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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Orange Tabby Cats

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Orange tabby cats are like North America’s “cat next door.” Warm, lovable, and cute, these cats have been featured in cartoons (like “Garfield”) and even films (such as The Adventures of Milo and Otis). And they go by several nicknames, like marmalade, marmie, and ginger. 

Here are 5 fun things you might not know about orange tabby cats.

Orange tabby cats aren’t a separate breed.

Instead, the word “tabby” describes their unique coat markings. Tabby cats have striped, spotted, and/or swirled patterns on their fur. This pattern is caused by a specific gene. Cats of many different breeds—such as Maine Coon, Abyssinian, American Bobtail, Persian, and more—can be tabby cats if they inherit the right genetic pattern.

Tabbies’ orange colour comes from a specific pigment.

This pigment, called pheomelanin, also produces red hair in humans. It’s responsible for the many color variations in orange tabbies, such as red, orange, and cream. 

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There are 4 times as many male tabbies as females.

Interestingly enough, about 80% of all orange tabbies are male. Why is this? A cat’s fur colour is produced by 2 basic genes-a black hair gene and an orange/red hair gene. These genes are contained on the X chromosome, says Dr. Jerold Bell, adjunct professor of genetics at Tufts University. Since males usually carry one X chromosome, they can have either black or orange fur. If males have the orange hair gene, they will be orange tabbies. However, since female cats have two X chromosomes, they need the orange hair gene on both chromosomes.

Since there are many more black genes than orange genes in domestic cats’ gene pool, it’s much less likely to have two orange genes at once. This is why male orange tabby cats are much more common than female ones.

Like Garfield, orange tabbies love food!

Since orange tabbies are notoriously big eaters, their diet and weight should be carefully monitored. If their owners aren’t careful, they may have excessive weight gain, which leads to other health issues such as cancer and diabetes. If you have an orange tabby, provide portioned food instead of leaving it out all day in your cedar cat house. Also, ensure that your cat gets regular exercise.

Orange tabbies have 4 specific coat patterns.

While all tabby cats have a trademark “M” on their forehead, tabbies actually have 4 different coat patterns.

  • The classic tabby has bold swirls along its body, resembling marble.
  • The spotted tabby cat has spots throughout his fur.
  • The mackerel tabby has narrow, parallel stripes that branch down her sides from a central stripe down her back.
  • The ticked tabby cat has agouti hairs throughout her fur, plus tabby markings on her face. Agouti hairs refers to alternating dark and light bands of colour on individual hairs.

Orange tabby cats are both attractive and friendly—which is why they are one of our favourite cats!

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