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

Denise    Steubenville, OH

4/13/2015 5:55:04 PM

Beth, a cat in our neighborhood was loosing its fur. Blotches were out and she looked like she had mange! Vet said allergic to something. I took her cause i felt so bad and its not my cat but couldnt stand her suffering! Said she might be allergic to flea bites! Gave her a steroid shot and Revolution flea med and she is doing wonderful!

Stevie    Okc, OK

4/12/2015 11:18:28 AM

@t Beth I think your sweet cat is apparently allergic to frontline if he foaming at month after being treated with frontline flea medicine

Beth    branford, CT

3/31/2015 4:34:52 PM

my male black cat is losing his fur. He has had little to no hair between his back legs for years and figured it was from rubbing together (?) But the other day I noticed he now has a balding area near his tail. I know he is sensitive to smells and when the vet put frontline on him he starting foaming at the mouth and stiffened up. Otherwise he is happy, active and VOCAL!!!! should I get to the vet right away? Thank you

Cindi    Ancaster, ON

2/19/2015 8:53:15 PM

I have had both male and female orange tabbies. The females are usually the sweetest things. Very even tempered. Males, at least both of mine, are little dickens that you can't help but to love. My calico was the sweet witch, depending on her mood that second. My tortie was a witch, a one person witch.
Male calicos usually have some kind of major illness that will end up costing you a lot of money. One that showed up here had a neuro disorder that made it hard for the little thing to walk straight.

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