Are Orange Cats Always Male?

Key takeaway

Not all orange tabby cats are male. However, most of them are. Since cat coat color is dictated by genes, males only need one X chromosome with the orange gene to become orange. Additionally, all orange cats are tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange. Your cat’s fur color, length, and pattern are all linked to their interesting genetics.

It’s a common misconception that orange cats are always male. However, around 80% of them are.1 The color of a cat’s fur depends on genetics linked to their sex, so orange cats inherit their color from their mother, with female cats needing orange genes from both parents rather than one. Since male cats only need the orange gene from the mother, there are more orange male cats than females. On the other hand, most calico cats are female for the same reason – fur color depends on sex-linked genetics. 

As a pet parent, you have a natural curiosity about your pet. One day you might wonder, “Do cats see color?” and the next, you’ll ponder why your cat has a silly yet loving personality. Today, you might wonder how your cat got their beautiful coat color. Since a cat’s coat color is mostly linked with genetics, you may wish to know how your cat got their beautiful orange coat. This article will explore the topic of “Are orange cats always male?” more in-depth by discussing what determines coat color, how orange cats get their colors, and whether or not color influences a cat’s personality. 

What Determines A Cat’s Coat Color?

The X chromosome carries a gene for fur color

Coat color is a phenotype, a physical genetic trait of a cat, and phenotypes are closely linked to genetics. Female cats get one X chromosome from each parent. Male cats inherit the Y chromosome from the father and an X from the mother. Since the X chromosome has the orange coat color gene, and male cats only need one X chromosome from their mother to become orange, most orange cats are male.2 

Calico cats are almost always female because of these same genetics. Since female cats get two X chromosomes, one from each parent, they could have both the black coat color gene and the orange coat color gene. However, calicos can be male and orange cats can be female. These rare defects usually cause sterility in male cats but not in females.

How Do Orange Cats Get Their Color?

The orange color coat is sex-linked and found on the X chromosome. The gene B produces a red pigment called pheomelanin, a dominant trait. The B gene is in the X chromosome, where a male only has one, and a female has two. 

Male

How males get their coat color is much more straightforward since males have a Y chromosome that can’t carry the orange gene. Males only have a single X chromosome, which can carry the orange or black coat color gene.3 Because males only need one copy of the orange gene from the mother, they’re more likely to be orange than female kittens. 

Female

Can orange cats be female? Yes. However, the orange gene must come from both parents instead of only the mother.4 Since female cats have two X chromosomes, their body would have to inactivate one of them in every cell to not express double the amount of the X-linked phenotypes, leaving only one active X chromosome in female cats.3 This process, called lyonization, is random, so it’s impossible to predict which X chromosomes will be active and express the coat color. Ultimately, any cell could end up expressing traits from either chromosome, so it’s rare for females to be orange.5

For female cats to be orange, they need the B gene on both X chromosomes. However, since there are so many possible chromosome combinations, females are less likely to be orange. Meanwhile, males only need red, calico, or tortoiseshell mothers. But female cats need fully orange fathers with an orange, calico, or tortoiseshell mother. 

Are All Orange Cats Tabbies?

Orange tabby cat laying on top of fence

Tabby is a coat type, not a breed type. All orange cats are tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange. There’s a separate gene responsible for a cat’s coat pattern called the agouti gene, which can either be dominant or recessive. When the agouti gene is dominant, cats have a tabby pattern, and cats don’t have the tabby pattern when the gene is recessive.6 Solid-colored cats, like black cats, don’t have the dominant gene; instead, they have two recessive genes that prevent the tabby pattern from being expressed. However, the orange gene is dominant, so orange cats can’t be solid colors. 

Additionally, the coat markings are dark and light because of the two dominant genes, which could be O/Y or O/O in cats.7 Orange tabbies span many breeds, including the Persian and American Short Hair. 

As we’ve mentioned, all orange cats are tabbies, but not all tabbies are orange. Tabbies can have any coat color ranging from brown to gray, cream, and black. Orange tabbies are sometimes referred to as their own breed, but they can be many different types of breed, as orange refers to the coat color and tabby refers to the coat pattern. 

Does Coat Color Influence A Cat’s Personality?

Many people think a cat’s color influences their personality, which is why many people are afraid or suspicious of black cats, which have been stereotyped due to unfounded superstitions. However, no scientific backing suggests that cat colors influence how a cat behaves. Ultimately, any cat can be sweet and friendly or aggressive and fearful. Studies have been conducted to determine a correlation between coat color and personality, but they’ve had mixed results.8 

Orange cats are stereotyped as friendly and air-headed, with many cats in pop culture being orange tabbies, including Garfield. In a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, which consisted of 189 cat parent participants, it was found that pet parents were more likely to give positive personality traits to orange cats and less to white and tortoiseshells.9

Still, there’s no scientific evidence to back up these personality traits identified by pet parents. Instead, these are perceived traits rather than facts. Unfortunately, this can affect cats because some are perceived as friendlier than others. Cats in shelters waiting to be adopted may not be adopted because of these misconceptions, and dark cats were more likely to be euthanized.9

Black cats are less likely to be adopted, even though there’s no scientific evidence to prove they’re intolerant or aggressive. Unfortunately, cat coat color plays a key role in adoption, leaving many cats without homes because of factors beyond their control. Coat color has nothing to do with their personalities and more to do with their perceived personalities, which are based on inaccurate misrepresentations of cats. 

Any cat can have any personality, especially based on their experiences. For example, although orange tabbies are perceived to be friendly, they can still have fear-based aggression. Meanwhile, black cats that are perceived to be more antisocial can be the most loving pet in your household.  

Are Orange Cats Always Male?: FAQs

Are male orange cats infertile?

Orange male cats are not infertile because they don’t have any extra chromosomes that can affect fertility. However, male calicos and tortoiseshells are typically infertile because they get their coat color from an extra chromosome that affects their reproduction ability.2 Male calicos have two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome that causes sterility. However, orange females do not have the same reproductive issues since they can receive either a black or orange coat color gene. 

Are orange cats prone to obesity?

Unfortunately, orange cats tend to have more health issues than other cats. They can develop allergies that lead to skin issues and hair loss, but they’re most commonly known for their weight issues. Orange tabbies are prone to obesity because of their love of food. They also have friendly personalities, making them lazy lap cats, even though they still love to play. 

That being said, any cat can be prone to being overweight, especially if their pet parent is free-feeding them, allowing them to eat whenever they want, no matter how much they eat during each mealtime. Since ginger cats like to lay around, they’re able to put on weight faster than more active cats, so it’s important to monitor how much they eat to prevent weight gain and obesity. Every cat needs an active lifestyle, so orange tabby pet parents should try to engage their cats in play while feeding them a balanced diet. 

Why do orange cats get freckles?

Orange cats or those with the orange gene, including calicos and tortoiseshells, can get freckles, also known as lentigo. Lentigo is hyperpigmentation that progresses with age.10 Unfortunately, the cause of these freckles is unknown, but the condition is not harmful to cats. 

Headshot of orange Persian cat

Final Notes

Are all orange cats male? No. Are most orange cats male? Yes. Only about 20% are female, but it’s rare to find one. Cat coat colors and types are passed down from the parents, and most orange tabby cats are male. While all orange cats are tabbies, not all tabbies are orange, thus giving us the many coat colors of cats. 

Orange cats are known to be friendly and loving, but many suffer from health conditions, especially obesity. Talk to a Dutch vet if you’re wondering how to keep your orange tabby healthy throughout their lives. Our vets can help you form a diet and nutrition plan to prevent obesity in your cat, giving them a happier, healthier life. 

References

  1. “Are All Orange Tabby Cats Male?” Animalpath.org, 7 July 2022, https://animalpath.org/are-all-orange-tabby-cats-male/.

  2. “Table: Calico and Black and Orange Tortoiseshell Cats.” Merck Veterinary Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/multimedia/table/calico-and-black-and-orange-tortoiseshell-cats.

  3. The Genetics of Calico Cats, https://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/dox/calico.html.

  4. “X-Inactivation Marks the Spot for Cat Coat Color: Science Project.” Science Buddies, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/MamBio_p022/mammalian-biology/x-inactivation-cat-coat-color.

  5. Let's Talk Science, and March 17. “The Science behind the Calico Cat's Colours.” Let's Talk Science, 17 Mar. 2020, https://letstalkscience.ca/educational-resources/stem-in-context/science-behind-calico-cats-colours.

  6. “The Difference between Orange Cats & Tabby Cats?” Saving Orphan Souls, https://www.savingorphansouls.org/why-does-my-cat-bite-1.

  7. Schmidt-Küntzel, Anne, et al. “A Domestic Cat X Chromosome Linkage Map and the Sex-Linked Orange Locus: Mapping of Orange, Multiple Origins and Epistasis over Nonagouti.” Genetics, Genetics Society of America, Apr. 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2666509/.

  8. “Human Perceptions of Coat Color as an Indicator of Domestic Cat Personality.” Taylor & Francis, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175303712X13479798785779.

  9. Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations| October 23, and Yasmin Anwar. “Don't Be so Fast to Judge a Cat by Its Color, Study Warns.” Berkeley News, 21 July 2015, https://news.berkeley.edu/2012/10/23/cat-color/.

  10. “Image: Lentigo, Cat.” Merck Veterinary Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/multimedia/image/lentigo-cat.