What's with all the Orange Tabbies?

There aren’t too many cats in movies and television, but when there are, why are they almost always orange tabbies?
“Harry and Tonto”: Tonto was an orange tabby.

“Mllo and Otis”: Milo was an orange tabby.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: Cat was an orange tabby.

“The Three Lives of Thomasina”: Thomasina was an orange tabby.

“True Grit”: General Sterling Price was an orange tabby.

“The Brady Bunch”: Fluffy (was that the name? I know Tiger was the dog.) was an orange tabby.

The cat that sat on the edge of the bathtub in whatever Clint Eastwood movie that was, was an orange tabby.

Morris of Nine Lives fame is still an orange tabby.

On the commercial where the cat has to hire a bloodhound to find his litterbox, the cat is an orange tabby.

Even Garfield and Heathcliff are freakin’ orange tabbies.

So, okay, DC in “That Darn Cat” was a siamese, and Sassy in “The Incredible Journey” was a Himalayan, which is just a long haired siamese. And oh yes, Sylvester was a black and white Tuxedo cat. But other than that, there’s nothing but orange tabbies! How about some diversity?

I mean, Lassie was a collie, Rin Tin Tin was a german shepherd, Benji was a yorkie, Eddie was a terrier, Pete the Pup was a pit bull.

I mean come on! Let’s have a calico, or a maine coon for Chrissake.


I actually meant for this to go into Cafe Society. I think I was confused by the Archie vs. Meathead thread. Anyone wants to move this, fine with me.

I’m guessing an orange cat shows up better on film and is easier to light.

Tabby cat markings are in the majority. So it is possible that there are simply a larger number available.

And this is strictly anecdotal, but differently marked cats seem to tend toward different dispositions. For instance, the tortoiseshell markings often accompany a frisky nature so recognizable that they are called “naughty torties” by breeders.

I’ve noticed that many orange tabbies have an easy-going nature that may make them more suitable for the movie business. Other cat fanciers I know agree with this.

Weird, I’ve always heard that orange tabbies can be high strung. I know mine is the most aggressive cat I’ve owned. I liken him to Frank Sinatra. Even when he’s nice, he can be a jerk. Plus my old best friend had an orange tabby who was one vicious bastard, even to her.

All orange cats are tabbys without exception ( well maybe some very rare genetic abnormality exists ), as the orange gene masks the effect of the non-agouti version of the agouti gene, which is what control tabbyism. So if you have an orange cat at all, its a tabby.

Research with ferals in France in particular does seem to show that orange males are a.) larger than average vs. non-orange males and b.) more aggressive than average vs. non-orange males ( meanwhile orange females are smaller than average vs. non-orange females ). Which has all sorts of repercussions on differential breeding success and disease transmission under differing environmental conditions.

However with a well-socialized pet, that higher feral aggression may well translate into something more like a friendly assertiveness or some similar behavioral trait that lends itself to being a better performer. Speculative of course, but it might have something to do with it.

Including me. That has to be part of the reason, IMO. Big Orange Cats are mellow.

An interesting thing about orange tabbies is that they are almost always male. There are exceptions, but if they are female they usually have a small amount of a third color on them somewhere.

And almost all three color cats are female. Males are either one or two color cats. Again, there are exceptions but it’s a quick and handy thing to know.

This does not work in the reverse, females can be one, two, or three colors.

Strictly anecdotal, but IME, orange tabby’s personalities tend toward the dog-like. The ones that I’ve shared my abode with did things like coming when called and tricks that no other colored self respecting cat would consider. Perhaps they’re more easily trained for film purposes.

Orange cats may be more mellowon average, but I am sure there are pet agents or whatever in Hollywood that have mellow, filming friendly cats of any kind or color available. I bet the biggest reason is when a film producer calls for a cat, he asks for an orange one because that’s what he had in mind, and he doesn’t think about any other possibilities.

You’re describing our orange cat. Was incredibly aggressive (wanted to play HARD with the grownup cats) even as a tiny tiny kitten. Still is like that.

They don’t want to confuse the audience. If it was a black cat, that would distract from the plot, since we’d be looking for the Satanic angle to come in. “Cat” = “Marmalade Cat.”

Just like how, when one character in anything set in LA suggests “hey, let’s stop for donuts,” you can see the brief “oh shit!” look on the other character’s face, because no matter where they are in the 500-square mile metro area, TV characters are obligated to drive to Inglewood and get donuts at Randy’s Donuts.

It should be roughly a 2/3 to 1/3 split strictly speaking, but due to the positioning of the orange gene on the chromosome ( which often leads to it being damaged during meiosis ) it actually turns out to be a roughly 3/4 to 1/4 split. Orange females are vastly more common than calico males ( I once owned an orange female ).

The orange gene is sex-linked, found only on the X chromsome. So a male cat, with only one copy on its one X chromosome can only get “O” or “o” - i.e. it is either orange or not-orange.

But a female cat with its two X chromosomes will be either “OO”, “Oo” ( “oO” as well - two shots out of four ), or “oo”. So an “OO” female will be orange ( which could be overlaid with white if she is carrying the piebald gene ). An “oo” will show no orange, “OO” will be orange and “Oo” will be some variant of calico/tortiseshell. So you should get a 1 in 4 chance at an orange female and a 1 in 2 chance at an orange male.

What actually happens due to that poor positioning of the orange gene, is a 3 in 10 shot at an orange male and an 1 in 10 shot at an orange female, hence 3/4 of orange cats being male.

To get a male calico you actually need a cat with Klinefelter Syndrome - i.e. an XXY cat with the right genes to produce a calico/tortie. Fairly rare, but I’ve seen two.

I have an orange male. He’s super friendly towards me, but he’s a big fraidy cat with strangers and loud noises. He doesn’t have a problem smacking the dog, though, even though she’s 10 times his size.

My mom has an orange and white female, who’s just plain wacky. Her brother is an almost solid orange with white feet and bib. He’ll be nice to point, then bite your hand off.

That would be my guess too. The live-action TV show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, had (naturally) a black cat. While in many scenes, it was a puppet or similar since the cat had to talk to people, there were many scenes where a real black cat was used. It was difficult to see him at times.

Anecdotally, our orange tabby is a lot bigger and more aggressive than our other cats (black and grey tuxedos and one mackerel tabby). Interestingly, though, when he picked on one of our smallest cats, she hit him right back, with claws fully extended. He’s never bothered her again.

<offtopic>So that’s where the big rolling donut in 2012 came from!</offtopic>

I haven’t been to Randy’s since the '90s. Are their doughnuts still awesome?

Wow, thank you. Very informative.

Well, I don’t think that the orange gene precludes intelligence. :smiley:

I’m so jealous.
I’ve turned over every damn calico and tortoiseshell I’ve ever met since I was a little kid, and I’ve never seen a male.