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:
- Mellow and warm in nature – Franny Syufy (About.com)
- Laid back but unpredictable and can have a fiery temper – “shifty” character
- Docile and affectionate. Good mousers (hunters)
- Soft characters and laid back1
- 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)
- Strong personality (my assessment of Marvin)
What can we deduce from all this uncertainty? Four things:
- 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.
- Ginger cats are nearly always male.
- 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.
- 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.
Did you find this article useful and interesting? Can it be improved? Please tell me in a comment. I am always keen to improve the site for animal welfare and reader enjoyment.
- Messybeast.com – my thanks to Sarah Hartwell amongst others.
- And as stated in the text.