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.