Domesticated cats have been around for over 10,000 years. They were first valued as pets in the Middle East when villagers saw the need to control the rodent population eating their grain storages. The ancient cat looked very different in comparison to today’s cat. Because of human preference in breeding, cats’ looks have changed over the years. Enter orange cats, aka ginger cats.
According to studies, these green-eyed, medium fur-length cats are very popular with cat owners, making them one of the favorite cats to own.
Why are they orange?
Ginger cats have an orange fur color due to a dominant pigment called pheomelanin. This is the same pigment that causes humans to have red hair. Similar to humans, the pigment produces different shades of ginger color depending upon the amount of pheomelanin in a cat’s fur. The intense ginger colors reveal there’s more pigment present. Orange cats may have shades of red, yellow, orange, and even cream colors mixed in their fur. There are often white spots intermixed with the orange fur giving their fur unique patterns.
Orange cats have four distinct coat patterns:
- Classic or swirled: These cats have a dark swirled pattern on their dark orange coat, usually around their midsection
- Striped or mackerel: These cats look like tigers and have an “M” on their forehead.
- Spotted: These cats look like they have spots, stripes, or swirls that are broken up.
- Ticked: This kitty has a solid ginger color, but with a speckled pattern
What are the other names for orange cats?
Orange cats are also called tabbies, though not every tabby cat is orange. Most people don’t know to use the word “tabby” just for cats that are distinctively orange with characteristic coat markings rather than for a breed. Literally, the word “tabby” comes from the French word for taffeta, a type of silk material. The use of the phrase “tabby cat” first started in the 1690s. Other names for an orange cat include red tabby cat, marmalade cat, or ginger cat.
Why are orange cats so special?
Just ask any orange cat owner why their cat is so special and they are apt to give you a long list of reasons. Here are just a few of the reasons why these beautiful cats are so well-loved by cat lovers.
Not a breed, but a color
Orange cats are defined by their color, but they aren’t a distinct breed of cat. Many orange cats are mixed breeds, but you can have tabbies in purebred cats. There are certain purebred cats that have a pale body with tabby coloring and orange markings on their face like tabbies. The breeds that can have ginger colorings and markings include Maine Coon, Persian, American Bobtail, and the British Shorthair cats.
Ginger cats are predominantly male. The orange tabby’s fur color occurs when a sex-linked gene with the X chromosome makes the orange color. Only 1 in 5 ginger cats are female, making them unique pets to own.
Loved by a prime minister
Winston Churchill, the well known prime minister who led Great Britain to victory during WWII, owned several orange cats. Tango, his first orange cat, was his faithful companion throughout the war. It was said that Churchill kept his ginger cat, Tango, with him during meetings to strategize about the war, often feeding and talking to the cat during these historic discussions. Another well-loved orange cat, Jock, was at Churchill’s bedside when he died.
Legend of the M
The oral history of Mary states that the marking on ginger tabbies is because there was an orange cat at Jesus’ birth. Supposedly, this orange cat helped him fall asleep. Like other legends, the story has grown over the years. Today’s version of the story has expanded to Mary, Jesus’ mother, touching the cat on the forehead to give it a blessing for helping her out. So storytellers explain that is why orange cats have an “M” on their forehead to represent Mary.
Part of the attraction of ginger tabbies is their sweet, easy-going personality. Happy and easy to please, they are considered almost dog-like in temperament. These orange cats are so cute and loveable, it’s hard not to like them. But they also possess other great qualities that their owners rave about, including
- Boldness: They’re brave and will approach situations eagerly.
- Courage: These cats are good hunters and don’t back down from a fight, even if it’s with a mouse.
- Mavericks: Orange tabbies don’t like to be told what to do. Although they love to cuddle, they can be independent at times.
Vote for tabby
Who says a cat can’t be involved in politics? One famous orange cat was elected mayor of a small town in Alaska in 1998. What started out as a joke when Stubbs’ name was written on a ballot during the mayoral election, turned into one town’s love story with a cat. Stubbs, a ginger tabby, served as honorary mayor from his cozy office at Nagley’s General Store where customers could pet him. Supposedly he drank catnip laced water every day out of a special wine goblet. Stubbs was the town’s honorary mayor until 2017 when he died at the ripe old age of twenty.
The eyes have it
Orange cats typically have golden or green eyes. The eye color is because of the pheomelanin, the same pigment responsible for their orangish coat color.
The Hollywood cat
Of course, orange tabbies are also famous in Hollywood. Back in the 1970s, a well-known cat food commercial hosted a large tabby called Morris. The first Morris started life in an animal shelter in Chicago. He was adopted and trained to be used in commercials. Morris was well-loved by people across America for many years. The amazing part of the story is that after the original Morris died, subsequent Morrises used in the commercials were all shelter cats.
Ginger tabbies are also famous for having freckles. The little black spots show up on their chin and the upper edge of their lip. Some people don’t notice these little dark freckles unless they’re close to the tabby’s face.
About Feeding Your Orange Cat
Orange cats love to eat and If you aren’t careful, your tabby will gain weight. Never leave food out for your tabby, because they will eat all day. Obesity in cats is a problem. Similar to humans, cats can develop health issues from being overweight like feline diabetes, cancer, and joint damage. Keep your sweet tabby at a good healthy weight by following these tips.
Skip the kibble
Cats should eat meat. Dry kibble doesn’t have enough protein to satisfy your cat. Dry food also has more carbohydrates, which causes weight gain in cats.
Read the labels
Be sure to read the cat food labels before you buy the food There should be a statement marked on the can from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) saying the food is completely balanced and meets all your cat’s nutritional needs. Some generic cats foods lack this stamp of approval, so beware.
Homemade foods warning
If you decide you want to give your tabby a homemade food diet, be sure to talk to your vet. They can advise you on what your cat needs food-wise. Your vet may suggest that you also give your cat vitamins and supplements to guarantee they are getting the proper nutrition.
Some human foods are deadly for cats. Be careful feeding your pet off the plate at meals. Avoid giving your cat these foods.
- Yeast bread
- Dairy products
Safe human foods for your cat
Your cat can safely eat many human foods. Just be sure to discuss your cat’s nutritional needs with your vet. Here is a list of safe human food your cat will enjoy.
- Fish oils
It’s important to keep your cat well hydrated. Many cat owners found that a cat water fountain is best for cats because they like moving water. Cat water fountains are easy to use and encourage your cat to stay hydrated more than a water bowl. The canned cat food has some water in it, but don’t depend upon it to do the job.
Watch kitty’s weight
Cats aren’t known for their energetic disposition, but orange cats are so laid back they can be seen as lazy. This may contribute to their easy weight gain. If you’re looking for a lively pet who will play with you from sunup to sundown, a ginger tabby isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a sweet-tempered, easy-going cat who likes to cuddle up on the couch while you binge-watch movies, the tabby is your go-to pet.
Orange tabbies are sweet, good-natured cats that possess beautiful orange coated fur. Deemed as the preferred cat to own, ginger cats are unique due to their coloring, markings, and because most of them are male. If you are lucky enough to own one of these tabbies, you’ll enjoy a cuddly, laid back pet who simply loves hanging out with you all the time.