Though ginger cats aren’t one of the many cat breeds that are around today, they’re still well-liked for their unique coloring and friendly nature. Ginger cats aren’t rare as a color type, but it’s actually less likely for someone to come across a female ginger tabby cat than a male ginger cat. We’ll talk about why later on in our guide, but for now, let’s jump straight into the basic science behind why some cats end up being ginger and the common variations of ginger cats that exist.
Genetics of the Ginger Cat
Ginger cats are unique because every version of a ginger cat carries the tabby gene in their DNA. They may not all turn out to be tabby cats, but they have the potential to while they’re developing inside a female cat. The cat carrying kittens doesn’t need to be a female ginger cat to produce ginger kittens, either.
Female and male cats have the same common chromosomes that humans do. Females have two X chromosomes, while male cats have an X and a Y chromosome. Of course, like humans, there’s always the possibility of other chromosome combinations, but that’s far too much science to get into for this particular guide. The most important thing you need to know is that the ginger gene is carried in the X chromosome of a cat, and not the Y chromosome. This gene is what causes cats to have ginger coloration in any form, and it can appear in a number of ways throughout their coat.
Kittens inherit a combination of genes from their parents, including their potential coat color. For a kitten to end up being a ginger tabby cat or a cat with any ginger color in their fur, they would need to have inherited the ginger gene from one or both of their parent cats. The ginger gene is a dominant gene, so as long as it’s present in one of the parents, the potential that the kitten will be ginger is high.
The variation of their ginger coat will then depend on how many copies of the ginger gene the kitten inherits from their parents. They’ll get two copies of each gene from their parents, and the more ginger genes they inherit, the more ginger will appear in their coat. However, that’s where a difference in the kitten’s birth gender comes in. Female kittens will adhere to the above – more ginger genes equal more ginger on their coat. But a ginger tom only needs to inherit the gene from their mother to end up being a fully ginger cat. Ginger cats are male more often than they are female; only 20% of ginger cats are female, so the difference is fairly substantial.
Ginger Cat Appearance
The classic tabby cat pattern is the most common pattern that you’ll see on a ginger cat, but it’s not the only type of tabby cat pattern that orange tabby cats can have. The five versions of tabby include:
- Classic Tabby: The most recognizable tabby cat variation, with a pattern that looks similar to the stripes of a marble cake on either side of their body. This is the classic tabby pattern for all cats; wild and domesticated.
- Mackerel Tabby: Also known as the “Tiger Cat”, the mackerel ginger tabby has several narrow stripes that run down the sides of the cat. The stripes branch out from an area of color running along the cat’s spine.
- Patched Tabby: Also known as the “bi-color tabby” due to the way their coat has patches of solid color or other patterns.
- Spotted Tabby: A spotted ginger tabby will have spots rather than the striped look of a common tabby cat.
- Ticked Tabby: Though they have no spots or stripes like other tabby cats, the ticked ginger tabby may have faint markings on their tail and legs. This tabby cat show bands of ginger coloration across their fur because their coat is made up of agouti hairs that cause this style.
Although a ginger cat may exhibit any of these patterns, not all cats with the ginger gene will be full tabby cats. Some ginger cat breeds will have patches of ginger instead, such as a marine coon with ginger in their coat, or a tortoiseshell cat that has ginger speckled coloring. Ginger cats may also have short or long hair, depending on the breed.
Ginger Cat Personality and Temperament
Ginger cats have a reputation for being among the most friendly domestic cats to own, but their personality is really down to the specific breed of cat that just happens to be ginger. Of all the cats in the feline family, the most common in America would be the American Shorthair, just like the British Shorthair is the most commonly found domestic cat in England, UK. Pet lovers with no specific breed wants will be able to easily find an American Shorthair cat with ginger coloring, especially if they’re happy to rehome a ginger male. Ginger male cats are known to be more friendly than ginger female cats, too.
When you welcome your orange boy cat into your home, you can expect them to take a couple of weeks to warm up to their new surroundings. This is the same for any cat. Not all ginger cats will be as loving as others, but they are typically one of the sweetest cat types to own. An American Shorthair or American Bobtail are both average house cat breeds to find with ginger coloring, and both are considered relatively friendly cats. American Shorthairs, in particular, often have tabby markings.
If you’re looking for a specific breed that may have ginger tabbies with a good personality, British Shorthair cats are very affectionate and demanding, while the Maine Coon has a sweet temperament and is more gentle. Avoid buying a Bengal cat unless you have experience with intelligent and curious cat breeds because they are extremely athletic and energetic cats to have at home.
Instead of focusing on the color of the cat to figure out their temperament, look at the breed. A cat’s innate personality doesn’t change depending on the color of their fur, but their breed type will have a lot to do with how they act in your home.
How Long Do Ginger Cats Live?
Like their personality, the lifespan of a ginger cat doesn’t have anything to do with their color. You need specific breed information to calculate your cat’s lifespan, otherwise, you won’t know how long they could live. Here are some common cat breeds and their lifespans:
- American Shorthair, an average of 15 years.
- American Bobtail, an average of 13 to 15 years.
- Bengal, an average of 12 to 16 years.
- British Shorthair, an average of 12 to 15 years.
- Munchkin, an average of 13 to 15 years.
- Oriental Shorthair, an average of 15 years.
- Persian, an average of 12 to 17 years.
Some cats, like the American and British Shorthair breeds, can live up to 20 years of age. It all depends on their genetics, health conditions, overall health, diet, and a bunch of other factors.
Male Versus Female Ginger Cats
Because ginger cats are more likely to be male than female, it’s important to know some of the distinctions between the two. Both can carry the gene that makes their kittens ginger, but a male kitten only needs to get that gene from their mother to have ginger in their coat. Basically, if you want a better shot at having ginger kittens, always make sure the mom has the ginger gene.
A male cat is usually more friendly than a female cat, but both can be territorial and can get stressed out by new situations. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t think of a ginger cat as being its own breed of cat with unique personality traits and needs. Ginger cats are like any other cats of their own breed, they just have a different gene that gives them a unique color. But the same can be said for other uniquely colored cats! Pay attention to breed information, not the color of your cat.
Male ginger cats have a reputation for being affectionate, friendly, and a little demanding. These orange tabbies will quickly steal your heart, and they can often live for up to two decades, depending on the breed of cat that they are. Ginger females, on the other hand, are usually a little more aggressive and a touch more demanding when it comes to asking for affection. On the other hand, they may also have an aloof personality, meaning they won’t be bothered about being petted and fussed over. When you look at their size, a small tabby cat is more likely to be female. Male cats are usually bigger and put on weight easier, too.
5 Popular Ginger Cat Breeds
1. American Bobtail
Though they’re an uncommon breed of domestic cat, American Bobtails have been around since the 1960s and their ginger tabby patterns are adorable. The short tail of this breed of cat only adds to their cuteness, giving you a ginger tabby that has a unique look, even if it has one of the common tabby patterns.
There’s a bit of a wild look to an American Bobtail. They’re very fluffy because they’re longhaired cats, and their short tail is fluffy, too; despite their length. Their ears have little tufts of fur at the top, which can quickly entice any cat lover. Their body is powerful, and they’re often chunkier than other cat breeds.
Personality-wise, the American Bobtail is sweet, affectionate, and an excellent companion cat. If you’re looking for a ginger kitten that will grow into a lap cat, the Bobtail is the breed for you.
2. British Shorthair
Britsh Shorthairs come in a range of coat colors, a ginger tabby patterns are certainly one of the many of them. It’s not unusual to have a Shorthair of this kind with any of the common ginger tabby patterns or one that is ginger and white. Many ginger cats of this breed have the typical M-shape on their forehead, and some will have white “socks”, tail tips, or underbellies.
The British version of a domestic Shorthair cat is friendly, even-tempered, and bonds well with other cats and humans. These cats exist well in multi-cat households, though they may get into play-fights that have a lot of growling and hissing, it’s extremely rare for them to actually hurt each other. A ginger boy cat can be expected to be loving and docile, while a female may spend more time by themselves.
3. Maine Coon
Ginger Maine Coon cats are certainly a rarer type of ginger cat. They have a regal appearance and can grow to be very large and heavy cats, even though they’re household kittens. Fully grown, a Maine Coon will have long fur around their neck, giving them an appearance similar to a striped lion. They can look wild, and beautiful, and would be better suited to a home that has a decent amount of space.
As for their personality, you can expect your Maine Coon to be a little goofy! They love to play, are very friendly, and can sometimes seem like they’re more dogs than a cat. If you want an orange cat that has dog-like traits and grows to be a little larger than other common cat breeds, finding a ticked tabby or ginger tabby Maine Coon might be the best decision you make.
For a cat that never seems to grow much bigger than a kitten, Munchkin orange cats are an excellent choice. These tiny cats have a dwarfed appearance with short legs that keep their bodies close to the ground. They can have short or long hair, and their bodies are thick and strong, even though they’re a smaller breed of cat. Longhaired Munchkin cats have plumed tails, which look almost as long as the cat, themselves!
These little kitties are playful, curious, and extremely sociable. You’ll have yourself a dependent cat that doesn’t mind being left alone for long hours. Many owners may feel the need to watch over this breed of cat because of their size, but we assure you that they’ll be just fine on their own.
Ginger Munchkin cats look like other ginger cat breeds, just smaller. It’s possible to have a striped or spotted ginger tabby in this breed of cat, among other ginger colorings.
Though they are longhaired cats like the Maine Coon breed, it’s easy to distinguish between a Maine Coon and a Persian. Persian cats have a very unique-looking face, with all of their features quite close together, and an almost squashed-looking nose and mouth area. Purebred Persian cats can be very expensive, and the ginger variant of the breed is highly sought-after due to their fluffy, wild appearance.
Persian cats are calm, docile, and enjoy company as much as they like exploring by themselves. Most ginger cats from this breed will have the usual striped pattern, though the stripes do get lost in their abundance of fur, while the pattern is more prominent on their face.
Persians are quiet cats with a gentle nature. Great for households with children because the cats enjoy schedules and consistency.
Quick Facts about Ginger Cats
- Most ginger cats are male.
- They have a religious background – ginger tabby cats supposedly comforted baby Jesus at one time.
- There are five unique tabby patterns for ginger cats.
- Not all cats carrying the gene to be ginger will end up as tabby cats.
- Ginger cats often have black freckles and pink noses.
- Most cat breeds that have ginger variants are friendly and docile – they can become an emotional support or therapy cat for their owners.
Adopting a Ginger Cat
Always check your local animal shelters for cats that need a home. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 3.2 million cats that enter shelters every year. Though it’s more common for black cats to need to be rehomed, ginger cats do enter the shelter system, and your local shelter may have one ready and waiting for a loving family.
Buying a Ginger Cat
Their orange coloring is delightful and often draws homeowners to buy them over black or black and white cats. Not all littermates from the same set of kittens will be ginger, even if they all carry the gene to be so, which makes ginger cats stand out more to potential buyers.
Depending on the breed of cat, the price of a ginger kitten can be quite high. American Shorthairs are on the lower end of the scale because they’re common cats, but it’s likely that a ginger cat in a litter will cost a little more than its fellows. Purebred cats that are ginger can cost thousands! A purebred Persian kitten, for example, could cost as much as $5000, while you could find a Domestic Shorthair for as little as $75. Do note that a Domestic Shorthair is not the same breed as an American Shorthair, though they seem to be the same cat breed on the surface.
Not all tabby cats are ginger, just as not all ginger cats are tabby cats. A cat may have ginger in its fur but not have a tabby pattern, and this is due to the cat's parentage. There's a gene that makes cats ginger, and a kitten's mother needs to have that gene for the kitten to have any chance of having ginger fur or a ginger tabby coat.
There are no cat coat variants out there that show a solid orange coat with no pattern. You can have a fully ginger tabby cat that is two-tone ginger, but that's as close to a "solid ginger" cat as you'll get. Some cats may appear solidly ginger or orange, but this could be down to photo editing, lighting, or even the length of the cat's fur causing their color to appear different.