Everything You Need to Know About Red Cats

Juan Silva / Getty Images

Red Cats: Call Them "Mellow Yellow"

Red cats are always tabbies, and are most often male. The color red in cats comes from genetics. They are more commonly called orange, ginger, marmalade, yellow, butter, caramel, or butterscotch. It has been my experience that most red cats have personalities as warm as their coat color, and are mellow, loving cats. In fact, you could easily call many red cats "mellow yellow." My current red tabby cat, Jaspurr, has one of the sweetest, most loving dispositions of any cat I've ever known. Jaspurr loves everyone, and is our family's greet-cat. He thrives on interaction with his humans, yet he is mellow with most of our cats, most of the time.

On the other hands, again in my experience, red cats have been dominant within the family hierarchy; often assuming the role of "alpha cat." Sarah Hartwell, of MessyBeast.com, likens the personality of orange cats to that of human redheads, with fiery, hot tempers when annoyed.

A Brief Overview of the "Red Gene" in Cats

The study of genetics is so complicated and detailed that it takes many years of concentrated study to come even close to mastering it.

The two primary color genes in cats are black and red (Genetic symbol "O"). Remember when I said red cats are most often male? The reason lies in the genes and chromosomes the cat has inherited. The Red gene (O) is carried on the X chromosome; for this reason it is sex-linked. Males normally only have one X chromosome and so if a male carries the Red gene at all, he will be Red. Females have two X chromosomes; if both X chromosomes carry the Red gene, then the cat will be Red."

The "dilute" (lighter) shade of red in cats is a creamy "buff" shade.

The Tabby Influence

Although some red cats (usually dilutes) may appear to be a solid color, upon closer examination, you will see the pale stripes, whorls, or spots of the tabby. You will also see the distinctive tabby facial markings, including the Magnificent "M" of tabby cats.

Red Cats Eye Colors

Red cats eyes may be green, gold, or copper. Many, including my Jaspurr, have golden or topaz eyes. The most unusual color I have ever seen were my Shannon's eyes, which were a sort of turquoise with flecks of gold, a wondrous complement to his gingery red coat.

Whether you call them red, marmalade, or orange, these sunshine boys" will go a long way in brightening and lightening your home and your life. For many decades now, except for a brief period in 2001-2002, after Shannon passed, I have never been without at least one Sunshine Boy in my life. I highly recommend the experience - you may be spoiled for life against any other cat color.