Though technically not a breed, ginger cats are known for their distinct coloration which comes in varying shades of orange, red, and gold. With their tiger-like appearance and their friendly personalities, ginger cats are some of the most popular cats around.
In fact, ginger cats have their own holiday – Ginger Cat Appreciation Day falls on the first of September each year.
Not only are ginger cats popular among pet lovers, but some of the most famous cats in the world are gingers. Think Orangey, the cat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Puss in Boots from Shrek, or the quintessential tiger cat, Garfield.
What Makes Ginger Cats So Special?
Because ginger cats are not a distinct breed, it’s difficult to make generalizations about their personalities and temperaments. That being said, all ginger cats do share one key characteristic, aside from their orange coloration, of course: they are tabbies.
The term “tabby” refers to a specific coat pattern that involves a combination of stripes, swirls, and spots of color. This pattern is common in both wild and domestic felines.
Also Read: All About Tabby Cats
In fact, all domestic cats carry the tabby gene, though they may not always exhibit an obvious tabby pattern.
Every ginger cat is unique, but because they all carry the tabby gene, they have certain characteristics in common. For example, all tabbies have a distinctive M-shaped marking on their foreheads. The rest of their patterning is determined by genetics.
Ginger Cat Appearance
The biggest example of a wild ginger cat is the regal tiger himself. Tigers are a prime example of the tabby pattern at work, though there are a number of different variations.
The tabby pattern is common among big cats, especially among the closest genetic ancestors of the domestic house cat – African, European, and Asiatic wildcats. As such, tabby patterning can be seen in a wide variety of domestic cat breeds including the American Shorthair, Persian, Abyssinian, Maine Coon, and American Bobtail, among others.
There are five different versions of the tabby pattern you might see in ginger cats:
- Classic Tabby
- Mackerel Tabby
- Spotted Tabby
- Ticked Tabby
- Patched Tabby
Covered in a swirling pattern of varying shades of orange, the classic tabby is one of the most recognizable ginger cats. These cats have a bulls-eye-like pattern on the sides of their bodies, similar in appearance to a marble cake. The American Shorthair often exhibits this pattern.
The mackerel tabby is also known as the tiger cat due to the series of narrow stripes that run down its sides. These stripes branch out from a ban of color that runs along the cats spine, giving it the appearance of a fish skeleton – this is where the name “mackerel” tabby comes from.
While most tabby colorations involve stripes, the spotted tabby is covered in spots of varying size and shape. You can easily see this pattern in the American Bobtail and Ocicat breeds.
Ticked orange tabbies are unique in a different way. They don’t typically show visible stripes or spots on their bodies, except sometimes faintly on the tail and legs. Instead, their coats are made up of agouti hairs which exhibit bands of pigmentation. The Somali and Abyssinian cat breeds are prime examples of the ticked tabby coloration.
Finally, the patched tabby is also known as the bi-color tabby because these ginger cats exhibit areas of tabby pattern as well as areas of solid color or another pattern.
Female cats have two X chromosomes while male cats have one X and one Y chromosome. The gene for ginger coloration is carried on the X chromosome.
When it comes to coat color, cats inherit a combination of genes from their parents. Interestingly, the wide variety of colors you see in cats comes from just two primary colors: black and red (or orange).
Kittens inherit two copies of each gene from their parents which can be either dominant or recessive. The ginger gene “O” is dominant which means a kitten needs only inherit one copy of the ginger gene to display ginger coloration to some degree.
Whether a kitten displays full or partial ginger coloration depends on how many copies of the “O” gene the kitten inherits. Male kittens need only inherit the dominant “O” ginger gene from their mother to be fully orange while female kittens need to inherit it from both mother and father.
Male kittens that inherit the recessive “o” gene from their mother will be born calico or tortoiseshell and females that inherit “Oo” can be either ginger or calico.
Because females inherit two X chromosomes, there is a higher number of possible genetic combinations. As a result, only about 20% of ginger cats are female. By comparison, about 80% of ginger cats are male.
Personality And Temperament
Many different cat breeds exhibit some degree of ginger coloration, so it is difficult to make sweeping statements about the personality and temperament of a ginger cat.
Even so, ginger cats have a reputation for being friendly and easy-going. In fact, a survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley revealed that cat lovers were more likely to assign positive personality traits to orange cats than white or tortoiseshell cats. Ginger cats were widely regarded as friendly while tortoiseshell and white cats were described as more aloof.
You Might Also Like: All About Tortoiseshell Cats
How you raise your ginger kitten plays a role in developing his personality, but the kitten’s breed makeup is a major determining factor as well.
Here’s a quick list of distinctive cat breeds that frequently show ginger coloration:
- American Bobtail
- American Curl
- British Shorthair
- Egyptian Mau
- Maine Coon
- Oriental Shorthair
If you’re curious to learn more about your ginger cat’s breed makeup, the Basepaws Cat DNA Kit may be just what you need.
With nothing more than a saliva sample, this service compares your cat’s DNA against the largest cat DNA database in the world. You’ll receive insights into your cat’s breed makeup, his wild ancestry, and important health markers to help you keep your cat healthy.
7 Famous Ginger Cats
- Orlando – Also known as the Marmalade Cat, Orlando is the cute orange star of a series of illustrated children’s book by Kathleen Hale, first printed in 1938. Inspired by Hale’s own ginger cat, Orland, this 19-book series follows the escapades of Orlando and his feline family. The first book in the series, Orlando (The Marmalade Cat): A Camping Holiday was an instant success and the series ended in 1972 with Orlando and the Water Cats.
- Orangey – A marmalade tabby cat named Orangey (also Orangey Minerva) was the ginger cat that starred in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn in 1961. Orangey first debuted in the 1952 movie Rhubarb and went on to become the only cat to win two PATSY awards (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) in 1952 and in 1962. Despite his fame, Orangey was often described as mean.
- Orion – This bi-color ginger and white feline carried a galaxy cluster around his neck in the 1997 film Men in Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Orion belonged to Gentle Rosenburg, a member of the Arquilian royal family who was hiding on Earth.
- Jones – Nickname Jonesy, Jones was a ginger tomcat kept aboard the USCSS Nostromo by Ellen Ripley in the 1979 film, Alien. Jones and Ripley were the only two survivors of the ships run-in with a Xenomorph which ultimately led to the Nostromo’s destruction.
- Garfield – Known for his laziness and his love of lasagna, Garfield is an American comic strip character created by Jim Davis. A ginger cat with tiger stripes, Garfield belongs to owner Jon Arbuckle and spent his days terrorizing his canine family member Odie.
- Puss in Boots – After his first appearance in Shrek 2 in 2004, Puss in Boots became a main character in the Shrek franchise. This sassy ginger cat wears boots, a cape, and a floppy hat while carrying his sword in a belt around his waist.
- Milo – The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a 1986 Japanese adventure comedy about two animal friends – a ginger tabby cat named Milo and his best friend, a pug named Otis. In 1989, Columbia Pictures removed 15 minutes from the film and released it in an English language version.
12 Fun Facts About Ginger Cats
Ginger cats are often called tiger cats due to their orange coloring and striped pattern. They are also called Marmalade cats.
- The ginger cat is not a distinct breed but a coloration. All ginger cats display some kind of pattern in their orange coats – they are never solid orange.
- Ginger cats get their orange color from a specific pigment called pheomelanin. This is the same pigment that is responsible for red hair in humans.
- All ginger cats are tabbies. The tabby pattern is one of the most common exhibited by both wild and domestic felines and is easily distinguished by an M-shaped marking on the forehead.
- Ginger cats can have either long hair or short hair, depending on their breed.
- Certain breeds are more likely to exhibit ginger fur than others. Some of the most common ginger cat breeds are the Abyssinian, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, Munchkin, and Persian.
- The lifespan of an orange kitten is not specific to their coloring. They have the same average lifespan as does the particular breed of felines they belong to.
- Orange cats have a reputation for being friendly and affectionate, more so than other patterns like the tortoiseshell cat. Individual temperament is largely determined by the cat’s breed, however.
- Roughly 80% of ginger cats are male. Female ginger cats are less common because they must inherit two copies of the ginger gene from their parents to exhibit the orange coloration.
- Most ginger cats are solid orange with tabby markings, though you may also come across bi-color ginger cats which are typically orange and white.
- Many ginger cats develop black freckles on their faces. They most commonly appear on the lips, nose, and gums.
- Ginger tabbies are popular in film and TV. Some of the most famous ginger cats include the comic strip cat Garfield, Milo from Milo and Otis, and Orangey from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Do you have a ginger kitty? Tell us all about him/her in a comment below!
- All About Orange Tabby Cats
- Tabby Cats 101 – Colors, Lifespan, Personality, and Fun Facts
- All About Tortoiseshell Cats
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all ginger cats male?
No, the ginger coloration can be seen in both male and female cats. That being said, male cats need only inherit one copy of the ginger gene while females need two. The ginger tabby coloration is three times more common in male than in female kittens.
Are ginger cats friendly?
While it is difficult to make generalizations about ginger cats because they are not a specific breed, some research suggests ginger cats are perceived as being friendlier than other colorations like the tortoiseshell. That being said, every cat has its own unique temperament.
Do ginger cats make good pets?
Ginger cats are incredibly popular, and many cat owners describe their ginger cats as friendly and affectionate. Individual personality and temperament may vary, however, so your cat’s breed makeup may influence his or her personality.