Facts on Orange Tabby Cats

By Betty Lewis

If you’re on the hunt for orange tabby cat facts, you’ll have to focus on his looks, rather than personality. Personality varies from cat to cat, having little to do with coat pattern or color. One interesting orange tabby cat fact is that most of these guys are guys -- approximately 80 percent of orange tabby cats are male.

Famous Gingers

Ginger, marmalade, marmie -- all are descriptions for one of the classic tabby cat colors, the orange tabby. This popular cat has a reputation for being a loving, engaging cat, perhaps because he’s been so well-represented in popular culture. Perhaps the most well-known orange tabby cat was “Morris,” the cat food mascot, although “Garfield,” the cartoon orange tabby may give Morris some serious competition. Other famous orange tabby cats include “Orangey” from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Orion,” the galaxy-wearing cat from “Men in Black.”

The Color Orange -- or Red

The Cat Fanciers' Association doesn’t name the color “orange” in its breed standards. For example, an American shorthair cat may look orange, but the Cat Fanciers' Association breed standard states he should have markings that are a “deep, rich red.” The cat isn't red like a stop sign or a cherry, but he's red according to the Association's standards, even though his color may look more like a dark, vibrant orange or a light orange sherbet.

Mackerel and Classic Tabby Cats

There are four basic tabby patterns: ticked, mackerel, classic and spotted, each with breed-specific variations. The classic and mackerel tabby are the most common types. The mackerel tabby sports thin vertical stripes resembling fishbones that may break into spots or bars. The classic pattern shows broad bands, swirls and spirals of dark color on a light background. In the case of an orange tabby, that will be a darker orange on a pale background, such as a cream or pale orange. There are more mackerel-patterned tabbies than classic patterns, but the classic pattern is popular because of its striking swirls and whorls. Both of these patterns mark their cats with the “M” on the forehead.

The mackerel and classic tabby pattern is common to a host of breeds. The American shorthair, American wirehair, Cornish rex, LaPerm, Japanese bobtail, American bobtail and Maine coon are a sample of the orange tabby cats available, though their breed standards refer to them as red tabby cats.

Ticked and Spotted Tabby Cats

The tabby pattern isn’t necessarily all stripes and swirls. Ticked cats are tabbies, too, though you may not notice a tabby pattern on these cats. Abyssinian, Somali and Singapura, as well as crossbred cats, have this gene that masks the other tabby patterns. Any striping is limited to the legs, face and tail -- if it shows up at all. These cats show an agouti pattern, for a ticked effect. The Abyssinian and Somali may come in red, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association breed standards, though they sport a vibrant coppery colored coat, bearing little resemblance a standard classic tabby.

Spotted tabbies have a different modifier gene that turns stripes into spots. The British shorthair and American shorthair are two red -- or orange -- spotted tabby cats. The ocicat is another spotted tabby, though instead of finding the color red in his breed standard he’ll be listed as cinnamon.