Ginger Fever

It's redheads in history and ginger pets galore to adopt.

5 mins read
Cute business cat wearing glasses lying on notebook (book)

We love ginger pets. 

Humans with red hair historically, though, have a mixed rep. In Homeric Greece, those with auburn tresses were feared as vampires. In classical Egypt, or so the story goes, redheads were sacrificed to counteract the bad vibes they inherently represented.

Conversely in Rome, red-haired slaves, often Thracian, commanded a higher price than more-ordinary brunettes or even blondes, because the Romans associated red hair with good luck versus the negative juju linked with russet hair elsewhere in the ancient world. Sailors, whose lives and work were especially risky, have historically been especially wary of redheads.

The Redhead Rep may have something to do with the fact that red hair is genetically rare. Only two percent of the population has it, typically caused by a mutation in a gene called M1CR that causes hair follicles to express a protein called pheomelanin. The mutation is recessive in about 40 per cent of the population, but when two carriers of the recessive gene make a baby, that baby can express the mutation with red hair.

It’s risky to generalize, but plenty of seemingly Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Pictish / Scots-ish British people have red hair. Anthropologists generally agree that in those cases, the red hair reflects Viking roots, even if your legal last name is Stuart or Stewart, and your charming accent reflects familial generations of London residence.

Long hair and muscular male model in leather viking's costume with the big hammer cosplaying Thor isolated on white studio background. Half-lenght portrait. Fantasy warrior, antique battle concept.
Swingin’ that hammer all day he’s gotta be Thor. Photo: Adobe

In northern Europe, it’s speculated that the M1CR mutation was brought to the mainland from the Viking raiders of Norway. The greatest concentration of red hair is found in Scotland and Ireland, and the coastal areas where the Vikings settled show the highest number of gingers.  

One of the oldest Norse documents, the Prose Edda, describes Odin the All-Father, ruler of the gods of Asgard, is described as being a wise and thoughtful ruler with blonde hair. His son Thor, though, is possessed of a full head of red hair, an enormous bushy red beard, and a temper quick to flare.

But the M1CR mutation didn’t start in Norway. Jacky Colliss Harvey’s “Red: A History Of The Redhead” tracks it back to the steppes of central Asia, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Those early redheads had a genetic advantage when they moved north, as their pale skin synthesized more vitamin D from the weak Nordic sunlight.

Red-to-orange-to-creamsicle-peach-colored stripes in cats are equally rare, although the red coloration is consistently caused by the pigment known as pheomelanin—the same hormone responsible for the fiery tresses of Prince Harry, Carrot Top and of course Garfield. 

The “tabby” name comes from an ancient region of Baghdad called “Attabiyah,” the area famous for its high-quality striped silk. By the 14th century CE, the word had been shortened to “Atabsis,” which was the root for the French word “taffeta,” a shiny, iridescent, stiff striped silk. By the 1960s, the phrase “tabby cat” was being used to describe striped cats, which has since shortened to simply “tabby.”

All red tabby cats possess the agouti gene.  Red cats, anecdotally, are vocal and loud. To those of us who have rescued and loved many cats, gingers seem the most canine in their bouncy, social extroversion.

All of this leads to a vast number of ginger cats, among others, who need a home. Or at least a temporary foster.

Black Pepper with Double Gingers

Thanks to Heather M of KittCrusaders, an LA-based rescue, for this info.

A cat that is looking at the camera
(From L-R) Pepper, Gemma and Opal. Photo: KittCrusaders

The black beauty is Pepper, 2 years old and a cuddly love-bug. The apricot-sweet sisters Gemma and Opal are 8 weeks old, and need to be adopted together, please.

Go to Instagram @museumstorecats or for more photos and adoption information.

Devore Kitties and a Pup in Trouble

Thanks to @networkingdevoresheltercats for your tireless coverage of these shelter cats.

We consider the big city and county shelters to be the belly of the beast. Nowhere is the evidence of pet overpopulation, neglect and abuse more clear. Understand that animals listed here may already be dead. That’s because we only publish once a week, and shelter animals are euthanized daily. This is painful knowledge. The truth is, you can visit any shelter in our country and have your heart broken. 

At Devore, these particular cats are on the Naughty List, meaning that they are sick, or aggressive, or both. This may be a chicken-or-egg thing. Remember that last time you were ill or in pain? Did it not affect your mood?  

The “Rescue Only” area at the shelter is full, meaning that you must represent a licensed rescue agency and be prepared to give the cat medication on the reg if a medical waiver is needed. Others here are in good shape physically but may growl, hiss, swat, lunge—just like you might with a bad toothache, fever, chronic backache or COVID. Now try to imagine having all four together.

Also imagine that you’re in a crowded jail cell when you’re sick, with a cold cement floor to sleep on, and no privacy. All around you, as in a medieval painting of hell, you hear the voices of the damned, howling and screaming in terror. This might affect your sleep and make you grumpy.

These cats are available to rescues only because of their behavioral issues. Many are young female DHS with new kittens.

We don’t have details. Just as zoologists in the wild cannot identify and catalog so many vanishing species before they go extinct, we cannot report on available animals with complete accuracy since many are put down so fast. 

A bunch of different pictures of a cats
All these cuddlies are available at the Devore Shelter. Some of the cats in this Brady Bunch checkerboard have been adopted. The others need immediate intervention. Photo: @networkingdevoresheltercats

MOST URGENT – available for adoption to the public with medical waiver

  • Momma Sabrina #A798353 plus three black and silver tabby kittens 
  • Momma Peach #A798476, gray tabby female with five kittens
  • Momma Garnet #A798779, calico female with three kittens
  • Jaspurr #A798834 – apricot ginger

MOST URGENT – only available for adoption to rescuers, due to behavior

  • Mossey #A798580, silver-brown tabby with white paws
  • Harp #A798590, ginger calico with green eyes
  • Tucson #A798595, black and white “cow” markings
  • Momma Foxxi #A798721, ginger mom with three ginger mixed kittens, 4 weeks old
  • Momma Joan #A798843, silver tabby mom with six kittens

…and wait, there’s more. Meet Brando #A798714

A cat eating from a bowl
Curable Brando #A798714. He’s not pretty. He needs surgery and Rx, and, of course, unconditional love.

Entropion is a condition where the eyelid turns inward, putting eyelashes—yes, cats have eyelashes—in contact with the eye tissue, causing irritation, inflammation, and potential infection. The condition can be corrected surgically.

Brando #A798714 has entropion, and also has mange, meaning that he may only be adopted with a medical waiver. He’s a male ginger DSH, estimated to be 6 years old, but displays a friendly personality in spite of his troubles.

BTW, mange is treatable and curable. It usually manifests when an animal is under severe metabolic stress.

Meet Finley #A798906

A cat with its mouth open
Meet Finley #A798906. Finley’s surgical site will heal. Photo: @networkingdevoresheltercats
  • Age and gender unknown.
  • Apricot ginger DSH with white chest
  • A foxtail was surgically removed from the left eye. 
  • Available only to a rescuer.

Meet Horatio #A795094

A dog looking at the camera
Meet Horatio #A795094.
  • Male canine
  • Breed: Shepherd mix
  • Age: 6 years old (approximate)
  • Neutered 
  • Requires prescribed diet and medication

Devore Animal Shelter
19777 Shelter Way
San Bernardino, CA 92407
(909) 386-9820 – press 2 for Devore Shelter, press 3 to speak with shelter agent. Rescuers, press 1 instead of 3, to speak with rescue coordinator.

The short URL of this article is:

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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