Marvin, Dorothy’s red tabby boy has personality. He has a mind of his own. He is confident. That’s the impression, I have. I met a red tabby in Malta. His name is Fedo. He is a distinguished rescue cat. He had a bit of presence, if you know what I mean. Are people stereotyping cats of a certain colour or is it possible to match cat personality to coat colour? People certainly like to match personality to cat breed, which often leads to exaggerations.

In the cat world “ginger” is called “red”. So I am writing about red tabbies and red tabby and whites. Some people call them “orangies” or “yellow cats”.

Many people believe the ginger tabby cat is friendly and lovable. I believe that ginger cats are more laid back and have leadership qualities. That seems to be stretching things a bit. But is it? Apparently, ginger toms are more likely to lead feral groups because they are better fighters, which in turn is because they can be more aggressive1. This is the opposite to the “laid back” image of ginger cats. Confusing? Perhaps not. The two can go together. It is about confidence.

Due to sex linked genetics, ginger cats are nearly always male — ginger fur is caused by the orange gene O. The O is carried by the X chromosome. There is a difference between male and female cats. That is certainly a factor.


Search results on PoC for “cat personality” (opens a new window)


Why do people perceive ginger cats as having personalities that are very suited to being good human companions? Well not everyone does. Some people think ginger cats have the same temperament as redheaded people: fiery. The situation is a bit confused.

The first valid point is that if people believe red tabbies have nice personalities then that is enough in itself. People can imprint their beliefs onto something and make it true. For example, tortoiseshell cats are sometimes thought of as naughty. “Tortie” and “naughty” rhyme. Is that why people have come to believe that torties are naughty?

But are red tabbies really nice cats? How can coat colour affect character? Redheaded people are meant to be more sensitive to pain than other people. If this is true it means hair colour can be associated with some other aspect of the person/animal.

It is said that the gene that makes cats black also makes the cat more healthy. Once again genes affecting hair colour can affect other things. That at least opens the door to the possibility that red cats are likely to have a certain type of character because of the gene that makes their fur red.

My research indicates that there is no clear, hard evidence that ginger cats have a certain personality. We have to rely on what people have experienced, which may be coloured by preconceived ideas.

Here are some observations or thoughts by others on ginger cat personality:

  1. Mellow and warm in nature – Franny Syufy (About.com)
  2. Laid back but unpredictable and can have a  fiery temper – “shifty” character
  3. Docile and affectionate. Good mousers (hunters)
  4. Soft characters and laid back1
  5. Laid back and leadership qualities – “red cats are rarely aggressive with people. He is intelligent and shows this by rarely getting flustered even when total strangers are around. When it comes to his dealings with other cats he feels superior and so he is King” (from Martha Kane of Kitty Appeal in Malta)
  6. Strong personality (my assessment of Marvin)

What can we deduce from all this uncertainty? Four things:

  1. Irrespective of coat colour and pattern, each cat has his/her individual personality that has been formed through genetics (nature – inherited) and experiences (nurture). These factors have more impact on overall character than the colour of a cat’s coat if a cat’s coat cat can affect character, which is far from settled.
  2. Ginger cats are nearly always male.
  3. People like to associate a type of cat with a type of personality. If there is no true association between colour and character, they will create one even though they don’t realise it. It is the human way. Perhaps it is a way of creating stereotypes, which creates certainty out of chaos. People don’t like chaos. They like routines and certainties just like cats.
  4. Taking all the anecdotal evidence together, it seems that red tabbies tend to have strong personalities. They are confident cats that allow them to be more relaxed (laid back) than average but which also provides them with the ability to be dominant when needed.

Refs:

  1. Messybeast.com – my thanks to Sarah Hartwell amongst others.
  2. And as stated in the text.
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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    • She is a good size female. The male Maine Coon's can get huge. I love orange cats. They have the best personalities. However, at least where I am, they are hard to find. We have a new cat with 4 colors but found out she is called a Torbie. I do not know how to upload the picture.

      • Torbies a mixture of tabby and tortoiseshell. They are relatively rare. You can upload the photo. Look below the comment box and you will see a button. Thanks for commenting Jackie.

    • But look at her. She has too much white. ;)she looks like she has too much claw to hold you. I'm guessing that you would NEVER do that to her. :D. Good. She is beautiful. And so are you.

  • I know it's anecdotal, but my perceptions of various types/color coats of cats going back 20 years have fallen in line with other people's. I had no idea at the time, but it's uncanny. To a small degree I believe it's selective. For example: I used to have a British Leyland Triumph TR6 sports car (year 1971). After I acquired it, owned it for many years and fell in love with it, I seemed to notice more of them on the road. There may not have been, my impression was that there were. So I know that perhaps that the personality qualities I've seen in red cats and torties, etcetera might not be as heavily correlated as I thought, but they still might. It's not just a perception at this point because I've studied cats as empirically as possible and second-guessed myself to be sure. There's enough evidence to support certain tendencies in types of cats. It's just too uncanny that I've heard the same comments from other people that I've said myself, not knowing at the time that there might be such coincidences.

  • Hi there my cat is missing for a week and a bit I don't understand why he is a Ginger and white tabby he would always be at home ,he's a house and now I don't know why cat run away from house can they get lost? How do they found them self home? He's very friendly and scared of other people.

    • Hi Ivana, I am very sorry to hear he has gone missing. It is something that worries me because I let my cat go outside. There are all kinds of reasons why he has not come back. I hate to say it but one reason is that he may have been injured or killed. Forgive me for saying that. Another is that he knows another home which he visits and he may be there. Sometimes, rarely, cats go and live in the wild. They can't help themselves. In multi-cat households sometimes a cat is upset by other cats and so he leaves. He may come back. Have you asked people in the neighborhood if they have seen him or left a poster in the area? Have you called your local animal or cat rescue shelter? He may be there. Is he microchipped? That will help. I wish you the very best of luck in finding him. Thanks for posting.

    • Sehr interessant, beautiful. But. My cat is just as beautiful... Whadyathink? His name is Shrimp. Shrimptaro. He's on my right calf right now, asking to be fed. Big, solid NO! Do not feed
      your Ginger Tabby, when she/he asks. He will love you later. <3

      • Wow wish Marc Could see this. Looks a little Like Red. She is beautiful :) Maybe Michael your Next Cat Should be a Ginger :)

      • Maybe there is. I just found they are different to Tabby Cats and other types of Cats. Rebel is the Only Ginger I had. Well Apart from Jasmine who has a little bit. As seen in Here. :)

  • I think it's more likely that personality comes from the breeding and the cat's upbringing rather than what colour the cat is, if any this must play a very small part.

    • Yes, totally agree. It is much more about the usual influences; the biggest factor probably being how the cat was raised which is different for each cat irrespective of the coat color.

    • My pleasure. Harvey Harrison lives in Northern Cyprus (part of Turkey) and lives with a large group of cats which are Turkish Angoras and Vans - the original ones not the like the ones created in America. They are beautiful cats.

  • Hi Dorothy. Bigfoot looks to be an impressive cat. He seems have a red or brown tinge in his coat. Karan has a litter brother called Kyros who has not had good health for a long time but os doing very well now. I think it's because his immune system has kicked in rather than all the treatments he got. Lot's of good food and a happy environment would have helped him too. I notice he has formed a loving relationship with a solid red stray tom I call Rufus. They go everywhere together and constantly rub up and groom each-other. Strange how Kyros' recovery coincided with this relationship.

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