playful and troublesome, while others are laid-back and affectionate.
Often, the breed you choose for your orange tabby cat will make the biggest difference to their personality in the long-term. At the same time, it’s worth noting you can always train cats out of, or into certain behaviors with a little patience and perseverance.
Let’s Celebrate the Orange Tabby Cat
As an orange cat owner myself, I know first-hand just how wonderful these copper feline pals can be. My orange cat is a delight to be around, with his affectionate nature and wonderfully playful streak. I’ve also known a number of orange cats over the years that shared similar characteristics, often coming across as warm and friendly in any environment.
Of course, as with any cat, the nature of your orange tabby cat can differ depending on a range of factors. It’s definitely worth doing some research into your chosen breed, rather than just adopting based on the style or coat color of the cat alone.
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