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

katie    International

5/18/2015 3:49:26 AM

According to Temple Grandin, the animal behaviourist, cats do have different behaviour traits depending on the colour of their coat, obviously there will always be exceptions. She finds that black cats are especially friendly and well suited to urban environments whereas ginger cats are a bit more independent, roam over greater distances and are particularly happy in the countryside.

Janine    Miami, FL

5/3/2015 1:38:16 PM

Phyllis: orange isn't a breed, it's just a color. There is no personality type associated with ginger cats versus black/brown ones. You could have a black kitten, a ginger one, and a calico in the same litter. Their fur color will not affect their personality.

Phyllis    Beacon Falls, CT

4/23/2015 4:15:10 AM

I have a male and a female and when I adopted mine from Banfield Hospital in Waterbury, CT they told me the female cat was a rare one but I have seen many over the 10 years I have heard her. Most are males like my oldest 10yrs old. The orange cat is the sweetest breed too so they are always the one I would love to have in my family.

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!

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