All About Calico Cats

Just about every person who is interested in getting a cat or is just curious about cats will come across the wonderful calico cat along the way.
Why does this cat draw so much interest? Because calico cats are so mysterious and house a great deal of interesting characteristics and rich history. In this post we will tell you everything you need to know about the breed, along with 10 fun facts about calico cats. Basically, the word “calico” describes the cats’ color pattern; white cats with orange and black patches on their coat. So the calico cat is not a breed, but rather a color pattern that could come about on any breed of domestic cat.

Personality and Temperament


There are usually scientifically documented studies about the behavior and personality of each cat breed, but as we mentioned earlier, calico cats are not a breed, but rather a cat’s color pattern. We can’t actually tell how calico cats behave. Calico cats are very different from one another and engage in different behavior. Documented behavior and personality of calico cats is gauged more by the owner’s consensus, rather than scientific studeis. Given their mysterious behavior, buying a calico cat is particularly exciting. You could expect a laid-back, mellow type that will enjoy your comforting and portray loyalty, but you could also get the exact opposite: a cat with an attitude that can be a handful to take care of.

Mysterious Genetics

The genetics of Calico cats are quite fascinating, and have been the topic of serious scientific studies since the 1940s. The black and orange patches the characterize these cats are a result of the genetic phenomenon called “dosage compensation”.  Because almost all calico cats are female, they have two X-chromosomes. While male organisms house one X and one Y chromosome, females have two X chromosomes. X chromosomes have hundred of genes on them and are responsible for producing proteins necessary for survival. However, females can’t live with double the proteins produced by the X chromosome, and therefore need to compensate for the imbalance by shutting down one X chromosome.

In cats, the gene that dictates fur color is located on the X chromosome. Therefore, if a female shuts down the X chromosome carrying the gene for white fur in one particular spot of the body, the gene will produce orange fur in that spot instead (and visa versa). Because the deactivated chromosomes are chosen randomly, the combination of fur colors in calico cats is also random and unique for every calico cat.

Health and Lifespan

The common question people ask is “how long can calico cats live?” The average lifespan of calico cats is 12-16 years.  The question is if this is more or less than the average lifespan of cats of other breeds.  The answer is yes and no. It depends if the calico cat is male or female. Male calico cats tend to live shorter lives than female calico cats because of their unique chromosomal makeup. The good news is that 99.9% of calico cats are females because of this unique genetic makeup. But, put worries aside, because just like with any cat, a calico cat can live longer than average if provided the best health care.  You should provide your cat with good shelter, feed him or her with a good quality, nutritious diet, and take him or her to the veterinary for routine care.

Types of Calico Cats

There are 3 well known types of calico cats: Dilute, Tortoiseshell, and Patched Tabby. As we mentioned earlier, calicos are not a breed, but rather a color pattern. Each of these three calico cats differ in color. Dilute means that the colors are less intense, hence “dilute”. However, the Tortoiseshell and Patched Tabby types do feature unique differences in color. Tortoiseshell cats have very little white coat, which usually appears as small spots on the face, chest or paws. Ginger and black don’t appear in such distinct patches. Patched Tabby is a type of calico cat which has distinct tabby stripes, along with prominent ginger and black patches.

10 Things You Should Know About Calico Cats

  • Females dominate

    99.9% of calico cats turn out to be females because of their special unique chromosomal makeup.

  • 1 out of 3000 male born calicos are sterile.

    This happens because 99.9% calico cats are females and male calicos are rare, so 1 of 3000 male calico cats are born with Klinefelter’s syndrome. That means they are always sterile, but unfortunately also carry a lot of health problems.

  • They represent a state

    Because of their color, calico cats are declared The Official State Cat of Maryland. Fun fact is that only two other states have state cats. Authorities decided to do this because calico cat fur colors are a mixture of white, black and orange – the same as the Baltimore Orion.

  • Beckoning cat.

    The famous Beckoning cat is based off a calico cat.

  • Different names

    Calico cats have different names in different cultures. For example they are called “lapjeskat” in the Netherlands, which means “patched cat”, and “mi-ke” in Japan, which stands for “triple fur”.

  • Lucky charm

    Given their rarity, calico cats are known as lucky charms and signs of good luck around the world. People also believe that calico cats bring good fortune to the homes of families who adopt them. Another fun fact is that they are sometimes referred as money cats in the United States. In the 1870’s, calico cats were declared an official symbol of fortune in Japan.

  • They are brave

    A calico cat saved Japan’s railway station from being closed down. This happened back in 2007, when Kinokawa train station was about to be closed due to budget issues. But the town sent a local calico cat to be station master, where she would greet passengers as they pass by. The calico cat became a celebrity, as it drove a 17% increase in ridership from the station. The calico cat’s good luck charm is indeed true.

  • They are everywhere

    Considering how rare calico cats are, they have really spread around the world. Calico cats were traced migrating along the routes in Europe and Northern Africa. They originate from Egypt, but they were also traced in cities along the Mediterranean, France, Italy, and Spain.

  • You can not breed them

    You can’t breed a calico cat because they only happen by chance. They are not a genetically engineered breed. That is why they are so rare and considered a lucky charm. They are also considered to be a little bit magical because of their three colors. It’s like three cats in one…by chance. Quite interesting, no?

  • They cure warts

    While it’s just a rumour, it’s often believed that calico cats can cure warts. Rubbing warts against the tail of a calico cat in May is supposed to cure it. We are not sure if this is true, but we are sure that the cats probably don’t enjoy it!

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