Red Tabby Cats
Do red tabby cats have a certain personality? And why are they nearly always male? The answer to the first question cannot be that scientific as it is based on observation while the second is a question of cat genetics, an almost impenetrable science! Incidentally red or cream (diluted red) coloured cats are always tabby cats even though the tabby pattern might be very faint. This is because a red cat is red (orange) because it has an orange pigment in its hair strands called phaeomelanin. The gene that produces a solid colour, the non-agouti gene, does not work on the pigment phaeomelanin. By default the agouti gene that produces the banding in hair strands of the tabby cat works on phaeomelanin, resulting in the tabby pattern1. Red tabby cats are often called orange cats or ginger cats. Marmalade (after the tabby orange pattern), yellow, butter, caramel, or butterscotch are also used to describe this cat.
Red Tabby Cat Personality
Franny Syufy says that red tabbies are mellow and warm in nature in tune with the colour of their coats. She also says that they tend to be dominant, alpha males. Another expert2 says that they can have fiery temperaments reflecting the idea that red headed humans have hot tempers. I have never had the pleasure of living with an orange cat so I asked a cat expert who has kindly provided her own observations on a fine red tabby cat, Fredu (Maltese for Freddie). Martha Kane rescues cats as your probably know. Fredu lives with her amongst the other cats she cares for. Martha says this about Fredu:
“About Fredu …well, he is the sweetest thing alive when it comes to me and he is always first for my affection but then real 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. I wouldn’t say that he fights for his territory but he doesn’t wander far away from it, lest someone decided’s to take his place. Food is important to him but affection comes first and he will gladly walk away from his dinner if it means an extra cuddle from me. All in all I would say that like most ginger cats he’s a gentle giant and he lets most of the other cats share his space just as long as they know who’s boss. Health wise, going by my experience alone I would say that red cats are quite a sturdy lot and live for quite a good many years with very few serious ailments.
Ummm…well, this fits very accurately the thoughts of Franny Syufy. This is not conclusive, of course, but it provides a nice little bit of confirmatory information based on first had experience that I would rate highly. It is also said the calico cats have a certain personality.
Red Tabby Cats Are Male
This is about cat genetics again, unfortunately. I’ll briefly quote Robinson’s Genetics if I may, “All of the..red tabby cats display the sex-linked orange gene O. The O is carried by the X chromosome. The male has only one X chromosome. The female has two X chromosomes3. For a male cat to be red his X chromosome must carry the O gene. For a female to be red both X chromosomes must carry the O gene (homozygous). The latter is rarer than the former so there are more male red tabby cats than female red tabbies4. Phew..I think I got that right…! Oh, calico cats (tortoiseshell and white cats) are almost always female. Do you want to know why? Please see: Calico Cats.
1. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu
2. Sarah Hartwell
3. Robinsons Genetics 4th edition page 51
The picture of Fedu was taken be me in Malta. The red cast on one side of the body is from a red tarpaulin. The typical Maltese stone is in the background.
How rare are female tabbies? I adopted my cat, Redsie, a few weeks ago and she is beautiful. Unfortunately, I’m not her favorite person. She loves my husband and, I guess, that’s okay
Female tabbies are not rare. Red tabbies are rarer than brown. Cats do have their own preferences as you say. There is something about your husband that she likes. It is no reflection on you. Things might change anyway. I have heard this before: cats liking the husband. Although it is not uncommon for the husband to be less enthusiastic about cats than the wife. Thanks for sharing Rosalie.
My cat Timmy is my best friend already. I have only had him 2 weeks but he has grown to be my buddy.he talks to me .gives me heck when I do something foolish.he is very smart.
I love red tabbies. He’ll bring you tons of joy and some sadness over his lifetime. Thanks for commenting.
This is my daughter’s amazingly smart Red (& white) 7yrs.old. His name is Bailey, but nick-named “Daddy cat” because he runs the house.He actually plays hide-n-seek with my daughter and often, he leads the trail to the kitchen to eat with the other two cats following.He usually is the one who alerts us when the food dish is empty. He likes to “body-slam” us when he wants attention and a few months ago, he’s started giving out kisses too, when he feels affectionate. Sometimes he is chatty too, for no particular reason…he like to talk to both the humans and the other cats. He’s very affectionate to a smaller female tabby who is very submissive to him and Bailey is very playful and friendly to a younger male but he does invoke his dominance over him. All cats get along very well, but it’s clear that Bailey is boss!
Thanks a lot Barbie for sharing.
Hello. I too, have a rare orange female cat, named Bella; when I adopted her, she was 9 months old and while playful and affectionate, she still hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea of sitting in my lap…she is rather shy at times, but now that I have a new sweet Calico kitten named Kelly, she seems to be warming up even more…before these two, i had the most beautiful, delicate, well behaved Abyssinian-tabby mix, whom i cherished for over 17 years …delicate, playful and she would suddenly materialize in my lap…and there was not one night in all of our 17 years together that she would not sleep with me…of course, i got her at around 2 months old, so she fully bonded with me…My Bella is sweet, but it seems to take longer for her to come ’round…and my kitten, who i adopted at 3 months, (and who coincidentally was born on my birthday) is much more cuddly, though she does not often cuddle with me when i sleep…i eagerly await the day when both of them do so…but then again, knowing how cats will always sleep in the dead center of the bed, there would be no room for me!
Loved your comment, Brian. As you say the silver lining is that you have more space to sleep in. My cat sometimes sleeps with me (when he is not out hunting!) and he affects my sleep. I protect him and don’t want to disturb him. This prevents me from moving and I like to move a bit. Bella has her own character I guess. Each to their own. I can tell that you are a very loving cat caretaker. She should come around.
My red tabby Ginger is my first pet. She adopted us when she walked to our home in October of 2013. Her personality is very dominant. We have a feral cat colony this year and she doesn’t like it, in fact she chases the cats out of the yard. She doesn’t like to share anything. She is also aggressive with me when she is playing. If I don’t pay attention to her and she wants to play, she jumps up and bites me. Any thoughts on this?
I think the aggressiveness when playing is because she wavers between play with you (domestication) and aggression (uncertainty due to lack of socialisation when a kitten). It is like a switch. The root cause is a lack of good socialisation making her not wholly suited to the human environment. That said, well done in caring for her.
They say that ginger cats tend to be more dominant which might also enhance the chances of her being more aggressive. There is a page on ginger cat personality.
Thanks for visiting and asking.
I currently have 3 red tabby toms. Two of them are littermates from a red tabby pussycat belonging to my daughter here in Maine. She brought them to me as a birthday gift after I lost my last male cat (a grey tabby, age 21 years and 4 months). I have a very strong affection for cats, especially tomcats.
Sandy and Andy were about 2 months old at the time and lew with her to St Louis, MO, where I then lived. They did very well and got along well with their much older female housemates. They also made friends with a feral black tomcat who my husband and I had been trying to tame before the death of my older males and my husband. He was fascinated to watch me play with the kittens and after a couple of months, when I had them outside and had to run inside for a ringing phone, when I came back out, Oliver, the big black boy was entertaining them by having them chase his tail. He weighed about 18 pounds, the kittens were about three or four pounds at this time. Oliver also became petable not long after this I’d fed him for almost 7 years, though we had to be outside and near the food bowls for petting. He also learned to come inside to use a litter box when it was wet or snowy, and would sleep inside on a chair downstairs if it was really cold and/or wet. He also had two outside beds, one on the screened in back porch and one in the garage, where I left the door cracked open for him. Unfortunately he died about 6 months before I moved to Maine with the other cats. He was at least 12 years old by then.
Thank you, Juanita, for sharing your charming experiences with us. I enjoyed reading your comment.
This is Som, a young Red Tabby Female, I love Tabby coloring because it only exists in the cat world, makes them special, red even more so.
Beautiful cat, Alan, and a nice photograph too. Such a glorious coat and super-long whiskers. She looks very healthy.
Oh, how I love and miss my red tabby! Her name is Peanut. She has a sweet, and yet no-nonsense air about her. Loyalty describes her well also, and she was a great mama to her one litter of kittens. Living on a beautiful ranch with her brother, and Great Pyrenees dogs, and goats, and me, she was the queen! Even the dogs listened to her!
Hello. You probably know that about 80% of cats with red tabby coats are males. I guess that makes your Peanut slightly rare. Thanks for visiting and sharing.
Thank you! She is really special, but I didn’t know how rare she was until today! Thank you for sharing the percentage.
I do hope she’s okay. She got away from my son when he had her in town, almost 8 months ago 🙁 Makes me sad, but I hope she has a loving home
Please don’t post this! I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that about what happened to her. I don’t want to get anyone upset. Please feel free to delete the last part, or all of it, if you wish. Part of the problem was that there was a health crisis going on, I ended up in another state, it was a busy walmart parking lot where she got out at, and I lost hope…there was too much going on, and I feel such grief over losing her, and not being able to do anything…
I wouldn’t worry, Shemen.
I love your name Shemen.
I named my son Shem.
Thank you ! Your son has a great name!
Shemen, you’re not the first person to have ever lost a cat by circumstances.
As sweet as you describe, Peanuts may well have become part of another family.
I’m sorry for your loss; but, she may be happy right now. I hope so.
Thank you for your kind comments! I do hope she has a loving home also.
We have two red tabby cats. One is named Ibanez, yes, after the guitar, and B.H. Nubbins (Bush Hog, because we found him hiding under the deck of our bush hog). Ibanez will be 13 years old this April. Nubbins is a bob-tail cat, and VERY huge, he must weigh 15 pounds, and very sweet. Ibanez is an ‘old man’, and is now eating soft cat food. They are not our only cats, but, since this site is about reds, I thought I’d share this with you!! They are very smart cats, and are very much loved!!!
Hello Tracie, nice to hear from you. It seems that you have some beautiful cats. Nubbins seems to be a very interesting cat. If you have a photograph that is not too large in size you might wish to upload it into a comment. Thanks for visiting and sharing.
I just lost my almost 15 yr old red tabby, Finnegan, three weeks ago. He was the sweetest, smartest, and best pet you could ever imagine. Finn was a very social cat who loved to be sitting on your lap or laying beside you. He was vocal and let you know when it was time to be fed. I rescued him and his twin brother, Magee, when they were 8 wks old. I lost Magee three years ago due to complications associated with diabetes. He lived with it for over four years and faired well. Without question having Finn and Magee in my life was a gift from Heaven. I love them and miss them everyday. But they’re together again…
A beautiful comment, Leslie. Thanks for sharing. I love red tabbies. There is something about them that makes them stand out a bit and I’m referring to personality.
My red tabby, Zeke, is about 2 years old. He is affectionate with me when he’s in the mood to be, but only barely tolerates other people. I rescued him when he was about 4 weeks old. He has hissed and growled at my grown son since I got him. He is warming up to my new husband, I suspect, because he will get up in the middle of the night and feed Zeke cashews. This cat is crazy about nuts, peanut butter, yogurt and popcorn. He’s about 15 pounds, and very demanding. He will cry outside my door if 5 a.m. comes and I’m not up, then start slamming the hall cabinet if I still don’t get up. He chatters a lot, and if I scold him, it sounds like he’s back-sassing me. I can’t imagine life without adorable brat.
He sounds like a red tabby cat to me. Your story supports my thought that ginger cats (which are nearly always red tabby cats) have independent minds and strong characters. If you adopt a moggie, adopting a ginger cat seems to be a decent idea if you want a cat with character and opinion.
I have a Red Tabby male cat and he is the first one I have ever had as I have always gone for the black kitties. After having him though I think the rest of my life will be spent with both colors. He is the sweetest most loving cat. His favorite people are little children and he will walk up to them and beg to be petted. He is a large cat around 20 lbs but no fat on him. He allows his little brother to think that he is in charge but we know the truth. I always recommend the Red Tabbies to people looking for a loving, laid back cat.
Nice comment. I think you are right. Red tabbies often seem to be (a) large (b) laid back and (c) the boss. Benevolent dictatorship!
I had a silver tabby for 14 years before she died. I loved her very much and she treated me like her mother. We then adopted a red tabby, a female, and she took a little time to warm up to me. She loved my husband right away. Now, she is also my cat and I love her, too. But she is independent and the acts like a princess. Her color gets deeper every day so we call her Redsy.