What is a Marmalade Cat?

What is a marmalade cat?

Also known as ginger, orange or red, a marmalade cat is a cat whose fur is made up of a pale orange background and darker orange spots, stripes or swirls. All marmalade cats carry the tabby pattern, as the non-agouti gene responsible for solid coats such as black or brown does not affect phaeomelanin (orange). Some marmalade cats also carry the white spotting gene, which causes areas of white on a solid or tabby cat.

The name marmalade originates from the fruit preserve, which is often made from oranges. Garfield the cat is undoubtedly the most famous marmalade cat.

Image baibaz, Shutterstock

Are all marmalade cats male?

Marmalade (ginger or orange) is more common in male cats, which goes back to the mode of inheritance. The X and Y chromosomes determine a cat’s sex, and genes are contained within the chromosomes. The orange gene is located on the X chromosome, which makes it sex-linked. Male cats have one X and one Y (XY) chromosome and therefore can only inherit one copy of the orange gene. As orange is dominant over non-orange (black), the male will be orange if he inherits one copy of the O gene.

Female cats have two X chromosomes (XX). If she inherits two copies of the O gene (OO), she will be orange. However, if she inherits one copy of orange and one copy of non-orange (Oo), she will be tortoiseshell (black and orange tabby) or torbie (brown tabby and orange tabby).


  • Oo – Orange
  • OO – Orange
  • oo – Non-orange


  • OO – Orange
  • Oo – Tortoiseshell or torbie
  • oo – Non-orange

The incidence of orange in male cats compared to female cats is approximately three to one, ie; three out of four ginger cats will be male.

Marmalade cat patterns

Marmalade occurs in three tabby patterns, mackerel (striped), spotted and classic tabby.


Ginger mackerel tabby
Image Selyutina Olga, Shutterstock

Clearly defined, vertical stripes going around the cat’s body. Mackerel stripes are narrower than those on the classic tabby. Legs have bracelets, and the tail is barred.


The spotted tabby is a variant of the mackerel tabby however a modifier gene breaks the characteristic mackerel stripes up into spots. This combination of spots on a pale background makes the cat look like a miniature leopard.

Spotted tabby cat
Image Aux trois couleurs, Shutterstock


Orange classic tabby
Image cynoclub, Shutterstock

Also known as blotched or marbled, the classic tabby consists of clearly defined markings, on a lighter background. The darker markings can consist of lines, swirls, and whorls which are unbroken on the top of the cat and swirled along the sides, with a distinctive mark on each side that resembles a bullseye.

Frequently asked questions

What breed is a marmalade cat?

Marmalade is a coat colour and pattern combination and is not a breed that can be found in random-bred and some breeds of purebred cats where orange is permitted.

Are marmalade cats the friendliest?

Early experiences during kittenhood shape the personality of a cat more than coat colour. A kitten raised by an attentive queen (mother cat), who has lots of positive interaction with people from an early age is going to grow into a well-balanced, confident and friendly adult cat.

Are marmalade cats rare?

No, marmalade is a common coat colour and pattern combination.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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