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Home > Cats > 9 Fascinating Facts About Calico Cats: Appearance, Breeds & More

9 Fascinating Facts About Calico Cats: Appearance, Breeds & More

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You know a Calico cat when you see it—the bright orange, black, and white pattern stands out among the orange or brown tabbies and black cats. Almost all female, Calico cats have interesting genetics that have been the subject of studies dating back to the 1940s.

Learn more fascinating facts about the standout Calico cat.divider-cat

The 9 Facts About Calico Cats

1. Calico Isn’t a Breed

Calico is not a breed of cat but a specific coloration. This color pattern can occur in many cat breeds, including the Maine Coon, American Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Persian, and more, as well as mixed breeds.

calico maine coon cat lying on the grass
Image Credit: Aleksei Verhovski, Shutterstock

2. Calico Is More Than Orange, Black, and White

While many Calico cats are patterned with orange, black, and white, it’s not limited to those colors. Some cats may have a Calico pattern with cream, red, chocolate brown, or even blue-black.


3. Most Calicos Are Female

Almost all Calico cats are female. This is due to the specific chromosomes that determine the color variations. Sex hormones X and Y determine whether a cat will be male (XY) or female (XX). The X chromosome is what carries the coding gene for the main colors in the Calico pattern, and because females have two X chromosomes, they have double that color coding gene. If one parent carries the X for orange and the other carries the X for black, the resulting kitten may express both black and orange in the Calico pattern.

Calico Cat with green eyes lying on cardboard scratch board
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

4. Male Calicos Exist But They’re Rare

Now, back to chromosomes! Because male cats only have one X chromosome with the code for black or orange and one Y chromosome without the color genes, they will only express black or orange. The one exception is the genetic anomaly called XXY syndrome, which happens when a male cat has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome, producing a male Calico.

Only one in every 3,000 or so Calico cats is born male. These cats are sterile and may have genetic abnormalities that contribute to health problems.


5. Calico Cats Can’t Be Selectively Bred

The unique genetic makeup that contributes to the Calico cat makes them impossible to breed selectively. In addition, male Calicos are always sterile. Instead, this process is entirely random, and Calico cats are just a “lucky draw” in a litter.

a calico cat with a pet id tag lying on a table
Image Credit: Andy Gin, Shutterstock

6. Coloration Doesn’t Influence Personality

Because Calico is not a breed and these cats can’t be selectively bred, there’s no consistency in personality traits or temperament between Calico cats. They can occur in many breeds, however, so you can choose a breed for temperament and look for a Calico among them.


7. Calico Cats Are Lucky

Calico cats are rare and created entirely by chance, so they’re considered a good luck charm in folklore all over the world. In Japan, fishermen brought Calico cats onto ships to protect them from bad weather. In Irish folklore, it’s believed that a Calico cat’s tail can be rubbed on warts to remove them—but only in May. Calico cats are also referred to as “money cats” in the US for their ability to attract good fortune.

Young woman bonding with calico cat bumping rubbing bunting heads
Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

8. Maneki Neko Is a Calico Cat

Maneki Neko, the famous Japanese Beckoning Cat, is modeled after a Calico. This cat’s image is placed at the entrances of buildings to bring good fortune. The Maneki Neko dates back to the late 1800s, so the color variation has been a source of good luck for quite some time.


9. The Calico Is Maryland’s State Cat

A few states have cats as official representatives, including Massachusetts and Maine, but Maryland has a Calico cat for its orange, black, and white colors. This is because those colors are the same as the oriole, the official state bird.

calico cat having treats
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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How Much Do Calico Cats Cost?

A Calico cat can be cheap or expensive, depending on the breed and circumstances. As mentioned, Calico is a color and not a breed, so you could pay top dollar for a pedigreed cat with a Calico color or find a Calico mixed breed at a rescue or shelter.

Calico cat lying down on a beach towel
Image Credit: Basje3990, Pixabay

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Conclusion

Calico cats are not just interesting to look at. They’re a rare wonder of genetics and random luck that can be expressed in a range of breeds, from Persians and Maine Coons to shelter and rescue mixes. And because the Calico is a color, they can be found in virtually every cat size and personality.


Featured Image Credit: Karen Kaspar, Shutterstock

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