Are all orange tabby cats male and are all calico cats female?

Hear the science behind uncommon female orange tabby cats and the extremely rare tortoisehsell or calico male cat.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Updated: January 17, 2013, 2 p.m. EST

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Orange Tabby Cats

Q: I have heard that all orange tabby cats are male, and to find one that is female is rare and worth up to $1,000. I also have heard that calico cats and tortoiseshell cats are female and to find a male is just as rare and prized. Is there any truth to this?

A: Your first statement is incorrect. Most, but certainly not all, orange tabby cats are male. Orange tabby cats are about 80/20 male to female. We have many female orange tabby cats in my practice. There is no monetary value, per se, associated with a female orange tabby cat. Calico and tortoiseshell cats, however, are almost always female.

Here’s how it works. To have black and orange in the same cat, the cat needs two X chromosomes. Two X chromosomes mean the cat will be female. Male cats need a Y chromosome and are XY.

Occasionally a mutation will arise during embryonic development and a kitten will be born with an extra chromosome: XXY. The two Xs allow for the cat to be black and orange. The Y makes it a male. This is how you get a tortoiseshell or a calico male cat.

Tortoiseshell and calico male cats are uncommon (one out of 3000 are male), but don’t get your hopes up about breeding these rare cats for money. As a result of this mutation, most tortoiseshell and calico male cats are sterile.

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Reader Comments

lilredfox    Tallahassee, FL

4/19/2014 1:42:39 PM

i have a calico that gave me 2 orange males. you see, I live miles out in the woods here in tallahassee florida. A perty lil calico female very young kitty had somehow made its way to my place. at first i thot the neighbors up the road had dumped her at my place. so i took her back to there house with the other dozen cats they have. 2 days later that same lil calico had made it's way through the woods and back to my place. so i thot if a cat can make it this far to my place then by golly it's staying. I began befriending her and feeding her. only to find she had been attacked by a snake at some point. within a week i had got her to come into my inclosed porch were she can seek shelter from the heavy rains n wutnot. finally she made her way into the house. id let her in and out over the next couple weeks. one day i noticed she was forming the bulging belly. at first i thot she was filling out n becoming healthier due to my care for her. but no. come to find out she was pregnant. on the 4th of july she gave birth to 2 beautiful bouncing baby redhead boys. me being a redhead myself i felt like the luckiest leprechaun in all the land. and of course i kept them both. Ollie and Buddy. The boys are now 9months old. and maincoon kitties at that. Ollie which is orange with a touch of white and hair that drapes like 5" weighs bout 23lbs and Buddy an Orange tabby with short hair weighs 17lbs. the boys dont ever get to go outside and run free. i take them out on there harnesses. they both love going outside and stomping in the mudd puddles after a heavy rain. Buddy loves to walk up to his knees in the water and Ollie thinks he can drain the puddle by drinkin all the water in it. gigl. i cant brush my teeth or go into the bathroom without 1 or both of them hearing the water running and coming in to help me. doing dishes in the sink without them is not an option. i cant walk by Ollie without him reaching out and grabbing me to pet or play with him. and buddy has to come up behind me n reach way up n inbed his paws into my buttocks tellin me he wants treats. now i no why the vet calls temptation treats, kitty crack.

Cathy    Buffalo, MO

3/11/2014 7:57:48 PM

Very interesting topic. My orange tabby cat gave birth to 5 kittens, all orange tabby...3 females and 2 males.

Kenneth    Frankfort, KY

12/20/2013 5:18:54 PM

Radar Love My 2 yr old Part Abaysinian has the black & orange around his back side like the back half is calico. But I had him fixed when he was 3 months old.
Maybe I should of waited to see if he was sterial or not.

Michalle    Portland, OR

12/10/2013 3:35:54 PM

I have a female orange tabby cat named Sunny. She was a rescue cat.

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