What is a Calico Cat

What is a Calico Cat? [the tri-color loving cat]

Calico cats are not a breed but a color combination and they are very rare. A Calico fur coat has a color pattern consisting of three different colors giving it a very unique look. Calico cats can be a variety of breeds but there are some breeds that will never produce a Calico color. Male Calico cats are rare.

are calico cats rare
Are Calico Cats Rare?

Keep reading to learn all the fun facts, history, and exactly what makes a Calico cat, a Calico!

Calico Cat Definition

A Calico is a domestic cat color that could be any breed. A Calico is defined by its specific and sought-after tri-colored coat pattern. 

The Calico is frequently pictured as generally being between 25 and 75% white with patches that are either orange or black. 

Calico Cat Definition
Calico Cat Definition

At times, they can be cream or gray as well. The cream or gray pattern is called a “muted Calico.”

Did you know that besides these colors, the Calico cat can be three other colors within its pattern? 

The Calico cat is usually always a female. Only in extremely rare circumstances will a Calico kitten be a male.

History of the Calico Cat

Since the coat coloration pattern of a Calico does not define any single breed but is a genetic mutation, it has been exceptionally hard to figure out when they first came into the picture. 

History of the Calico Cat
History of the Calico Cat

Where Do Calico Cats Come From?

Neil Todd, a nationally published researcher, was able to perform a study to determine the migrational patterns of cats exhibiting the Calico patterns.

He claims these Calico cats were first seen along European trade routes as well as in Northern Africa. 

Orange Mutant Gene

The majority of the cats containing or exhibiting the orange-mutant gene were traced back to many port cities along the Mediterranean region in France, Greece, Spain, and Italy.

It is commonly believed they originated in Egypt. 

Maryland’s State Cat

Did you know? The Calico became the official state cat of Maryland on October 1st, 2001, due to its white, black, and orange colors that resemble their state bird, The Baltimore Oriole.

official state cat of Maryland
Official State Cat of Maryland

Another interesting fact is that even the state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly has similar colors.

Calico Cat Genetics

Genetically speaking, Calicos are just tortoiseshells except that they possess a white undercoat instead of a black one, as typically seen in a tortoiseshell. 

One other general principle is that the larger the area of the white coat, the smaller and fewer in number the ginger, dark-colored, or tabby-colored coat portion is. 

All of this has to do with the genetic speeds associated with the migration of the melanocytes and X-inactive chromosomes while still in an embryonic state (In the mother cat’s womb.)

Study of the Calico by Murray Barr and E.G. Bertram

Murray Barr and one of his graduate students E.D. Bertram, in the year 1948, performed in-depth studies on Calico cats. 

They noticed dark, almost drumstick-shaped masses inside the center of the nervous system cells in the female cats and not in any of the male cats. 

They called these drumstick masses Barr bodies. This is what was believed to cause a Calico pattern formation.

Susuma Ohno’s and Mary Lyon’s discoveries

In 1959, a Japanese Cell biologist (Susumu) discovered that the Barr Bodies were, in fact, the X-chromosomes which is the exact cause of the Calico coloration.

In 1961, Mary Lyon discovered the idea of X-inactivation, which meant that one of the two X Chromosomes inside the female Calico cats actually shut off.

This is what resulted in the X-Chromosome anomaly. This also explains why almost all Calico cats are female due to the X-Chromosome shutting off.

Other Names For the Calico Cat

People in Quebec, Canada, often referred to the Calico as the Chatte D’Espagne, or in English, The Female Cat of Spain.

Calicos are beautiful and happy cats that have been loved by people all over the world for centuries. 

Common Calico Cat Names
Common Calico Cat Names

Common Calico Cat Names

  • The Brindle Cat
  • The Tricolor Cat
  • The Mikeneko (This is Japanese for “The Triple Fur Cat.”)
  • Samsaek Goyangi (This is Korean for “The Three Colored Cat.”)
  • Lapjeskat (This is Dutch for “Patches Cat.”)
  • Calimanco (Referring to a diluted coloration of a Calico.)
  • Clouded Tiger (Referring to a diluted coloration of a Calico.)
  • Caliby or Calico-patched Tabby ( When a tri-colored Calico also has a combination of tabby patterning within the Calico color.)

Breed Standards for the Calico Cat

Calico really only refers to the coloration pattern of a cat’s fur. This name comes from a beautifully colored printed “Calico” fabric, not a specific breed in itself. 

Calico also does not refer to any specific traits like the cat’s eyes, ears, or tail length.

Cat Breeds That Allow Standards for the Calico Colorations

  • The Manx Cat
  • The American Shorthair
  • The Maine Coon
  • The British Shorthair
  • The Persian Cat
  • The Arabian Mau
  • The Japanese Bobtail
  • The Exotic Shorthair
  • The Siberian Cat
  • The Turkish Van
  • The Turkish Angora
  • The Norwegian Forest Cat

Calico Cat Coat Coloration

The determining genetic factor of the Calico coat colorations depends on the X Chromosome. Because of this, Calico cats are usually always females. 

One of the colors is linked to the maternal (mother cat) side’s X Chromosome, and the secondary coloration is linked to the paternal (father cat) side’s X Chromosome. 

Personality Traits of a Calico Cat

A Calico cat is notorious for their fun, lively, and spunky nature. 

Personality Traits of a Calico Cat
Personality Traits of a Calico Cat

They can be fairly assertive and dominant cats. Calico cats also prefer to be on the more independent side and do not require constant attention. 

Calico cats can be ideal for pet parents who need to occasionally travel or work a lot. The temperament of your Calico will also depend on what breed it is. 

For example, the Shorthair is generally very family and child-friendly, whereas some of the other breeds tend to be a more “one-person” type of cat

Personality and friendliness also will depend on:

  • How well socialized the cat is.
  • If you have had the cat since they were a kitten or if they were rescued. Sometimes, rescue cats can have previous and lasting trauma due to abuse or experiences. 

Cat Breeds Differ! The American Shorthair and a Persian are going to look, act, and sound differently.

Characteristic of a Calico Cat

  • Friendliness:  HIGH
  • Child-friendly:  HIGH
  • Animal-friendly:  HIGH
  • Energy Levels:  MEDIUM
  • Playfulness:  MEDIUM
  • Intelligence:  HIGH
  • Vocalization level:  MEDIUM
  • Shedding and grooming requirements: MEDIUM
Characteristic of a Calico Cat
Characteristic of a Calico Cat

Adopting a Calico

Adopting a Calico can be difficult quite frequently due to its high popularity. Your best bet is to check with local rescues or get put on a waiting list for a Calico. 

Be prepared, as it may take upwards of six months to a year at different times. You can check online for lists of nationwide adoptable Calico cats. 

If you are really interested in getting a Calico, you can check rescues, online resources, and even at your vet’s office for suggestions. 

Remember, an older Calico cat needs a home much more frequently than a Calico kitten would. 

How to Find a Calico Breeder

First, you must decide which breed of cat you would like and then get into contact with a breeder after deciding which breed you desire to own. 

Discuss with a cat breeder your desired calico pattern and your ideal price point. It is important to find a reputable breeder who is careful and considerate of their animals. 

Ensuring animal welfare and the decreased risk of genetically inherited problems will be important in getting a kitten that is healthy and able to live an active, long life.

You can check the International Cat Association for a list of breeders.

Types of Calico Cats

Representative breeds:

  • Persian Cat
  • British Shorthair
  • American Shorthair
  • Turkish Van
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Siberian Cat
  • Turkish Angora
  • Exotic Shorthair

Calico Cat Colors

Coat colorations and patterns of Calico exhibited in these breeds:

  • Traditional Calico
  • Dilute Calico
  • Patched Tabby Calico
  • Male Calico
  • Short-haired Calico
  • Long-haired Calico

Calico Cat Diet

You should feed a Calico the same way you would feed any other cat. A diet consisting of a primary protein source is best for all cats. 

You can make your own, purchase a raw diet, canned food, or a dry commercial brand. 

No matter how you feed your cat, ensure that there are no by-products, fillers, preservatives, additives, or artificial colors. 

Calicos have a tendency, as a lot of cats do, to suffer from constipation. You can add pumpkin or other fiber sources to their diet. 

It is also recommended to have a mix of wet and dry foods or even add water to their dry food. 

Homemade Cat Food

There are a variety of ways to ensure your cat’s health and well-being, and one is to feed them the best nutrition available. You can even make your own cat food quickly and easily.

Remember, these ideas are just for your information. Always consult your veterinarian before feeding your pet anything.

  1. Use a crockpot, instapot, or pressure cooker.
  2. Cook meats and even some veggies.
  3. Add salmon or other fish oils.
  4. Once you have completed making your cat food, you should store it in air-tight containers. You can even freeze your cat’s food for up to 6 months. This is especially helpful if you wish to make your own cat food but don’t have a lot of time.

Calico Cat Health Issues

Due to the pre-dispositioned genetic “malfunctions” that cause Calico colors, they are generally more prone to health issues than some other cat colors.

These include:

  • Cognitive and physical delays/ issues
  • Klinefelter’s Syndrome
  • Weight problems
  • Constipation
  • Circulatory problems
  • Diabetes
  • Joint pain
  • Broken bones
  • Decreased life span

It is important that if you decide to get a Calico, you frequently work with a veterinarian to ensure your cat’s overall wellness and health. 

There is also the option to get cat insurance to help with any additional expenses that may arise if your cat does develop problems.

Calico Cat Names

If you have a Calico cat you need to make sure you choose a wonderful name for them! Here is a short list of some of the most popular Calico names.

  • Aurora
  • Chloe
  • Emmi
  • Fawn
  • Hermes
  • Honey
  • Mittens
  • Neapolitan
  • Patches
  • Piper
  • Spice
  • Whiskey

Related Calico Cat Questions

Is a Calico Cat the Same as a Tortoiseshell cat?

Many people mistakenly believe that Calico cats are the same as Tortoiseshell cats. They are two different coat color patterns. 

A Tortoiseshell is a mostly mottled black and orange or gray and cream with little to no white markings. 

Tortoiseshell cats will have colored, spotted patches. Sometimes they can even look like a salt and pepper combination. 

But, outside of North America, the Calico is commonly referred to as “the tortoiseshell and white.”

Are Calico cats hypoallergenic?

No, Calico cats do shed and if you are already allergic to cats you will also most likely be bothered by a Calico cat as well.

Remember, Calico is a color pattern and not a breed. Because so many cat breeds can have the Calico color you will see a wide range of shedding tendencies.

Are Calico cats good luck?

A Calico cat is commonly believed to be a good luck charm in many cultures within their folklore. 

In Germany, a Calico cat is “Glückskatze,” which translates to “Luck or lucky cat.” 

In the US, they are often called money cats. Even the Japanese called these cats the Maneki Neko, and they thought they brought good luck, especially in perilous sea travel.

How much does a calico kitten cost?

Great question but first you have to decide if you want a male or female Calico. Unless you want to spend a lot of money please say you are happy with a female Calico!

Female Calico kittens probably can be found for between $50 and $100. Male Calico cats are very rare and can cost between $1000 and $3000!

Why Are There So Few Male Calico Cats?

Male cats are usually only one color, like black or grey, due to only having an X Chromosome. Some studies suggest that only one in about 3000 Calico cats is born a male! Wow!

Male Calico cats can happen when an extremely rare genetic defect happens, leaving the cat with two X Chromosomes. 

This is also called “Klinefelter Syndrome.” The Chromosomes for this syndrome are XXY, and the male cats are always sterile. 

The male Calico has two different cell types. This can sometimes lead to spontaneous mutations within the skin cells of the developing cat. 

How do I find a male Calico cat?

Male Calico cats are exceptionally rare and thus will require a lot of time, working with a breeder, and overall patience. 

You also should keep in mind that if a breeder does happen to produce a male calico, they will usually charge a lot of money for that cat due to how rare they are. 

It is usually thought that only ONE out of every THREE THOUSAND Calico kittens is a male! 

Do Calico cats have a different personality than other cats?

Yes and no. Every cat is going to be unique and has its own personality. 

There is no “one size fits all” for any specific breed or color of the cat. Calico’s generally are very sweet, independent, and playful.

Calico Cats Make Great Family Pets

The Calico is a great addition to your family. Cats are enjoyable creatures that bond really well with their people. 

There are many options for getting a Calico, whether that is through a breeder or through an adoption, foster, or rescue program. 

Keep in mind the health problems that may occur with a Calico, and you will be able to have a cat that lives a long, happy life. I wish you good luck in finding the Calico of your dreams!

What is a Calico Cat

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