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.
What Makes Calico Cats So Special?
Calico cats are mysterious, have a rich history, and have many interesting characteristics.
Guess what else makes calico cats so special? They’re not even a breed! Calico cats get their name from their fur’s color pattern.
In this post, we will tell you everything you need to know about calico cats, along with 10 fun facts about them.
Personality and Behavior
Calico cats aren’t a breed unto themselves, so we can’t assign breed-specific personality or behavioral traits to them. Like many cats, calico cats will develop their unique personalities according to many factors, such as life experiences.
Because calico cats are so different from one another, it’s particularly exciting to get one. You could get a laid-back, mellow cat that will enjoy being around you and be your loyal companion, but you could also get the opposite: an aloof, high-maintenance cat with an attitude.
The genetics of calico cats are quite fascinating and have long been the topic of scientific research. We could really get into the weeds about these genetics, but your eyes might glaze over. So, we’ll keep this as short and simple as possible.
The black and orange patches of fur that characterize these cats are a result of the genetic phenomenon called “X-chromosome inactivation”.
In cats, the gene that dictates fur color is located on the X chromosome. Nearly all calico cats are female, so they have two X chromosomes. The rare male calico cats have one X and one Y chromosome.
In addition to determining a cat’s coat color, X chromosomes have numerous genes that code for proteins that are necessary for survival. With females having two X chromosomes, this double dose of ‘survival’ genes could be toxic. To compensate for this double dose, one of the X chromosomes is randomly inactivated when kitties are just a tiny ball of cells in their mother’s womb.
Thus, if the X chromosome carrying the gene for white fur in one particular spot of the body is inactivated, orange fur might grow 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 average lifespan of calico cats is 12 to 16 years. Is this more or less than the average lifespan for most cat breeds?
Yes and no. It depends if the calico cat is male or female.
Male calicoes tend to live shorter lives than female calicoes because of a genetic condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This syndrome is the presence of two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome.
Klinefelter’s Syndrome can lead to numerous health problems, such as the increased risk of broken bones, joint pain, and diabetes. These health problems can result in shorter lifespans for male calicoes.
Regardless of whether your calico cat is male or female, you can help them have a good quality of life by providing them with good shelter, feeding them a nutritious diet, and providing quality veterinary care with the help of a solid pet health insurance plan.
How Rare Are Male Calico Cats?
Male calicoes are rare. A study by the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine estimated that only 1 in 3,000 calico cats are male.
The good news is that 99.9% of calico cats are female 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.
Calico vs. Tortoiseshells and Tabby Cats
Calico cats aren’t the only cats with unique coat colors. Tortoiseshell cats (aka, torties) and tabby cats have them, too. It can be tricky to differentiate a calico from these other cats, so we’ll help you out.
Calico cats have three coat colors (white, orange, and black), while torties typically are bi-colored (marbled orange and black). Torties have very little white coat, which usually appears as small spots on the face, chest, or paws.
Tabbies have an unmistakable ‘M’ on their forehead. Calicoes don’t have this on their forehead, so that is an easy-to-spot difference between calicoes and tabbies. Also, tabbies have distinct tabby stripes, along with prominent ginger and black patches.
10 Fun Facts About Calico Cats
- Females dominate – The unique genetics of calico cats that determine coat color mean that 99.9% of calico cats are female.
- Nearly all male calicoes are sterile– Male calicoes often have Klinefelter’s syndrome (XXY chromosomal makeup), a genetic condition that causes sterility, among many other health problems.
- They represent a state – Because of their color, calico cats were declared the Maryland state cat in 2001. A calico cat’s fur colors are a mixture of white, black, and orange, the same as feather colors of the Baltimore Oriole, which is Maryland’s state bird. Only two other states have state cats!
- Beckoning cat -The famous Beckoning cat character 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.
- Calicoes are brave – A calico cat saved Japan’s railway station from being closed down. In 2007, the 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. The calico cat became a celebrity, causing a 17% increase in station traffic. The calico cat’s good luck charm is indeed true.
- Calicoes are everywhere – Considering how rare calico cats are, they have really spread around the world. Calico cats were traced migrating along routes in Europe and Northern Africa. Even though they originated in Egypt, they were also found in cities along the Mediterranean, France, Italy, and Spain.
- You cannot breed them– You can’t breed a calico cat because they happen only by chance. This chance occurrence is why they are so rare and considered to be a lucky charm.
- They cure warts – While it’s just a rumor, 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!
Happen to have a calico cat? Know anyone that does? Tell us all about it in a comment below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all calico cats female?
Yes, 99.9% of calico cats are female.
Can calico cats be male?
Although this is very rare, male calico cats do exist. They most likely have a chromosomal abnormality of two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome.
How long do calico cats live?
Calico cats that live indoors have an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years. Like other outdoor cats, calico cats that live outdoors have a much lower average lifespan of 7 to 9 years.
How rare are male calico cats?
According to a recent study by the at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, only one in every of every 3000 calico cats is male.