Ginger cats — also known as red, orange, or marmalade cats — are beloved around the world. Maybe it's their striking color or loving representation in pop culture (Garfield, anyone?). People love ginger cats!
Let's take a deep dive into these cats, their history, personality, what breeds produce red-haired felines, and everything else you'll want to know about these iconic cats.
What is a Ginger Cat?
A cat with beautiful orange hair. Yup, that's it. It doesn't specifically refer to a breed or type of cat; rather, if a cat has a coat that's a shade of orange, they're considered to be ginger. Other names for their distinct colored coat include red, orange, or marmalade.
Are Ginger Cats Rare?
Although the orange coat can appear in many breeds, a full ginger-colored cat isn't very common. It's more likely for cats to be a combination of red and other colors.
Additionally, because their coat color is linked to a cat's chromosomes, a large majority of ginger cats are male. According to Catster magazine, approximately 80% of ginger cats are male, and 20% are female. So, if you have a female with orange fur, that's definitely a rare cat!
Ginger Cats in History & Pop Culture
Ginger cats are probably most well-known for their place in history and pop culture. Here are some notable orange kitties (both real and fictional) throughout time:
- Ancient Egyptians may be responsible for domesticating the modern house cat, and they were particularly fond of ginger cats! There are paintings of ginger cats on the limestone walls of many tombs, and they look much like the sweet fireballs of love we know today.
- Winston Churchill, the famous British Prime Minister, was a big cat lover and owned a marmalade cat named Tango, which he often recounted stories about.
- Orangey, an orange ginger cat, was made famous by the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. The cat even went on to win a Patsy award, which is the Oscars for animals in films.
- Puss in Boots, the animated sword-wielding ginger cat from the Shrek franchise, is beloved by kids and adults alike. He even got his own movie, aptly named Puss in Boots, in 2011! An instant classic, indeed.
- The character Garfield, of comic and movie fame, might be the most famous ginger cat of them all. If it weren’t for Garfield, everyone would love Mondays and lasagna wouldn’t be as popular (wink wink).
Is a Ginger Cat a Breed?
Nope! These cats are defined only by the orange color of their coat. In fact, many breeds can produce a ginger colored hair. Though these cats are not a single breed, many of them seem to have similar characteristics and personalities.
What Gives Ginger Cats Their Color?
The key to their beautiful orange color lies in their genes and chromosomes. Although cats seem to come in a wide variety of colors, their coat colors are determined by a combination of only two colors: black and red.
The red color gene (called O) is a dominant gene carried in the X chromosome, and its presence determines if a kitty is red or not. Because O is a dominant gene, its presence in a cat will determine an orange phenotype.
Males kittens inherit one X and one Y chromosome from their parents, while females inherit two X chromosomes. Therefore, male kittens only need to inherit the O gene from their mother to be fully ginger, while female kittens need to inherit the O gene from both their mother and father. This makes it statistically more difficult to be a full ginger female cat, which is why they are much rarer.
What Breed of Cats Are Ginger?
Many cat breeds can produce full ginger cats! Here are a few of the most popular ginger cat breeds:
- American Bobtail: Characterized by a bobbed tail, fluffy cheeks, the American Bobtail has an affectionate nature and is great with kids.
- British Shorthair: A very popular family cat, the British Shorthair cat is both friendly and laid-back!
- Persian: The iconic cat most known for its long, silky hair, large eyes, and adorable smushed face.
- Maine Coon: A regal but rugged-looking cat that's also one of the largest cat breeds, Maine Coons can weigh almost 20 pounds!
- Munchkin: One of the cutest and smallest breeds, Munchkin cats are known for their delightful short legs.
- Bengal: A cat that looks like a miniature version of a Bengal tiger, with thick black stripes and a fiery orange coat
Are Ginger Cats Considered Tabby?
Yes, all ginger cats are tabby! This also has to do with genetics. The tabby pattern is determined by the agouti gene, but if a cat has a red coat, the non-agouti gene (which would make the coat solid) doesn't work.
In simpler terms, if you have one of these cats, the agouti gene is there, so your cat will have the distinct tabby "M" on their forehead and the associated stripes, whirls, or spots. In some cases, the tabby pattern may be so faint that the cat looks like a solid orange color, but upon closer inspection, you'll see the patterns of a tabby.
There are a number of tabby patterns that can be present in ginger cats:
- Classic: A bullseye or butterfly pattern on the sides and back of the coat
- Mackerel: Tabby pattern with stripes that look like a tiger
- Spotted: Tabby pattern with ovals or spots on the coat
- Ticked: A faint, speckled pattern on the coat and head; often mistaken as a solid-colored coat
- Patched: When the tabby stripes or spots are combined with other patches of solid color
What Kind of Personality Do Ginger Cats Have?
It's difficult to broadly generalize about the personality of a cat due to the color of their fur, but believe it or not - there have been studies on this topic!
Although you may think the orange fur implies a fiery or feisty personality, it's actually quite the opposite. According to a survey by the University of California, Berkeley, cat enthusiasts associated positive traits like being friendly, affectionate, and easy-going with ginger cats!
In general, ginger cats are warm-natured and wonderful house cats. However, take this with a grain of salt because all cats are different, and this association may depend more on the breed rather than the coat color.
How Long Do Ginger Cats Live?
The life expectancy of a ginger cat depends on a lot of factors, including breed, genetics, diet, exercise, and living conditions. So, it's difficult to pinpoint how long an orange tabby cat will live. However, if you properly care for your cat, they will live an average of 15 to 20 years.
If you want your cat to live a healthy and long life, remember these tips:
- Healthy diet: A nutritionally complete diet for cats will keep them healthy; you can add vitamins and supplements to their diet as well.
- Plenty of exercise: Make sure to give your cat lots of toys to give your cat exercise and keep them stimulated and play with them often.
- Indoors rather than outdoor: Indoor cats generally live longer than outdoor cats because outdoor cats face more dangers - like diseases, other animals, weather, and traffic
- Regular vet visits: By regularly visiting the vet, you will catch health problems early, so you can treat issues like obesity or diabetes before they become a bigger problem
Final Thoughts - Ginger Cats
How can you not love ginger cats? They're adorable, unique, and have been popular for thousands of years (yes, the Egyptians loved them!).
Here's what to expect when you get a ginger cat: you get Garfield, Puss In Boots, and Orangey. But not only that, you get a cat with a beautiful orange coat and striking tabby pattern, a loving and affectionate personality, and a friend for life.