How rare are calico cats and why are calico cats always female? If you’re looking for the answer to these questions you’ve come to the right place. Actually, calico isn’t a breed of cat but a type of coat coloring.
In this post you’ll learn all about calico cats, what makes them so special, and why it’s rare to find a male calico cat. Plus, the variations in color, and personality of these beautiful cats.
What are calico cats?
Calico cats have coats that are made up of three different colors. They’re usually a combination of white, orange, and black. However, if a cat has a mix of blue, grey, and white it’s known as a “dilute” calico.
Their vibrant coloring gives a stunningly beautiful appearance, and no two are alike. Sadly though, all male kittens born as calico are infertile. If for any reason you have your heart set on a male calico cat, you’ll probably have a hard time finding one! It’s believed that only 1 in 3,000 calico cats is male!
Where did the name “calico cat” originate from?
Apart from the term used to describe a type of cat coat coloring, calico is also a fabric. Made from unbleached cotton, calico is slightly thicker than muslin. When the fabric was introduced into America in the 1780s it was known as having a printed design.
Calico cats and genetics
If you’re interested in knowing what makes a cat develop calico coloring, it’s all down to genetics. Every female has two X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y chromosome. The gene responsible for coat coloring is found in the X chromosome. However, proteins vital for survival are also found in this chromosome.
To prevent a potentially dangerous double dose of survival proteins, one of the X chromosomes is switched off. This is known as X chromosome inactivation and occurs in the womb when the kitten is just a tiny ball of cells.
As it’s a random occurrence it means any one color can be deactivated. To try and simplify things, if an X chromosome carrying The white coat color gene is switched off in an area of the cat’s body, black or orange fur will grow there instead.
It’s not just the X chromosome that determines the pattern of color but alleles as well. If you’re wondering what on earth an allele is, it’s a type of gene.
If one of your kitten inherits two Xb alleles from both parents her fur will be black. On the other hand if she inherits XB alleles her fur will be orange.
However, these you understand will result in solid coloring. It becomes more interesting though when a kitten gets one XB allele from one parent and an Xb allele from the other! As you can imagine this will result in patches of orange and black similar to tortoiseshell.
What’s the difference between calico and tortoiseshell?
Unlike tortoiseshell cats, calicos have white patches of fur, as well as black and orange. This occurs due to a condition known as piebalding. If you’re not familiar with this term, it simply means white spotting gene. Cows, rabbits, guinea pigs, and horses are examples of other animals that carry the piebald gene
The size of white patches vary, but you’ll find calico cats have large areas of white fur with very distinct splodges of orange and black. In contrast, tortoiseshell cats have coats with a mix of orange, black, and white forming a brindled pattern.
Just to complicate things, there are variations that can make it hard to tell if your cat is a tortie, or calico. For example, many tortoiseshell cats have patches of white. However, the orange and black coloring is interwovan throughout the coat. A calico cat on the other hand has solid patches of color.
In addition, some calico cats may have patches of solid color intermingled with areas of woven color. These are known as calitorts!
What breeds can you find calico?
Calico cats can be found in a variety of breeds, from Persian to British Shorthair. However, if you intend to get a cat you can show, there are many that don’t accept calico. These include pointed breeds such as Siamese, and Himalayan.
Breeds that do allow calico though include Persian, British shorthair and Manx. If you’re not sure contact the Cat Fanciers Association as they should be able to help.
You’ll find calico in both long and shorthair cats. Both can can look equally beautiful with tri-coloring. Long hair cats do require more frequent grooming though.
If you manage to find a male calico kitten, just because it’s sterile doesn’t mean there’s no need for neutering. As I mentioned in previous articles, unneutered males are more aggressive. In addition, “marking” or inappropriate spraying is more common. This can be a nuisance indoors and hard to stop.
What is the personality of calico cats?
As calicos aren’t a breed there’s no specific type of personality. That being said, there are many owners who say how sweet and loving their calico kitties are:) It’s also been claimed they’re very loyal with a brave trait.
Just like people though, all cats are different. Even with specific breeds you’ll find variations in temperament. While some are demanding and vocal, others are quieter in nature
Can calico cats bring you luck and good fortune?
Folklore suggests that calico cats are lucky. This is because of their rarity, and in fact Japanese sailors used to take calico cats on board ship. The belief was they’d protect their ship from harm and ensure a safe passage.
In the USA male calico cats are referred to as “money cats.” This is because many mistakenly believe they’re of high value. Maybe people see male calicos as finding a four leaf clover!
In reality, calico cats are of no more value than their breed. As a matter of fact males have no value to breeders at all since they’re sterile! In any case their beauty and gentle nature is all that matters.
Maniko neko means beckoning cat in Japanese. You’ll find a neko cat figurine with a beckoning paw outside many Chinese restaurants, and in homes. The cat is depicted as a calico with mostly white coloring and splodges of black and orange. The lower paw carries an item such as a magic money mallet, marble, gem, or a Japanese coin.
You’ll be fascinated to learn that white is seen as a symbol of luck and good fortune, whereas orange and red are symbols of love, wealth, and happy relationships. Also, black is seen as a symbol for warding off evil. So you can see why calico cats have such high regard in Chinese culture.
Lastly, an old Irish folklore suggests that if you have a wart, rubbing it against a calico cat’s tail will get rid of it! What a way to rid yourself of warts!!
Maryland official state cat
If you live in Maryland you may already know that calicos are the official state cat. This was bestowed upon them in 2001, and they were chosen as their coat colors are the same as the Oriole. This is the state bird, and you’ll also find orange, black and white worn by the Maryland Orioles basket ball team.
Where can you get calico cats?
If you want to find a calico cat you may have luck at your local shelter. However, as they’re quite rare you may have to be patient. There are plenty of resources online to help, and contacting local breeders is another option.
Although they’re not a breed, you may find the odd one in a litter of kittens. As I’ve mentioned before, always check any breeder you decide to visit first.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at calico cats and learnt something about these beautiful felines. In this article you’ve discovered exactly what calico cats are and how genetics plays a big part. In addition, you now know why calico cats are always female, and why males are quite rare.
Whether male or female, all cats provide wonderful companionship. They’re generally easier to care for than dogs and make ideal pets if you live in an apartment.
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Wishing you a purrfect day:)