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Orange Tabby Cat: Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

Emma Stenhouse Profile Picture

By Emma Stenhouse


If you’re dreaming of getting a cat, then the classic orange tabby coloration may be one of the first images that springs to mind. If you want to bring your very own Garfield home, the good news is that there are many different options. Whether you refer to them as orange, red, or ginger, these adorable cats are sure to steal your heart.

If you’re ready to find out more about orange tabby cats and their personality, we’ve got you covered!

Are Orange Tabby Cats a Breed?

Tabby markings, including orange, are one of the most common coat patterns in domestic cats. But it’s not a breed!

There are many different breeds of cat that can be orange tabby, including:
  • British Shorthair
  • American Bobtail
  • Maine Coon
  • Bengal
  • Turkish Angora
  • Abyssinian
  • Munchkin
  • Persian
Credit: ksuha scherbakova, Shutterstock

Types of Orange Tabby Cat

Orange tabby cats come in five main patterns:
  • Classic tabby. This tabby pattern has wide swirls of darker coloration along the sides of the cat, with barring on the legs and tail. The tummy is paler but may still have tabby markings. Some cats will have cute dark “button” markings on their chests. The face has stripes on the cheeks, and a classic distinct M on the forehead, with lines running down the neck and onto the back.
  • Mackerel tabby. A tabby with this pattern has narrow and parallel stripes running along their bodies. They should be evenly spaced and branch away from a darker stripe along the cat’s spine. The mackerel name comes from the fact that the stripes look a little like the skeleton of a fish. They have the same facial markings as a classic tabby.
  • Spotted tabby. Spotted tabbies have either large or small spots all over their sides. These can be circular or oval in shape. They have barring on their legs and chest. Their faces have classic tabby markings.
  • Ticked tabby. This pattern is also sometimes called the Agouti or Abyssinian tabby. These cats don’t have distinct areas of different colored hair, and at first glance, they don’t always look like a tabby at all! Ticked tabby cats do have classic tabby markings on their faces, although these may be subtle. They also have something called agouti hairs. These individual hairs are striped with bands of dark and light color.
  • Patched tabby. These tabby cats are more often called tortoiseshell, or tortie, tabby cats. Not all tortoiseshell cats have tabby coloration, but those that do will have patches of red and brown tabby markings. The markings may be more subtle on their bodies and more visible on their faces and legs. Tortoiseshell cats with tabby markings are sometimes called torbies.

Why do orange tabby cats have an M on their forehead?

Most orange tabby cats have the classic facial markings on their foreheads that look like an M. There are a few different myths around how this came to be — and of course, the actual science is a little less interesting!

Some legends say that the M stands for either Mary or Muhammed, depending on if the religion is Christianity or Islam. It’s said that the cats were stroked on the head, and the M was left there as a reminder.

Egyptian legends suggest that the M stands for “Mau,” which is Egyptian for cat. Others say that the M developed because tabby cats spent so long staring at holes in the wall where those elusive mice live!

The truth is that tabby cats have been wearing an M on their foreheads for many centuries, and it’s the result of their DNA, which controls their coat pattern. It may have been a camouflage mechanism when they spent their days hunting among the grass before they were fully domesticated.

Image Credit: redwineandyou, Shutterstock

Are all orange tabby cats male?

Not all of them, but it’s true that the vast majority of orange tabby cats will be male. There’s a 75% chance that an orange tabby cat will be male, due to the fact that they only need to inherit one copy of the gene for this coat color for it to be expressed.

Female orange tabby cats need two copies of the gene for this coat color, so there’s less chance of them having this coat color.

Do all orange tabby cats have freckles?

If you already have an orange tabby cat, you may have noticed they have incredibly cute dark freckles on their nose and mouth. Many orange tabby cats develop these freckles by the time they’re 2 years old, and it just makes them even cuter!

Not all orange tabby cats will develop freckles, though, so if you’re bringing home a new kitten, you’ll have to wait and see if they get freckles.

What sort of personality do orange tabby cats have?

The personality of your orange tabby cat is more likely to be influenced by their breed than their coat color. A Maine Coon orange tabby is going to have a different personality than a British Shorthair orange tabby. It’s always a good idea to do your research and find out which breed is going to suit your home. The good news is that if you’ve got your heart set on bringing home an orange tabby kitten, there are so many different breeds that have this color, you won’t have any trouble finding your perfect match!

Often, orange tabby cats are affectionate and loving. Male cats in general are often bond strongly with their owners, and male orange tabby cats are no exception.

Are orange tabby cats healthy?

For the most part, yes. The health of your cat will be in part determined by their breed. Make sure to ask any breeder with kittens that you’re interested in to give you a full rundown of the most common health conditions that can affect the breed. They should be happy to provide you with health tests from the parent cats and allow you to meet the parent cats.

There’s plenty that you can do as a cat owner to maximize the health of your kitten when they come home. Make sure you keep up to date with vaccinations, regular treatments for fleas or worms, and any other medication that your cat might need.

Feed them the best quality food that you can, and always choose one that’s been formulated to meet the life stage of your cat. You can transition from kitten food to an adult cat food once your cat reaches their first birthday. Check that any brand that you’re interested in states that it meets the nutritional profiles laid out by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Always choose a food with real meat as the first ingredient and a high percentage of protein.

Creating a suitable home with plenty of enrichment for your orange tabby cat is also essential. Make sure to offer scratching posts, toys, and vertical interest, like shelves or cat trees. You might decide to train your cat, which is a great way of keeping their minds active, as well as their bodies.

Famous orange tabby cats

With such an iconic coat color, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of examples of orange tabby cats in books, films, and more. Here are a few of our favorites!

  • Garfield
  • Puss in Boots from “Shrek”
  • Crookshanks from “Harry Potter”
  • Oliver from Disney’s “Oliver and Company”
  • Thomas O’Malley from “The Aristocats”
  • Orangey from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Wrapping it up

Orange tabby cats are one of the most classic cat colors that we can think of. They can have a wide range of different personalities, and this depends more on their breed than their coat color. If you’ve got a story to tell about your orange tabby cat, we’d love to hear from you!

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Featured Image Credit: Nicholas Diaz Saavedra, Shutterstock

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