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What kind of a cat is a ginger cat? Easy. Ginger tabby cats are bold, energetic, fun-loving, and iconic. They’re often male mixed breed cats and they always have some sort of tabby markings.
One need only look at pop culture to get a sense of these tiny tigers. From the lasagna-loving and Monday-hating Garfield to Shrek 2’s Puss in Boots, Captain Marvel’s Goose, and Alien’s Jones, these ginger tabbies with their larger-than-life personalities are unforgettable.
Ginger cats have human fans galore and an entire day dedicated to them. (Ginger Cat Appreciation day falls on September 1st.) However, we’re of the mind that ginger cats should be celebrated all year round.
Have you been smitten by a sweet orange kitten? Or are you curious about what makes these flashy felines tick?
Read on to find out:
- Personality traits of ginger cats
- The most common ginger cat breeds
- Are ginger tabbies are only male?
- If all ginger cats are tabbies
- If ginger tabby cats are friendlier than other cats
- And more!
What kind of cats are ginger cats?
Any cat can be a ginger cat if they have the right genes. Ginger cats can thank a pigment known as pheomelanin for their vibrant coloration. If this sounds familiar, it’s because pheomelanin is the same pigment that causes red hair in humans!
In ginger cats, the amount of pheomelanin they have determines the intensity and the shade of their fur.
This is why ginger cats come in colors ranging from creamy butterscotch to spicy cinnamon to bright orange marmalade, with even more hues of reds and oranges in between.
Special personality traits of ginger cats
Anyone who’s ever spent time with a ginger cat knows that they have personalities in spades. Many people unhesitatingly say that ginger cats are outgoing, energetic, chatty, and extraordinarily friendly.
We see this exceptional personality on display in ginger cats on the big screen. They’re swashbuckling cats with a killer pair of boots. They’re protectors of entire galaxies. And, they’re scrappy spaceship-dwellers who survive an alien attack in deep space.
While this highly social and bold temperament is sometimes chalked up to ginger cats fiery coloration, some orange kitties don’t have the above personality traits. Every cat is an individual, and when it comes to an influence on personality, the breeds hiding in your cat’s genes, their environment, and your interactions with them have much more of an effect than their red hair!
What breed is a ginger tabby cat?
Ginger tabby cats are a color and fur pattern, not a cat breed. Ginger tabby markings, like black and white tuxedo patterns or tricolor calico splotches, appear in many different cat breeds. And many ginger tabby cats are mixed breeds or moggies.
But some purebred cat breeds do come in ginger tabby coloration. Ginger cat breeds include:
- Maine Coon
- Egyptian Mau
- American Shorthair
- British Shorthair
- American Curl
- Oriental Shorthair
- American Bobtail
Are all ginger cats tabbies?
Yes! All ginger cats are tabbies! All ginger cats have the agouti gene responsible for creating the five distinct coat patterns: mackerel, classic swirled, ticked, spotted, and patched tabby. These tabby patterns appear on short-haired and long-haired cats.
But not all tabbies are ginger cats. Tabbies can come in a variety of patterns and colors ranging from cream to chestnut to lilac to silver and even blue.
Many ginger cats have the instantly recognizable mackerel pattern, with its thick tiger-like stripes and “M” forehead marking.
The most traditional ginger cats are the ones with the classic tabby swirly, whirly, and striped markings. Many of these ginger tabbies have distinctive marmalade orange coloring and like mackerel ginger tabbies have a big “M” kissing their forehead.
Less common orange tabby patterns are the spotted tabby and ticked tabby varieties.
Spotted tabby coats have an exotic look to them and are often seen in Bengal or part-Bengal cats.
Ticked tabby patterns are so subtle that it gives the impression that the cat’s ginger color is solid and not a tabby at all! Talk about sneaky genes!
Are ginger cats only male?
No. Ginger cats aren’t only male. There are some rare female ginger cats out there. But ginger tabbies are overwhelmingly male. There are three ginger male tabbies to every ginger female tabby, which sets males as 80% of all ginger tabbies!
The ginger cat boys club (most gingers are male) again comes down to genetics. The “ginger gene” is attached to the X chromosome. According to our friends at Basepaws, this gene has codes for orange pigmentation and non-orange (black or brown) pigmentation.
Female cats have two Xs, which means they’d need two copies of the ginger gene to become a ginger cat. Otherwise, they’ll develop a black coat or a tortoiseshell coat color.
Male cats have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome, which means they only need to inherit one copy of the ginger gene from their mother to become a ginger cat. There are more male ginger tabbies simply because it’s easy for them to get the ginger tabby gene!
Are ginger tabby cats more friendly?
Ginger tabby cats are often said to be a friendly bunch. They’re considered affectionate, cuddly, laid back, and very loyal to the humans they love. This is reflected in how ginger tabbies have some of the highest adoption rates. As well as the legions of loud and proud ginger tabby fans on social media, in animal shelters and rescues, and cat lover circles! More than any one specific cat breed, it’s this personality that makes orange tabby cats often a top choice for a therapy cat!
A University of California, Berkeley study found that many people consider ginger, or orange, cats the friendliest felines. Unlike tortoiseshell cats, who were repeatedly rated as aloof and intolerant with too much attitude, ginger cats were favorably viewed as friendly, active, bold, and trainable.
But is there any truth to these personality traits?
Yes! But not for the reason you think.
The behavior and personality of your cat are very much related to their sex specifically, whether they’re “intact” or not, rather than the color of their fur.
An unneutered male cat, or a ginger tomcat, may not be as sweet as the marmalade cats who are neutered.
This is because regardless of the cat breed, neutered ginger boy cats have lower rates of aggression, are less territorial, and are better groomers than non-neutered male cats. Considering 80% of cats in the US are neutered and that most orange tabbies are male, the widespread belief that ginger tabby cats are more friendly makes a lot of sense!
Along with their sex, their environment and their genetics (such as the breeds that make up their heritage) have the most significant influence on a cat’s personality, including how friendly they are.
By this logic, a tuxedo, brown tabby, gray, or black cat can be just as friendly as a ginger cat.
Where do ginger cats come from?
Ginger cats come from literally anywhere!
Several ginger cat breeds produce orange cats with tabby patterns, including the American bobtail and the British shorthair. However, there’s no single cat breed responsible for an orange tabby cat.
These flame-colored cuties can thank pheomelanin pigments and the agouti gene for their distinctive bright red hue and tabby markings. As long as cats are born with the correct pigments and coat pattern genes, the mackerel ginger tabby, spotted ginger tabby, ticked ginger tabby, and classic orange tabby cats will keep on coming!
Are ginger cats rare?
No. Ginger cats are not rare!
Unlike in the human population, where redheads make up a mere 1 to 2% of the world’s population, there’s no shortage of ginger cats.
Whether they’re a mackerel ginger tabby, spotted ginger tabby, ticked ginger tabby, or classic tabby, these ginger, red, or orange tabbies are very common. These orange tabby cats stand among the ranks of the also common brown tabbies, solid black, and tuxedo cats.
Orange tabby cats far outnumber many other cat colors, including the rarest feline fur colors: chocolate, fawn, lilac, buff, chinchilla, color-point, smoke, and cinnamon.
Do ginger cats have freckles?
As if you thought your orange tabby cat couldn’t be any cuter with their jelly bean pink toes, nose, and lips, YES, they could also get some freckles to add into the awww-worthy mix!
Lentigo simplex, or cat freckles, are a harmless genetic condition that often appears on the nose and gums of ginger or orange tabby cats. These tiny black dots come from pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes.
Lentigo, or cat freckles, can appear in ginger cats as young as one year old to aging cats nearing their senior years.
Like in humans with freckles, lentigo isn’t painful, itchy, or a cause for concern. This condition is considered benign, or non-cancerous, so you can indulge in awwing over how adorable your speckle-nosed orange kitty is worry-free!
In rare cases, lentigo may be feline acne, flea dirt, or melanoma. If you’re concerned it’s best to have your kitty checked out by your veterinarian who can closely examine the dots and take samples or biopsies if need be.
Do ginger cats have health problems?
You can’t tell if ginger cats have health problems just from looking at the color of their fur and tabby patterns.
You may have heard that most ginger cats love eating and tend to be on the chunkier side.
But does a tubby tabby future await every orange tabby?
The sad reality is that obesity and excessive weight gain is a problem for all cats. Not just the ginger ones. A startling 50% of cats in the US are considered overweight or obese. The color of the cat’s fur has no bearing on any pounds they pack on.
A better indicator for chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes is your cat’s lifestyle, environment first, and genetics second. A lack of physical activity combined with free-feeding starchy, carb-heavy foods like kibble is one of the leading causes of weight gain in cats. Not red fur.
When it comes to other health conditions and illnesses like hyperthyroidism, urinary tract infections, and inflammatory bowel disease, lifestyle and environment also play a role. Not to mention that there’s no scientific evidence that proves ginger cats are prone to any illness more than any other type of cat.
Regularly taking your cat to their veterinarian for annual physicals and wellness checks, as well as staying on top of when they show any abnormal behavior is the best way to keep on top of health problems in your cat. Whether they’re an orange cat or not doesn’t make a difference.
Key takeaways on ginger cats
If you’re officially gaga for ginger cats now, welcome to the club! While we may have busted some of the biggest myths surrounding these tiny tigers, we can’t help but sing the ginger tabby cats’ praises anyways!
Our feline friends of all colors matter. In the case of the iconic and beloved ginger and orange tabby cats, something so simple as a teeny chromosome and some pigmentation collide to create their stunning fur marking and color aesthetic.
From moggie to Maine Coon, and the long-haired to shorthaired, and the fluffy-tailed to the bobbed tails, these magnificent cats are so much more than just their color! Beyond the buttery, marmalady, spicy red, and orange fur, ginger tabby cats are all individuals with their own original personalities, wants, and needs.
And for that, we love ‘em!