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10 facts about orange tabby cats that may surprise you

Orange tabby cats: Orange kitty with green eyes lying down looking at camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Orange tabby cats have been winning our hearts for centuries with their sunny and spunky personalities and head-turning markings that ensure they always take center stage.

Often dubbed ginger or marmalade cats, orange tabbies tend to be highly sociable and outgoing and won’t hesitate to purr and meow to express themselves and make their presence known.

While it hasn’t been scientifically proven, orange tabby cats are also known for being big foodies, so if you’re planning to adopt one of these little characters, you’ll want to stock up on only the finest cat food to keep that tummy satisfied! 

Whether you love their spirited personalities or their gorgeous coloring, there’s something special about orange tabby cats that feline furkid lovers find irresistible. And if you’re not already converted? Here’s 10 facts that are bound to win you over.

1. Orange tabby cats are not their own breed

It’s not unusual for even the biggest cat lover to mistakenly believe that ‘tabby’ refers to a specific breed. But in actual fact, the word ‘tabby’ is taken from a striped silk fabric made in Iraq and is used to describe the unique coat markings that these cats have. All orange cats are tabbies, but as you’ve probably noticed, not all tabbies are orange.

2. Males outnumber females

When it comes to the gender of orange tabby cats, this is definitely a case of men ruling the world! Only about 1 in 5 orange tabby cats are female, so if you’re looking to adopt one, there’s an 80% chance you’ll be bringing home a boy.

So, why are there so many males we hear you ask? That’s a good question and one that researchers are fairly certain they have the answer to. It turns out that their color comes from a sex-linked gene, with the X chromosome being responsible for the orange coloring.

Given that females have two X chromosomes and males have the XY chromosome, females need the gene for orange fur to occur twice in both of their X genes, whereas males only need their one X gene to have the orange coloring for them to be born ginger.

Orange tabby cats: Ginger kitten

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. They come in four different striped patterns

Did you know that orange cats with solid-colored coats don’t exist? It’s true! That’s because all tabby cats regardless of their color carry the agouti gene which is responsible for creating a patterned effect on their coats.

Within the agouti gene, there are four different types of tabby patterns that can occur: mackerel (tiger-like stripes), ticked (hair that alternates with light and dark bands), spotted, and classic (which gives a swirled look).

4. A specific pigment is responsible for their color

It turns out that Annie and Garfield have a lot more in common than we first thought. The pigment pheomelanin is what gives an orange tabby cat their coloring and it’s the same pigment that’s responsible for causing red hair in humans. 

5. Orange tabby cats love to talk

If you’ve ever owned an orange tabby cat, you probably know that these guys are definitely the Chatty Cathy’s of the cat world! According to Gary Weitzman, head veterinarian at the San Diego Humane Society, cat personalities are tied to coat color. Weitzman says there’s zero competition when it comes to which kind of cat is the most gregarious, with orange tabbies a clear winner.

orange tabby cat

(Image credit: Getty Image)

6. M marks the spot

Look closely at an orange tabby cat’s forehead and you’ll notice that they sport a very distinctive looking ‘M’. There are plenty of myths and legends floating around as to how that M came to be there, with claims that it represents everyone from the Virgin Mary to Mohammed, the founder of Islam. 

However, science has a slightly less magical answer to why orange tabby cats are rocking that M: it’s in their DNA. The M marking is embedded in the same gene that gives them their tabby pattern.

7. They’re a favorite Hollywood fixture

When it comes to the feline superstars of the silver screen, orange is where it’s at! From spunky swashbuckling Puss in Boots to grumpy Garfield and sweet Milo, orange cats are a favorite when it comes to both films and television. 

8. Orange tabbies are known for being Velcro cats

While there’s no hard and fast research to back it up, it’s long been believed that male cats tend to be friendlier than female cats, and with 80% of orange tabbies being male, that could why they have a reputation for being super affectionate. While every cat is different, orange tabbies are well known for being serial snugglers.

orange tabby cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

9. There are so many great nicknames to choose from

One of the best things about owning an orange tabby is the sheer number of adorable nicknames at your disposal. From Sgt. Pepper and Cheeto to Carrots and Clementine, the biggest problem with choosing to adopt an orange kitty will be trying to decide on just one name!

10. Black freckles are often their trademark

If you have an orange tabby, you may have noticed dark freckles around their gums, kips, or nose. The most common reason for these black freckles is a genetic condition called lentigo which causes an increase in the number of pigment-producing cells. 

Lentigo is also common in tortoiseshell and calico cats and is generally nothing to worry about, although if you notice any changes, it’s always wise to have your kitty checked out by your veterinarian. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.