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 at some point.

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 this breed, along with 10 fun facts about calico cats.

Personality and Temperament

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There are usually scientifically documented studies about the behavior and personality of each cat breed. Contrary to popular belief, calico cats are not a specific breed in their own right, but rather cats with a certain fur color pattern.

This is why 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 therefore subjectively gauged by the owner’s consensus, rather than scientific studies.

Given their mysterious behavior, getting 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 males house one X and one Y chromosome, females have two X chromosomes. X chromosomes, which have hundreds of genes coding them, 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.

How Rare Are Male Calico Cats?

Male Calico cats are pretty rare.They 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 nutritious diet, and provide him or her with a solid health care plan.

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 is sterile.

    This happens because 99.9% of calico cats are females and male calicos are so rare, that 1 of 3000 male calico cats is born with Klinefelter’s syndrome. That means they are not only sterile, but unfortunately also carry a lot of other 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 declared 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 on 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 to 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. As a last resort, the town sent a local calico cat to be station master, where she would greet passengers as they passed by. As the calico cat became a celebrity, it drove a 17% increase in station traffic. 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. Even thought they originated in Egypt, they were also found 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!

38 thoughts on “All About Calico Cats

  1. Nicki

    Interesting facts! I own a beautiful calico but she is a very stressed out girl. She has suffered from bladder crystals, needing surgery, and gets urinary tract infections from stress. She tempermental, doesn’t get along with other cats, and has recently taken to marking her territory. I love her so much but she’s become a lot of work! Any advice!

    Reply
    1. Gadgetman

      We have a gorgeous calico & white female & she had a terrible case of bladder stones which had to be surgically removed. Our vet put her on prescription Science Diet C/D food (ultra low ash) & firmly instructed us that she must stay on this food for life or the stones will keep coming back. So far, so good. She thinks she is human & thrives when we are near her. She also nurses herself when she is really comfortable near us (like snuggled against us). If we leave her & travel for a few days, she stresses bad & throws up.

      Reply
    2. ALICIA LARSON

      I have to assume that you’ve asked your vet, yes? I had a cat with similar urinary problems. There were certain things that helped a lot. First of all, vets told me to never fed him anything with fish in it. The more fish, the more Ash. And Ash clogs up the urinary track in and causes problems. Also, never ever let the kitty outside in the cold. Cold weather tends to make their little urethras retain urine and thus infections etc. As for the stones, some claim that certain Kitty treats can cause these. That might be a myth, but worth a try. If kitty is stressed when alone, you might want to get a kitten. A kitten doesn’t care if your cat likes other cats. A Kitten loves its way into any cat’s heart. ? good luck!

      Reply
    3. Slamina

      I’m sorry to hear your calico is prone to crystals. We just went through that with our male tabby so I can understand the stress. On the other hand, our calico is presenting our multi cat house hold with issues just in the last couple months. I found her during a TNR. She was the runt and is still tiny. I brought her in after mama was done feeding and she was funny and playful. Although they found gingivitis at time of spay, about 8 wks.. She joined our 3 kitty family and 6 months later we adopted 3 male and 1 female nursing kitties that lost mama from a car accident. Now we have 7. She’s been with all of us for 2.5 yrs. and recently 2 of the males (twins) and her just don’t get along and she’d rather be by herself. She never was one to play with the others, didn’t like bring held and only would come to me. She took up residence on top of our kitchen cupboards. 2 wks. ago we found she has not been using the cat box and refuses to. I’m cleaning out cupboards now that smell of ammonia. She seems depressed and sad. W e have no choice but to go against our life long commitment w/our cats and find her a one kitty owner. She’s not happy and I’m so sad and will wait it out to find that perfect home. She definitely has a different personality in all I described and others as well. I will write some suggestions for crystals in my next reply so this doesn’t become too long

      Reply
  2. Wanderer

    Calicos are indeed a mysterious breed. It’s been said when a cat lifts their left paw it is a sign of good fortune – hence the Beckoning cat of japan

    Reply
  3. Anita

    My cat had a litter of six 12 days ago. One torti, two calico and four tuxedo. Their personality are so amazing

    Reply
  4. Randy LaCasse

    I adopted a five-month-old female who weighs 3.5 lbs she is rather small. I have had her home now for 3 days the 1st day she spent in her carrier then ventured out. She is adjusting extremely well-eating playing running around being a kitten. She will sit on my lap, my head, shoulders or watch tv with me in bed or in the living room. Except when I go to pick her up she gets very skittish. But once I hold her she is fine. Also, she just started following me around from room to room, will grow out of being skittish? when I go to pick her up? Otherwise, she just makes me, laugh all day and, night. I haven’t ever owned a kitten before.
    Any advice would be helpful.
    Thank you
    Randy and Becky

    Reply
    1. Guillermo

      Omg. This sounds just like my Emmie. She is 3 months old, very skittish when I want to pick her up, but files he everywhere and wants to hang around me. However, when she cries for attention, she will allow me to pick her up and caress her.

      Reply
  5. Mandyshines

    Randy and Becky I am curious how is your kitty? It sounds like she wanted to be your friend already. Sometimes kittens have anxiety about being captured or picked up because of where they come from she could have possibly been roughly caught by children when she was with her litter or something like that. In any case I would think she certainly would be better by now with proper care.

    Reply
  6. Mackayla

    I have a calico. she does not get along with the dog who just got fixed yesterday. We have three cats. Our calico, Anna, our orange tabby, Meowey, and our tortoiseshell, Angel. She kind of gets along with them. I love them a lot, but Anna is afraid of balloons. Any advice for “balloon phobia?”

    Reply
  7. Julia

    My calico is a beautiful girl with the brightest personality! She is always playing with my dog but is very gentle and always sleeps under the covers with me. It is hilarious because all of the calico cats that I have owned ( I have owned 3) are pretty independent but then they just start yelling at you when they want attention! If she wants in my covers but doesn’t know how, she will start meowing into my ear until I wake up and then I lift the cover and she bolts in and curls up next to me. She is really clever and can make anything a toy, and I mean anything.

    Reply
  8. Julia

    My calico is a beautiful girl with the brightest personality! She is always playing with my dog but is very gentle and always sleeps under the covers with me. It is hilarious because all of the calico cats that I have owned ( I have owned 3) are pretty independent but then they just start yelling at you when they want attention! If she wants in my covers but doesn’t know how, she will start meowing into my ear until I wake up and then I lift the cover and she bolts in and curls up next to me. She is really clever and can make anything a toy, and I mean anything. She has also never had any health issues.

    I got her at 1 month old and she was barely 1 pound. Was that ok for her to leave her mom so early?

    Reply
  9. Caroline

    I have a calico, her name is Lily, she is my girl, very affectionate with me and she thinks she is a human. Love to be around other women too specially when we have get togethers. She doesn’t to be picked up but she follows me all the time. She is a senior now but still she is very curious and love chasing creatures.

    Reply
  10. Becky

    I have a beautiful patched tabby calico who turned 14 years old in March. She definitely has her own personality. She talks a lot and well screams until she gets what she wants. She tells you when she is ready for her meals and if your aren’t fast enough she will let you know. She has a strict bed time and if you aren’t ready she will follow you around screaming until you finally lay down. She only wants love and pets when SHE wants them. She has been a huge part of our family and as annoying as she can be I hope we have many more years with her.

    Reply
  11. Monica Holiday

    My calico used to come up in the bed and uncover my face if the covers were over my head, and then she would snuggle up close to my chin. Sweetest thing ever. Now there are other cats in the house and she has a thyroid issue and has to take medication. So she doesn’t come up on the bed hardly at all anymore. She’s more restless and doesn’t like to compete with the other cats. It took her the longest of the other 3 cats to adjust to them and to a new place. We still have a good bond, but she doesn’t quite seem like the same cat. 😔 She and our young tortie seem to enjoy playing at times. 😊

    Reply
  12. Tom

    I had a female calico cat for 12 years. She had Kidney Failure. I had to put her to sleep. I miss her everyday-she was my buddy. She had a beautiful coat with a great personality.

    Reply
    1. Roberta

      My beautiful female calico cat was with me for 15 years. She too had kidney failure which I tried to keep under control but recently developed anemia and a heart murmur. I made the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep yesterday afternoon. I am so incredibly sad and miss her so much. She brought so much joy to my life.

      Reply
      1. Cathy

        Hi Roberta, I just lost my beautiful Calico Casey to a brain tumor. She was about 12, and we loved her so much. We fed her the best food, faithfully took her to the vet every year, and spent lots of time together. Like you, I am incredibly sad and miss my girl so much.

        Reply
  13. Rachel

    My calico, S’more, is gorgeous and she’s about two years old. She’s been picking up a naughty habit recently, peeing/pooping on the beds. However, it seems the other cat of the household might be fighting back and peeing on the beds as well. I’ve had S’more since she was a few weeks old, and they’ve never seemed to have issues with marking territory. Does anyone know why the sudden naughtiness? I did go away for college for a few months and she could be acting out because of that. She tends to use my bed as a bathroom when I’m gone because she’s upset. I’ll be moving next month (without the other cat) and I need to figure out if she’s just overall a cat that wants to be alone, or if it’s something that can be stopped to allow another kitty into my home.

    Reply
    1. Cathy

      PLEASE take her to a vet!!!! I have had 2 that suddenly started forgetting the ‘potty rules’… I unfortunately lost both to underlying kidney failure…. which they may have survived had I recognized they were sick earlier. Animals who have been potty trained and then start having accidents are trying to get you attention and let you know they are sick.

      Reply
    2. Marisa Walker

      That behavior Commonly means she has bladder/kidney problem, maybe infection. But I had 2 cats that had hypertension & stupid vet put me through all the typical “behavior” problems. Eventually they had failed kidneys. An excellent vet is priceless.

      Reply
  14. Lillian Silva

    We had a beautiful Calico female named Patch. We were blessed to have her for 20 years, yes 20 years.
    She was wonderful with our kids, who are now 18 and 14. She was so patient with them when they were little.
    She was the queen of our pets, welcoming a adopted baby kitten 12 years ago as her own, as well as a 6 week old puppy seven years ago. They miss her as much as we do. As a family, we all said good bye to her.
    She is loved, and lived well past her life span, we were blessed to have her in our lives, and we miss her dearly.

    Reply
  15. Beverly Horen

    My calico Patches is a long haired beauty. The only time she was naughty like that was when i had my daughters cat for a long weekend. never before or sense. She is a love, like so many of the other fore mentioned calicos she does like to sleep on my bed with me, but waits tell I say lets go to bed then she will go to my bedroom door and wait patiently until I am in bed then comes in and joins me. Patches is 12 years old now. she has been with me for 11 years, and has NEVER liked to be picked up. But when I sit down she is always at my side or in my lap. Loves it when I have company, and is always looking for attention. Many years ago I use to breed Siamese cats(not known for their loving personalities) and I must say, Patches is the best companion cat I have eer had.

    Reply
  16. Roberta

    My beautiful female calico cat was with me for 15 years. She too had kidney failure which I tried to keep under control but recently developed anemia and a heart murmur. I made the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep yesterday afternoon. I am so incredibly sad and miss her so much. She brought so much joy to my life.

    Reply
  17. terrie brandolini

    I have a beautiful Calico that also has the Hemmingway Trait! she has 24 claws! She is on the big size I believe because of this! She is now almost 14 yrs old! Punkinhead weight is 13 lbs! She is healthy She isn’t fond of my Deaf Boxer but they do love each other from a far lol! And I never knew all the things about Calicoes She is Shy gets Stressed out sometimes like Vet visits! Never knew they were on the Rare side! Glad I read up on them! #LoveMyCalico!

    Reply
  18. Diane

    it’s so incredibly hard to lose a pet. i’ve been grieving for weeks over the loss of
    my little dog. i am adopting a calico kitten to help heal the hole in my heart.
    There are so many animals needing homes!

    Reply
  19. matthew b davis

    I have a calico cat named Cali and she is my best buddy. She follows me around the house and talks to me all the time. When it’s time for bed, she hopps right in bed with me and curls up, She has to be touching me too. She will sleep the whole night with me. I have her brother and mother too, which is also a calico. Her brother is a black and white cat. She doesn’t care for the other cats too much, but favors my 4th cat, a ginger cat named Bubba, who is her buddy. I love her deeply. She is 5 years old now and I hope to have her for many years. She is spayed and has vet checkups and has a clean bill of health. Yay!

    Reply
  20. Dary Hannam-Cobb

    I have a female cat Calico named Lucy. She is 5 years old and just recently she started peeing everywhere in the corners of the house. She creates a loud meow when she doesn’t get her way and she’s very stressed out a lot. How do I stop her from peeing in the corners of the house, she’s never done this before.. she is so loving and she follows me from room to room to room to room.

    Reply
  21. Slamina

    Crystals..oh my..how i can relate but with our white and orange male. One thing I’ve found is if a cat doesn’t want canned food, especially Hills CD which he is on, I will grind up his dry Hills CD real fine and put on top of the wet. This helped him to eat the canned much better. As far as her stressing, I feel bad for you and her both for going through this because stress is one thing bladder issues don’t like! And if she is marking it’s adding to the stressful situation. Is she spayed and can you remember when and possibly why she began marking? Like ours, it was due to a fight with the other cats. I have a link to the best article on cats in multiple cat households. https://icatcare.org/advice/keeping-your-cat-happy/multi-cat-households-and-how-survive-them. There is also good articles on cats with bladder issues. It was the most resourceful page I found and I looked for a long time. Wishing you the best

    Reply
  22. Barbara

    HI I have a female Calico named Miss Lucy. I got her from a friend when she was a year and a half. Now she is 5 years old. Before she came too me, she used to spend all her time upstairs at my friends house. Anyhow since got her. She is not really loveable kind of cat. Yes she follows me around a lot. And she sleeps by myside. But she won’t let me pick her up but I guess because she is 14 pounds. She is fixed. But the whole problem that I have with her is out of the blue she will bite me and also go for my ankles. Not all the time just out of the blue. I do play with her. Is there anything I can do or give her. I don’t have any cats. My friend did have another one with her but she kept it.

    Reply
  23. ashley gray

    i have a female calico her name is scooby she is a very sweet and cuddly calico . she loves to mess with my fish tanks and climb on tables and scratch my walls and furniture. she does not get along with other animals she loves to greet you when you come in and she will let you know shes hungry. she is orange black and white female calico her mommy was a orange tabby and her daddy was black and white that probably how she got her colors. shes a good cat to have and a very picky eater.

    Reply
  24. Crazy Cat Lady

    My calico baby girl is a wild one. She can be extremely shy and picky when it comes to socialising with people.
    Some people makes her run and some makes her cuddly.
    Everyday she would do something that would surprise me. I swear they only get more interesting as the years go by.

    She is the most vocal kitten I have had, comparing to her two big brothers. We would just talk back and forth like “Did you have a good day Gizmo?” “Meowww..” “That sounds amazing Gizmo, what else happened?” “Meowwwwoooo…” “What?! Bowie did what? Your brothers are so naughty. Gizmo, you’re such a good girl.” “Meoowwww!”

    My Gizmo can also have such a bad anxiety problem and would pee here and there. No underlying health issues, we have gone to the vets a few times, got all the tests and everything. I would be exhausted and mad that I need to keep cleaning and washing after her. But at the end of the day, she is my baby girl and I wouldn’t change her for the world.

    Adopt yourself a calico, she will fill your heart with so much happiness and pure joy.

    Reply
  25. Barb

    Our calico, Billie Jo was found outside a Billiard Hall in MN. She is a great lap cat and loves to cuddle. We have traveled to AZ with her several times and she does just fine. Our other cat, Drew doesn’t like her and vice versa but such is life (just like politics). But we survive and are blessed to be a 2 cat family.

    Reply
  26. Jeannette

    I got my calico about a year ago or a little more ago from the neighbors across the the street. I asked the teen girl that had her why see keeps her outside? I told her she is to little and to pretty to be kept outside. She told me she wants the kitty the live off the land. I told her she was an ass and stupid for thinking that way. Animals need love and gidances, not to defend for themselves. So a couple nights later she came to my door and asked if I seen Ava, I told her to come in and look under the couch. And there she was, happy and content. I also have 3 dogs and 2 other cats they all get along great with each other. We ( the family ) call her Little Miss Ava. She is a little nicsnucs. It means Trouble maker in German. But she is so cute and funny. She is about a year, year and a half. She’s white, black, gray and a very little bit tan. I wouldn’t give her up for nothing. She’s here with me for the donation.That was the best thing I did, and it seem like a lot of strays come here because I have sucker writing on my forehead. Lol. Soon or later I’ll be out in the doghouse, if my husband gets his way.

    Reply
  27. Shauna Gunnink

    My 13-yr-old Calico Gracie Lou is beautiful and quirky and very protective of me. She, too, has recently developed hyperthyroidism and kidney stones and I almost lost her. I am working very hard to get her healthy again. She doesn’t want the Hills C/D wet food, which is so frustrating, but she is eating some of the dry. I’m told that wet food is better for older cats, especially those with kidney problems, to help with hydration.

    Reply

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