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Are All Orange Tabby Cats Male? What Statistics Say

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

orange tabby cat standing on wooden floor

If you know about cats or are a cat parent, you might have heard rumors that all orange tabby cats are male. That rumor, however, is not exactly correct. All orange tabby cats are not male, although the vast majority, about 80%, are of the male persuasion. However, this also means that 20% of orange tabbies are female, which is no small number.

Are you curious as to why most orange tabby cats are male, what causes this, and other facts about why some colors of cats are mostly male and some primarily female? If so, read on! Below, we’ve got the answers to these questions and several more, plus fascinating facts and other tidbits of info.

Color and Sex are Closely Linked in Cats

If you remember high school biology (which was admittedly difficult for many of us), you likely learned that two chromosomes determine the sex in mammals: the X and the Y chromosome. Cats, like all mammals, have other chromosomes as well, and in other mammals, those different chromosomes determine attributes like their hair color, size, shape, and other physical features.

In cats, however, the X chromosome also carries the information for hair color. The X chromosome carries two genes, known as alleles. An allele gene can have variants, and the hair color allele on the X chromosome can be either black or orange. It can’t be both at the same time, however.

How Cat Colors are Created

orange tiger cat tabby cat
Credit: nicholas diaz saavedra, Shutterstock

Since male cats (and other male mammals) only carry one X chromosome (XY), a male cat can be black or orange but not both. However, because she is XX, a female cat can have orange fur as well as orange and black fur, which would make her a calico. The chart below makes it much easier to see what’s happening at the chromosomal level.

Chrom. X Chrom. X Chrom. Y Cat Color Cat Sex
Orange No color Orange Male
Orange Orange Orange Female
Orange Black Calico Female
Orange Black No Color Calico Male (very rare)

A male cat will always be a combination of the X and Y chromosome. If he has an orange X chromosome, he will be orange. This circumstance happens over 80% of the time, which is why 80%+ of all orange cats are male. For a female to be orange, she would need to have two orange Xs, which is rare enough that less than 20% of orange cats are female.

Extrapolating this a little further, since all female cats are XX, and X can be either orange or black, an even higher number of calico cats are female than orange tabby cats are male. Studies have determined that less than one out of every 1,000 kittens is born a male and a calico. Indeed, for a male to be calico, he would need to be XXY, which is super-rare and unnatural, usually caused by an anomaly in the mother cat when she’s pregnant.

Most Orange Tabby Cats are Male

a close up of an orange tabby cat
Image Credit: Sam Chang, Unsplash

Whatever the chromosomal case might be, the result is that most orange tabby cats are male. If you have a female orange tabby cat, you should consider yourself lucky because there are very few. Then again, whether male or female, most orange cats are friendly and well-behaved. You may have noticed that some of the most famous cats are orange, including the comic cat Garfield, Milo from The Adventures of Milo and Otis, and Morris, the 9 Lives cat food cat.

What Is the Rarest Color for a Cat?

Although orange tabby cats are male over 80% of the time, and calico cats are almost always female, these two colors and combinations aren’t the rarest in the cat world. That color is albino, which comes from two recessive genes that the lucky albino cat gets from both its mother and father cat. Some of the other rare colors in the cat world include the following:

  • Chocolate
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Lilac
  • Cream
  • Silver
  • Rosette
  • Black smoke

Amazingly, orange is one of the most common cat colors. Also, there are four variations of orange coat, including the classic, which is swirled. There’s also striped (aka mackerel), ticked (aka agouti), and spotted. Once your orange tabby hits about a year old, you might also notice that black freckles, called lentigo, start to form around their mouths. The good news is that, aside from being super cute, lentigo poses no health risks to your orange tabby.

Are Orange Tabby Cats Special?

orange tabby cat on pavement beside a plant
Image Credit: Matheus Guimarães, Pexels

All cats are unique, with unique colors, patterns, and personalities. However, many cat fanciers believe orange cats show more affection than cats of other colors. One reason for this is thought to be that most orange tabby cats are male and male cats are typically more easygoing than female cats.

Some cat experts have speculated that orange tabby cats are more socially dominant than cats of other colors. This dominance is thought to occur more in rural areas where cats are scarcer, and females have less choice of mates (since most orange cats are males). In urban areas, however, the tables are turned, and orange tabby cats have less chance of mating, especially due to fighting with other males and other factors that increase their chance of being killed.

However, there haven’t been enough research projects about orange tabby cats to say without a doubt whether they are more or less special than cats of other colors. Also, bias plays a role, as someone with an orange tabby is more likely to say that it’s special than that it’s not.

Which Color Cat Is the Friendliest?

Amazingly, when it comes to another factor about cats, friendliness, orange tabby cats again have the edge over other cat colors. In 2012, for example, a study at the University of California, Berkeley, found that orange cats were considered the friendliest. Another study at the University of California Davis revealed some more interesting news about cat colors and friendliness, including:

  • Grey and white female cats are the most aggressive with vets
  • Orange tabby cats were rated as the least aggressive at home
  • Black and white cats reacted the most negatively when handled
  • Female orange cats were more aggressive in most circumstances

Now, to be sure, your particular cat might be the sweetest cat on planet earth, no matter what color it happens to be. How you socialize your cat as a kitten has a lot to do with how they act as adults. More socialization usually leads to a calmer, friendlier cat that’s OK with being handled. A cat that doesn’t get enough TLC as a kitten might be the opposite.

How Long do Orange Tabby Cats Live?

orange tabby eating dry cat food in a bowl
Image Credit: Kabo, Unsplash

You’ll be glad to know that orange tabby cats generally live a long life, between 15 and 20 years. Of course, feeding them healthy food, engaging with them, and keeping your cat safe from toxins and other risky situations will help. Indoor cats typically live longer than outdoor cats due to the dangers of being outside, including sicknesses, attacks by wild animals, car accidents, and unethical humans.

Do Orange Tabby Cats have More Health Issues?

Statistically speaking, orange tabby cats do not have more health problems than most other cat colors. When it comes to health problems in cats, their breed is much more likely to be a cause of health issues than their color. Indeed, if you look at the list of most unhealthy cats (below), you’ll find that none are orange tabby cats.

Are Orange Tabby Cats Known to be Clingy?

While some might label them more friendly, other cat people call orange tabby cats “clingy.” They note, for example, that their favorite orange feline is always underfoot, stays in whatever room they happen to be in, and always asks for more attention. Like friendliness, however, most cat parents show more than a bit of bias when it comes to their cat, so determining if all orange tabby cats are clingy isn’t easy. Anecdotal evidence points to orange cats enjoying their humans’ company.

Final Thoughts

Are all orange tabby cats male? No, but most of them are, about 8 out of 10. That’s because, to be an orange, male tabby cat, all you need is one X chromosome with the orange allele, and you’re in! Females need two X chromosomes, and both need to have the orange allele, which is much more challenging to produce, biologically speaking.

Hopefully, the information we’ve provided today has answered your questions and provided insight into why most orange tabby cats are male. No matter the color of your cat, treat it like the special part of your family it is, and we guarantee you’ll always have a good friend to keep you company.

Featured Image Credit: foaloce, Shutterstock

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