What is the “theory of the orange gene” as it relates to a cat’s personality?
Just as there are certain stereotypes with human hair color and personality, such as the “hot-tempered redhead,” cats can also be pigeonholed because of their fur color.
Genetics influences the color, pattern, and length of a cat’s fur, so it could follow that those same genes might influence other things as well. Also, coat coloring pigments are produced by the same biochemical pathways as certain brain substances such as dopamine, which influences behavior.
There are two primary color genes in cat, black and red. There can be variations of a color; for example, red cats are also sometimes referred to as orange, marmalade, yellow, butter or caramel. Tabby cats are considered red; calico cats have white, brown and red spots. Both have both the red-and-black color gene.
The red gene is also referred to as “sex-linked” because it must sit on the X chromosome. For that reason, the tabby cat is frequently male; while the male has one X-chromosome, the female has two—and the color gene would have to sit on both for her to have that color.
Tabbies who have the red gene are often labeled as having warm personalities, while still being the “alpha cat” of the litter who demonstrates a hot temper when annoyed.
Calico cats, remember, also have a red gene, and their owners often say these cats are a little more fiery and hot-tempered than others. This makes sense because some of the earliest spontaneous mutations were for solid color cats—red being one of the first. This gene, therefore, could be associated more closely with the personality of the earliest domesticated cats who were often red—and who were known for throwing fits and struggling to escape for longer periods when handled by unfamiliar people.