All About Calico Cats
Calico cats are an interesting cat that seem to lead to a lot of misunderstandings about them.
I wanted to talk about the myths that a lot of people seem to have about calico cats and debunk them.
I also want to share some fun facts about calico cats that many of you may not know.
In fact, there were a large number of things that came as a surprise even to me! So, sit back and enjoy!
What Are Calico Cats?
Calico cats are domestic cats that consist of a garden of cat colors, either vibrant orange, white and black, or gray coloring. In feline genetics, there is also a type known as “dilute calico.”
Diluted calicos have more muted tones of these colors hence where the dilution comes from.
The various patterns of the calico patches are almost as ubiquitous as snowflakes. You’ll never see two exactly alike.
Calico cats are one of the most colorful cats in the domestic cat family. They are rivaled only by tortoiseshell cats, who are genetically very similar.
The striking tri-color pattern of calico cats is a product of genetics, making them one of the most visually distinctive feline varieties. To understand the genetic basis of their appearance, we need to delve into the fascinating world of feline coat color genetics.
Calico cats are almost always female, and the reason lies in the combination of genes determining coat colors. The genes responsible for coat color are carried on the X chromosome. In a typical female cat, who has two X chromosomes, the presence of two different coat color genes can result in a calico pattern. One X chromosome may carry genes for black fur, while the other may carry genes for orange fur. As a result, the cells in the cat’s body randomly express one of these two colors, creating the distinctive black and orange patches on a white background.
Males, on the other hand, have only one X chromosome (paired with one Y chromosome), so they typically express either black or orange, but not both. Occasionally, male calico cats do exist, but they are very rare and typically have an extra X chromosome (XXY), a genetic anomaly known as Klinefelter syndrome.
History of Calico Cats
Calico cats, with their distinct tricolor coats of black, orange, and white, have long been a source of fascination and admiration for cat enthusiasts around the world. Their unique appearance is a product of genetics and their history is steeped in cultural significance, superstitions, and symbolism.
Origins of the Calico Coat
The term “calico” originally referred to a type of printed cotton fabric imported to the United States from Calicut, India in the 18th century. Early American settlers, upon encountering cats with the striking tricolor patterns, likened their appearance to the vibrant calico textiles, and the name “calico cat” was born.
Genetically, calico cats have a distinct coat pattern due to the presence of two primary coat color genes, which are carried on the X chromosome. In most cases, calico cats are female, possessing two X chromosomes. One X chromosome may carry the genes for black fur, while the other may carry the genes for orange fur. The random expression of these genes in different cells creates the characteristic black and orange patches on a white background.
Calico cats have found their place in various cultures and traditions around the world, often carrying special significance and symbolism:
- Japan: In Japanese folklore, calico cats are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. The “maneki-neko” figurine, a beckoning cat often depicted as a calico, is considered a talisman for good fortune.
- United States: In the United States, calico cats are considered a symbol of good luck, especially in the southern states. They are often associated with positivity, and their vibrant coats are celebrated.
- Ireland: In Ireland, folklore holds that the calico cat is a lucky omen, and it’s considered good luck if a calico cat crosses your path.
- Scotland: In Scotland, seeing a calico cat is believed to bring good fortune, while a black cat is seen as a bad omen. This highlights the perceived positive qualities associated with the calico coat.
Physical Features of A Calico Cat
As we mentioned earlier, the most prominent and defining feature of calico cats is their tricolor coat. No two calico cats have exactly the same pattern, making each one a unique work of art. But there are still many other features of calico cats that set them apart from other cats.
The white base color that serves as the canvas for the striking black and orange patches is another hallmark of calico cats. This base color not only enhances the visual impact of the black and orange patches but also provides an elegant and clean contrast to the more vibrant hues. The crisp, bright white is an essential feature of the calico cat’s overall appearance.
Calico cats often have a wide range of eye colors, with shades including green, gold, copper, and blue. Their eyes can be particularly striking, accentuating their unique and colorful appearance. The contrast between their eyes and their tricolor coats adds to their overall charm and allure.
The whiskers of calico cats often mirror the colors of their coats. This means that a calico cat may have a mix of black and orange whiskers, creating a charming and eye-catching detail. These multicolored whiskers add to the overall visual appeal of the cat’s face.
Well-Defined Facial Features
Calico cats typically have well-defined facial features, with a clear delineation between the black and orange areas on their heads. This often results in a distinct pattern that can resemble a mask, making their faces even more captivating.
Size and Build
Calico cats come in various sizes and body types, depending on their individual breed and genetics. Some may be petite and dainty, while others are larger and more robust. However, their overall physical build tends to be graceful and agile, befitting their feline nature
Calico Cat Personality
Calico Cats Are Known For Having a Bad Attitude
Calicoes share that personality trait of tortoiseshell cats commonly described as “tortitude.” They are sassy, spunky and very independent.
On the other hand, calicoes are sweet, loving, and loyal cats. If you hunger for unconditional love, a calico cat will willingly and enthusiastically fulfill that need.
The sassy personality could not be farther from an incorrect statement. Mostly because cat coloring has nothing to do with their personality.
What is the Personality of a Calico?
Personalities are based from the cat breeds and individual cat.
And my tortie doesn’t know how to have “tortitude”. She is literally the sweetest cat, and with four cats I am not just saying that.
You could have a Norwegian Forest Cat with calico coating who is the sweetest love muffin you have ever met. On the opposite, you could have a calico cat who does not do well with other cats and needs to be left alone.
I always have a hard time when people categories things as having a bad attitude.
Most of the time, the cat doesn’t have a bad attitude. It may have a hard past, not do well with certain circumstances, or be taunted.
For example, if you have a rescue cat that was harmed by humans, they will be un-trusting.
No surprise there.
Many people consider them to have a bad attitude, or not like them. The same goes for dogs, other cats, and kids.
Some cats do better alone, or with one and not the other. Some people are cat people, not dog people and vice versa.
The same is true for cats.
Health Considerations For Calico Cats
Calico cats, just like any other cat breed, can be prone to a range of health issues. While each cat is an individual with its own health profile, here are some common concerns to be aware of:
Obesity is a prevalent issue in domestic cats, including calicos. It can lead to various health problems, such as diabetes, joint issues, and heart disease. Monitoring your calico cat’s weight and providing a balanced diet along with regular exercise is crucial.
Urinary Tract Issues:
Calico cats, particularly females, may be more susceptible to urinary tract problems, including urinary tract infections and urinary blockages. It is important to ensure proper hydration, maintain clean litter boxes, and be vigilant for signs of discomfort during urination.
Dental issues, such as periodontal disease, are common in cats, and calicos are no exception. Regular dental care, including brushing and dental check-ups, is essential to prevent dental problems.
The white areas of a calico cat’s coat may be more prone to sunburn, especially if they spend time outdoors. Sunburn can lead to skin cancer in extreme cases. It’s important to protect your calico cat from excessive sun exposure.
Calico cats can carry genetic predispositions to certain diseases or conditions. This is not determined by their coat pattern but rather by their individual genetic makeup. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to identify and manage potential genetic health concerns.
Lifespan of Calico Cats
The lifespan of a calico cat, like any other cat, can vary depending on factors such as genetics,breed, diet, lifestyle, and the quality of veterinary care. On average, calico cats can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years or more. With proper care and attention to their health, some calico cats have been known to live well into their late teens or early twenties.
It’s crucial to provide regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and a safe and stimulating environment to ensure the best possible lifespan for your calico cat.
Ideal Weight Range for Calico Cats
The ideal weight for a calico cat can vary depending on the individual cat’s size, age, breed, and activity level. However, on average, adult calico cats typically weigh between 7 to 12 pounds (3.2 to 5.4 kilograms). Factors such as bone structure and muscle mass will affect this range. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate weight range for your specific calico cat and to monitor their weight over time.
Myths About Calico Cats
There are so many conversations that go on about calico cats, and so many of these are incorrect facts, or myths related to these beautiful cats. But let’s debunk some of the most common myths or incorrect assumptions.
They are a Cat Breed
This is the biggest myth that comes to Calico cats.
Everyone describes them as a cat breed, when in fact, they are not.
They are a coloring of the cat’s coating. The term “calico” refers to a tri-color pattern of the cat’s coat that can occur in almost any domestic feline.
And since Calico is a color instead of a breed, there can be a large range of cat breeds and cat sizes with this coloring. For a cat to be considered a calico, three distinct colors must be present.
Calicos are predominately white with patches of orange and black but other colors are known to be present depending on the cat.
Are Calico Cats The Same as Tortoiseshell Cats?
Calico cats are sometimes confused with tortoiseshell cats.
Both terms refer to coat colors and patterns rather than breed, but there are several differences.
Both cats have orange and black coloring, but calicos also have large patches of white.
When people ask me the difference behind calico and Tortoiseshell I usually explain as this.
They are both multicolored.
Calico have a white base color, and tortoiseshell have a black base color. This is not an exact representation, but it usually helps distinct one from the other.
The most common difference is that tortoiseshell colors (red and black) are interwoven throughout the coat, where calico cats have distinctive patches of solid color. Sometimes the distinction is even more blurred, when a calico may have some woven patches intermingled with the solid areas, as depicted in the first photo. Such cats are often called “calitorts”…or could they be “torticals?”
Fun Facts About Calico Cats
Now that the biggest myths and misconceptions I always hear about calicos are finished, let’s move onto the fun part. Let’s talk about some fun facts about Calico cats.
Are Most Calico Cats Female?
This is one of my favorites, and probably the most well known fact about Calico cats. Most of them are females. Male Calico cats are rare, but not impossible. There is a statistic that approximately one in 3,000 calico cats is male.
So if you have a male calico cat, you have a very special rare cat.
Maneki Neko is a Calico
What is Maneki Neko? I asked the same question. Maneki Neko is a popular Japanese cat statue that’s believed to bring good luck and good fortune. This cute ceramic cat with one raised paw is frequently found at the entrance of Japanese and Chinese restaurants, and other places of business.
So if you see that happy cat at a restaurant just swinging their arm back and forth, you can now share the fun fact that that cat is actually a calico coloring.
There different types of calico cats
What does a calico cat look like?
When I described the different types of Calico cats, I did a fairly high level explanation of their coloring.
But in that there are three different types of Calico coloring and each one is a little different from the other.
- A standard calico usually has a white coat with large spots of orange and black.
- A diluted calico cat, as mentioned above, has lighter colorations that result in white coats with large spots of smoky gray and an almost strawberry-blonde color.
- A ‘calibby’ is a mix of a calico and a tabby cat, where the calico patches of orange and black have the tabby striped or spotted markings.
The name Calico comes from a Term to Describe Fabric
Calico is actually a type of fabric, but when it came to the United States in the 1780s, Americans used the term calico to refer to printed design.
Calico cats are also called brindle, tricolor, tobi mi-ke (Japanese for ‘triple fur’) and lapjeskat (Dutch for ‘patches cat’).
Diluted calico cats with lighter coloration are sometimes called calimanco or clouded tiger.
Calicos may also be referred to as piebald, which can mean any animal with a white base and pigmented spots.
If you go to another country, you will probably hear them refer to Calicos as another name but at the end of the day, they all mean the same thing.
What Breeds Can Calico Cats Be?
If calico is not a breed (which it is), then what breeds can have calico cats?
Honestly, the list is so large is it actually easier to list breeds that calicos don’t appear in.
Calicoes are not allowed in pointed breeds, such as the Siamese or Himalayan, nor those which allow only solid colors, such as the Bombay and the Russian Blue. (Pretty obvious since Bombays are black and Russian blues are…well blue gray).
You’ll find colorful calico cats in the Persian, Manx, Maine Coon, and Scottish Fold breeds, to name a few.
Some breed standards even allow tabby patches in their calicoes. Calico is the most popular color pattern in Japanese Bobtails.
Are Calico Cats Rare?
Calico cats are a very popular cat coloring.
They are not a cat breed, and not specific to one cat breed.
Many different breeds can produce the beautiful calico cat coloring.
While there are a lot of misconceptions about this coloring, a lot of them can be dunked.
And remember, don’t judge a book by its cover. And in the case, don’t judge a cat by its coloring.
Want to learn more about your favorite cat breed but don’t see it here yet? Send me a message! Let’s learn about them together!