What features do well-known cats like Garfield, Morris, and Milo share? All of them are orange tabby cats. Although not a breed, the orange tabby cat is unquestionably one of the most recognisable (and some would even argue cutest) cats around.
Although “tabby” does not specifically refer to a breed of cat, it does describe one of the most prevalent coat patterns seen in both domestic and wild cats. Although tabbies come in a number of colours and are noted for their striped coats, the orange tabby is particularly attractive.
A ginger cat, especially one with tiger stripes, is impossible to dislike.
Because the orange tabby cat is not a particular breed, it is challenging to draw broad conclusions regarding traits like temperament and personality. Having said that, there are some fascinating facts regarding orange tabbies that you ought to be aware of. To discover out what they are, keep reading!
What Is So Special About Orange Tabby Cats?
All cats are beautiful, but orange tabby cats are known for their colorful coats and unique pattern. The term tabby refers to the combination of stripes, spots, and swirls which cover the cat’s body.
Depending on the breed of cat and its individual genetics, the tabby pattern can be localized to patches or certain body parts, or it could cover the entire body of the cat.
The tabby pattern comes in five different varieties:
While tabby cats come in an array of patterns, most have some degree of striping on their coats. In some orange tabbies, the stripes may be bold and clearly visible running down the length of the cat’s back and body. In other cats, the striping is much more subtle or appears only on the cat’s legs and tail.
Though each orange tabby is different, tabbies in general have specific characteristics that are easily identified. These include:
- An M-shaped marking on the forehead
- White or dark lining around the eyes
- Pigment on the paws and lips
- Thin “pencil” lines on the face
- Pale color on the chin and belly
- Banding on the legs and tail
Now that you have a better idea of what physical characteristics define the orange tabby, let’s take a closer look at each of the five tabby patterns.
1. Mackerel Orange Tabby Cat
When you hear the phrase “orange tabby” this is probably the variety you picture. The mackerel tabby is the iconic “tiger cat” with narrow stripes running parallel down the length of its body. In an ideal example of the pattern, the stripes are evenly spaced with no broken lines.
Though they may look like tiger stripes, they actually branch out from a single stripe running down the cat’s spine which creates a pattern that resembles a fish skeleton, hence the name “mackerel.”
2. Classic Orange Tabby Cat
While the mackerel tabby may be the quintessential tiger cat, the classic tabby is the most common. These cats have bold, swirling patterns on their backs that resembling the marbling you’d see in a cake. They have a random series of dark and light orange swirls, much like a bullseye.
3. Spotted Orange Tabby Cat
Tabby cats are primarily known for their stripes, but they can also have spots. Spotted tabbies have bright spots of varying size all over their sides which can be difficult to distinguish from the mackerel tabby pattern. In fact, experts aren’t quite sure whether spotted tabby cats developed from mackerel tabbies or whether they simply have different genes.
4. Ticked Orange Tabby Cat
This tabby variety is the most unique and can be difficult to identify as a tabby because there are no obvious spots or stripes. Ticked orange tabbies have the typical tabby markings on their foreheat and the same agouti fur, but any stripes or spots are very subtle and may not be visible except in strong light. The most common breeds of ticked tabby are the Somali and Abyssinian breeds.
5. Bi-Color Orange Tabby Cat
While traditional tabby cats often exhibit the same solid orange tabby pattern all over their bodies, orange tabby cats can often be seen in a bicolor pattern. These tabbies have a combination of tabby patches which are darker in coloration than the rest of the body. A common example of a bi-color orange tabby is an orange tabby cat with pure white patches.
Personality And Temperament
Because the orange tabby is not a breed in its own right, it’s difficult to make generalizations about things like personality or temperament. When it comes to orange tabby personality, the better gauge is the cat’s breed and upbringing.
Unfortunately, determining your cat’s breed can be difficult if you adopted the cat from a shelter or as a stray. One way to learn more about your cat’s genetics is to use the Basepaws cat DNA test.
Basepaws takes a swab of your cat’s saliva and runs a thorough DNA test, comparing your cat’s genetics against the largest cat DNA database in the world. You’ll receive a detailed report detailing the breed groups to which your cat belongs as well as a list of wild cats he’s genetically related to.
The American Curl is known for its unusual ears which curl back from the cat’s face. These cats are born with straight ears that begin to curl over the course of several days. American Curl cats have soft, silky coats and friendly temperaments – they also tend to form strong bonds with their owners.
The Egyptian Mau is a small- to medium-sized breed and a fairly rare one at that. These cats are the fastest runners of all domestic cats and they are very friendly, playful, and loyal.
The Javanese is sometimes called the colorpoint longhair and it is a variation on the Oriental breed. These cats have long, silky coats and they tend to be very vocal. They love to play, and they can be very needy, following their owners around the house seeking constant attention and cuddles.
The Ragdoll is another color-point breed, known for its large, muscular body and soft, silky coat. These cats can be relaxed by nature, but they also tend to have bold personalities. Because they are highly tolerant of children, Ragdolls make great family pets.
Though you can’t make generalizations about all cats with a certain pattern, orange tabby cat lovers have been known to describe their cats as friendly, intelligent, and tolerant of children and other family pets. Just keep in mind that your orange tabby’s genetics and upbringing play a large role in determining his personality as an adult and into his senior years.
Fun Facts About Orange Tabbies
Here are some fun facts about orange tabby cats you probably didn’t know:
- Orange tabby cats are often nicknamed ginger or marmalade cats. These nicknames have been used for many years to differentiate traditional from orange tabby cats.
- Most orange tabby cats are male due to their unique genetics. The gene for coat color is carried on the X chromosome, so male cats need only inherit one copy while female cats need two. Only about 20% 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 exhibit white as their second color.
- Orange tabby cats tend to have dark freckles on their nose and mouth – this is a very common in tabbies and these markings tend to develop by the age of 2.
- The personality of an orange tabby cat is influenced more by its breed than its color. Orange tabbies can be found across a wide range of breeds including British Shorthair, Maine Coon, American Curl, Manx, Ragdoll, Somali, and more.
- All orange cats are technically tabbies, though not all tabbies are orange. Many orange tabby cats exhibit “ghost striping” which is faint striping you may only notice on the legs and tail in bright sunlight.
- One of the most distinctive markings seen in all tabby cats is the M-shaped marking on the forehead. Tabbies have inherited this marking from their wild ancestors including the African wildcat (Felis lybica lybica), European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), and the Asiatic wildcat (Felis lybica ornata).
- Though temperament varies greatly across orange tabbies, National Geographic reports that personality may be somewhat linked to coat color. They also suggest orange tabbies tend to be more talkative than other cats.
- Garfield (the lasagna-loving cat) is one of the most famous orange tabby cats. He made his debut in American culture in 1978 and holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most syndicated comic strip.
- Winston Churchill owned an orange tabby named Jock that he received for his 88th birthday. Churchill loved the cat so much he decreed that an orange cat would always live in the Churchill home, even after he died. The current inhabitant is Jock VI, an orange tabby with a white bib and four white socks.
- Morris, the mascot for 9Lives cat food, debuted on television in 1968. The original Morris passed away in 1978 but the current mascot lives under the care of Rose Ordile in Los Angeles.
- Stubbs, a ginger cat, is the honorary mayor of a town called Talkeetna in Alaska. The town has no human mayor, but Stubbs was awarded the position in an effort to attract tourists. He has successfully held office for nearly 20 years.