Everybody knows about Garfield! This grumpy, food-loving, orange tabby won the hearts of kids and adults worldwide. But did you know that these cats are not at all like this bossy overweight kitty cat? Why are orange tabby cats so affectionate?
Is this a myth, or is their personality truly unique among felines?
From their freckled noses to stripey tails, people love orange tabbies. Also known as marmalade cats, ginger cats, or red tabbies, they have a reputation for being very affectionate pets. Tales of their cuddliness go far, and they have quickly become one of the most popular cats.
But, why are orange tabby cats so affectionate? We’ll try to answer this and some other ginger cat personality questions further on.
What Causes Cats to Be Affectionate?
It isn’t really known why are orange tabby cats so affectionate. There isn’t a true link between any fur pattern and color and a feline’s personality. Factors that can cause cats to be cuddlier than others are:
- Early neutering or spaying
While the breed is one of the factors, orange tabby cats aren’t necessarily a different breed than other ‘street’ cats. However, they truly seem much more affectionate compared to many other kitties. This is especially the case if you compare them with calico or tortoiseshell cats, which are known for their grumpiness.
People are full of stories about orange tabby cats and their affectionate nature!
In fact, Twitter is full of images and stories about the friendliness of these cute furballs. One user reported finding four orange kittens who decided to stay together no matter what (link: https://twitter.com/HunterHGrey/status/1344807570142334977). Others even found a short clip of a ginger cat petting a lizard! (link: https://twitter.com/laughingsquid/status/1275482061583921154). No matter what you do, orange tabbies seem like they won’t leave you your side.
So, we may be not able to answer why are orange tabby cats so affectionate. Still, it is undeniable that they do seem to have a much more lovable personality than most other kitties. Are there any other things features that make them stand out from other cats?
Here’s what you need to know about these cats and what may influence their cute personality!
Are Orange Tabby Cats a Specific Breed?
Despite what you may think, ginger cats are not a specific breed of cats. There is not a single breed that we can call orange tabby cats. Instead, tabby cats are domestic felines with stripes on their body and M-shaped markings on top of their forehead.
While not all of them have to be entirely striped, all have that M-marking that you can recognize them by. Scientists consider the agouty gene to be responsible for the tabby markings.
Almost all cat breeds can have tabbies, even if this isn’t its predominant color. There are five identifiable kinds of tabby cats:
- Classic tabby
- Mackerel tabby
- Patched tabby
- Spotted tabby
- Ticked tabby
No one really knows where the name ‘tabby’ came from. The best guess is that tabby is the name of striped silk made in the Middle East. This silk has striped patterns that might resemble a tabby’s coat.
An orange tabby cat is simply a tabby cat with an orange, or ginger coat. They contain a dominant pigment named Pheomelanin, the same pigment that gives humans red hair. So, as you can see, they are not as different from humans with ginger hair.
Ginger cats can come in various shades. Some are pale, while others have a bright, almost red color. Many orange tabbies even feature shades of yellow or brown. They can have different patterns on their coats, but all are still considered orange tabbies.
A few of the breeds that can come in the orange tabby coat are:
- American Bobtails
- British Shorthairs
- Egyptian Maus
- Maine Coons
Why Are Orange Tabby Cats so Affectionate?
As we’ve established, a cat’s coat doesn’t determine a cat’s personality. These two features have nothing to do with each other. However, what can influence a cat’s behavior are her genetics and environmental factors.
While genetics are important, even the most aggressive cats can become affectionate pets over time. This proves that the environment is the most important thing that influences a cat’s attitude. If you socialize your cat from when it’s still a kitten, you have higher chances of getting a cuddly pet.
So, since a cat’s coat can’t influence her behavior, what makes orange tabby cat personality so unique?
One of the top reasons why are orange tabby cats so affectionate might not be what you think. The truth may be that they aren’t any cuddlier than any other cat. We just perceive them as such. Why is that?
Orange is a pretty, bright color that reminds us of joy and happiness. When people think of orange, they think about warmth, cheerfulness, energy, adventure, good health, vitality, and excitement. This is why many prefer it over other colors, especially over black or gray, colors that cats come in. They’ll have a positive association with this color and they’ll be drawn to it.
Because of this, orange tabby cats may seem to be much friendlier than other cats. Even when they are mischievous, their owners will think this is cute and a sign of affection. This gives ginger tabbies much advantage over cats with different coats.
They Are Widespread
While not as common as brown or gray tabbies, ginger cats are still fairly widespread. Many owners choose to have orange tabbies for the reason we’ve mentioned before. Humans’ minds work in such a way that we think if everyone wants something, that something has to be great. Since a lot of people prefer orange kitties and choose to have them, we think this is for their personality.
They Are Popular
Let’s face it. Many famous cats are ginger tabbies. This first started with Jim Davis and his creation, the fat, orange tabby cat, Garfield. While his comic features cats with all fur patterns, none is as popular as the title character.
And how can anyone forget this chubby, lasagna-loving kitty? Despite him being portrayed as lazy, gluttonous, and somewhat grumpy, Garfield is none the less loveable. In fact, Jim Davies himself is known for telling this:
“In my head, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and cats are orange.”
This quote only further shows us how beloved and popular orange cats are.
Of course, famous orange tabby cats don’t stop at Garfield. Who can forget evil-looking Crookshanks, Hermione’s ginger cat from Harry Potter? Not to mention the womanizer Puss in Boots from Shrek 2, voiced by Antonio Banderas. And ginger Bob, who saved James Bowen from his drug addiction. Other popularized orange cats include:
- Jones, from Alien
- Milo, from Milo and Otis
- Orion, from Men in Black
- Spot, from Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Thomas O’Malley, from Aristocats
Even Winston Churchill wasn’t immune to the cuteness of ginger cats! He had his own orange tabby, called Tango.
Tabby cats even have a reference in Biblical history. According to the legend, one night when baby Jesus couldn’t sleep, an orange tabby came and comforted him. Cat purr and affection made such an impression on Jesus that holy Mother Marry kissed the kitty on the forehead. This left tabbies with the M-marking on their heads. Some retellings, however, state that Mary drew the M with her finger.
This is the only scientific explanation from the four, albeit even it isn’t entirely credible. According to all available research, the gene that gives cats orange color is carried on the animal’s X chromosome. At the same time, it is recessive. This means that if a female cat does happen to have this gene, it likely won’t show up on her coat. Chances are her X chromosome has some other, non-orange gene, which is dominant. When we have an XY chromosome, however, only one copy of this gene is required.
In other words, female cats are unlikely to be ginger. While this isn’t impossible, it’s very rare, and most orange tabbies are males. Only one out of five ginger kitties is a female. And, according to circumstantial evidence, male felines are more affectionate than females. So, the real reason why are orange tabby cats so affectionate might lie in their gender and not in color.
One Final Theory
Next to these four widely popular theories on the cause of orange cat’s affectionate nature, there is one more. This research was conducted by a cat expert, Dominique Pontier, in 1995. Pontier collected data on 30 French cat populations from years 1982 to 1992, with 56-491 cats from each population. When it comes to orange tabbies, he noticed three things:
- Orange cats weren’t as common in urban environments as in rural ones. This can influence a cat’s mating cycle. In a rural environment, male cats typically mate with numerous female cats, while most females have one mate.
- Orange cats aren’t popular in areas where they are more likely to die. This can mean that they are more careless than other cats, which is why they sometimes don’t reach adulthood.
- There is a greater sexual dimorphism with orange tabby cats compared to other cat breeds. Ginger males are typically larger than males of any other color, while females are smaller than females of other colors.
With all of this in mind, orange male cats seem to use different mating strategies than cats of different colors. This also influences their behavior. According to this research, some behavioral patterns, in a way, might be connected with their genes. Orange tabbies are usually more aggressive toward other male cats and are more prone to risky behavior, such as not willing to share a litter box. If so, why is it impossible to say that something in their genes influences their friendliness toward humans?
While there is nothing to prove this, some genetics of orange tabbies might be the cause of their affectionate behavior. For example, maybe orange cats, as they are bold, don’t fear humans and are more likely to approach them. This lack of fear can make them seem much closer to their owners.
While there is no exact reason why are orange tabby cats so affectionate, something about them makes them special. Whether it be their beautiful color or their popularity in movies and comics, everyone seems to love them. Scientists are still baffled by this and they still try to find any reason behind their friendly nature.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why ginger cats are so approachable. Whatever it is, the consequences remain the same. There is no denying that orange tabbies are one of the most popular household pets out there.