5 Fascinating Things You Should Know About Calico Cats

Calico cats are known for their sassy but loving personalities and penchant for causing trouble.

calico cats
Male calico cats are rare. In addition, male calico cats are often born with health problems. Photo: kurt-b

I adopted my spunky calico cat, Lou, when she was just a kitten.

Even though she’s been my constant companion for the past 4 years, she still manages to surprise me every day.

Anyone who’s ever spent time with calico cats knows them to be just a little more mysterious than other cats. Here are 5 fascinating things you should know about calicos.

1. Calico Isn’t a Type of Breed

You might have heard people refer to calicos like they’re a breed, but calico is a color or pattern of fur rather than a breed.

To be considered a calico, the colors black, orange and white (or variations of these colors) must be present.

There are 3 variations of calico coloring:

  • A standard calico has a primarily white coat with patches of orange and black.
  • A dilute calico has the same white base, but their patches are softened to charcoal gray, cream and light orange.
  • Lastly, a calibby is a mix of a calico and tabby cat. The calibby has the same color variations as calicos, with the addition of the signature tabby stripes.

While calico coloring seems to be more common these days, it’s impossible to purposely breed a calico-colored cat. In fact, the calico coloring happens only by accident due to genetics.

Coat color is a sex-linked trait and occurs because of dominant and recessive genes that interact with X chromosomes. Females have 2 X chromosomes, whereas males have 1 X chromosome and 1 Y chromosome.

What most people don’t know is that the genetic code for having either orange or black fur is only found in the X chromosome.

2. Male Calico Cats Are Rare

With just 1 X chromosome, a male cat only has the chance of displaying the black or orange gene, not both.

In the rare instance of a male calico kitten being born, there is a 1 in 3,000 chance of it being sterile due to an abnormality in a male calico’s genes, which causes him to have an extra X chromosome. This is similar to the human condition Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Male calico cats are often born with health issues as well.

calico cats
Meet Lou, my calico buddy. Photo: Katie Jenison/Petful

3. Calico Cats Have a Big Personality

As it turns out, calicos are well-known for their personalities and, more specifically, their sassy attitudes.

Though it could be argued a calico cat’s attitude is determined by their breed, the general consensus is there’s a certain attitude calicos are known to exhibit: one of extreme sass, pig-headedness and independence. As someone who spends a majority of her day with a calico cat, I can vouch for this.

Lou is the most aloof, brave and temperamental cat I’ve ever encountered.

Despite these qualities, Lou also exhibits neediness, a tendency to be startled by the crunch of a chip and a sweetness. She’s basically a contradictory ball of fluff.

4. Not All Breed Standards Accept Calicos

Some breeds organizations, such as those of the Russian Blues and the British Shorthairs, accept only cats with solid-colored coats.

Pointed breeds like the Siamese don’t accept calicos either, because the breed has a specific coloring of a light-colored body with darker fur on the cats’ extremities.

Although not all breed standards recognize the beauty of a calico cat, quite a few do, including Persians and Maine Coons.

This boldly colored calico is just a glutton for affection:

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5. Calico Cats Are Said to Be Good Luck

Yes, calicos are known to be signs of good luck in some cultures.

In the 1870s, the Japanese declared calico cats to be an official symbol of fortune in Japan, and the country’s signature lucky cat, maneki-neko, is often depicted with calico coloring.

According to Irish folklore, calico cats can even cure warts.

In 2001, Maryland named the calico cat the official state cat, making Maryland one of only 3 states to have a state cat. One could guess it has a lot to do with a calico’s orange, black and white coloring matching that of the oriole, which is Maryland’s state bird, but either way, it just shows calicos are special.

Whether you have a calico or are intrigued by the genetic factors that determine a cat’s coloring, it goes without saying calicos are some of the most fascinating felines around.

With a sassy but loving personality and a penchant for causing trouble, calico cats make ordinary days far more interesting.

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This article was written by Katie Jenison. Growing up on a small farm in rural North Dakota, ​Katie developed a love for animals of all shapes and sizes. Now she has 2 cats, Boomer and Lou.