Calico cats and kittens are reputable for their gorgeous, tricolored coats in hues of orange, black, and white. Calico coats are among various cat breeds and are mostly females. Their genetics, for example, have been the topic of in-depth scientific studies starting way back in the 1940s. In folklore, calicos are revered worldwide for their good luck.
Learn more amazing facts about some of nature's most colorful kitties.
Calico Isn't a Breed of Cat
There is no single calico breed. Rather, calico refers to the color variations in a kitty's coat. Although orange, black, and white are the most common calico colors, some cats may have cream, bluish-black, red, or chocolate brown in their coats, too.
You can find cats with calico coats among many distinct breeds of cats, including American shorthair, Persian, Maine coon, and Cornish Rex, among others.
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Most Calico Cats Are Female (Males Are Super Rare)
It’s a fact that 99.9 percent of all calico cats are female due to the unique chromosomal makeup that determines the color variations in their coats. Why? Put on your lab coat. It’s time for some science.
The sex chromosomes (X and Y) determine whether a cat will be male or female. Each cat has a pair of sex chromosomes with the possible combinations of XX (female) and XY (male). The X chromosome also carries the coding gene for the black and orange colors in a calico's coat.
Female calico cats have two X chromosomes and therefore have two chromosomes with color code. By chance (and depending on the colors in the parents) both X chromosomes may carry the black code or both may carry the orange code, in which case the cat would have those markings. Only if the cat gets one orange-coded X and one black-coded X will it be calico. expressing both black and orange coloration. To manage these two sets of color code, the female embryo will shut down one X chromosome in each cell, resulting in the black and orange variations in a calico's coat.
Because male cats have one X chromosome with code for black or orange and one Y chromosome without any color genes, they cannot technically be calico. They'll only express either black or orange, but not both.
There is one exception: A genetic anomaly called XXY Syndrome, which occurs when the male cat has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. This can produce a male calico.
About one in every 3,000 calico cats is born a male, and, unfortunately, don't live as long as female calicos due to their genetic abnormalities. XXY Syndrome renders male calicos sterile and can be the root cause of many other health problems. If you do have a male calico, however, a healthy diet, exercise, and lots of love and attention can help him live a longer and happier life.
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Calico Cats Can't Be Bred
Due to their unique genetic makeup (and the fact that male calico cats are born sterile), calico cats cannot actually be bred. Rather, nature produces these colorful kitties randomly.
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Calicos Don't Share Personality Traits
Because calico cats aren't one single breed (and can't be bred) they don't share certain personality traits, temperaments, or tendencies. Many breeds of cats can be calico, however, so if you're looking for a certain personality type, be sure to read up on American shorthairs, Japanese bobtails, and Maine coons, among others.
What’s more, the average calico cat’s lifespan can vary greatly. But remember: the key to a long, happy, and healthy kitty life is a nutritious diet, protective shelter, and plenty of love (when they’ll allow it).
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Calico Cats Are Very Lucky
Because calico cats are so rare (especially male calico cats) they're considered a good luck charm all over the world. The folklore and beliefs about them include:
- Back in the day, Japanese fishermen brought calico cats onto their ships to protect them from harsh storms, as well as the ghosts of their envious ancestors.
- According to Irish folklore, you can cure warts by rubbing a calico cat’s tail on the affected area but only during May. It’s probably better to make an appointment with your dermatologist.
- The famous Japanese Beckoning Cat (or Maneki Neko) was modeled after a calico. They’re often placed in the entrances of homes and businesses to bring good luck. The Maneki Neko dates back to the 1870s, so these kitties have a long history as bringers of luck.
- In the United States, calico cats are sometimes referred to as “money cats,” because they bring good fortune to their owners.
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Calico Is an Official State Cat
Only three states in the United States have official feline representatives: Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
Calico cats were declared Maryland's official state cat due to their orange, black, and white coats. They have the same coloring as the Baltimore oriole, which is Maryland's official state bird.
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You May Have a Calico Cat Patronus
Hey, Harry Potter fans: what’s your patronus? If you answered the calico cat, that means you’re loyal, clever, observant, and extremely lucky.