15 Thought Provoking Calico Cat Facts

close up profile shot of a calico persian cat indoors

You don’t see calico cats every day. They are a little bit unusual and, with their bright colors, that makes them special! But do you know they are not just colorful cats – there is more to them than that!

Here are some of the most interesting facts about calicos: 

Calico Cats Are A Coat Color Not A Breed.

You might not have realized it but calico cats are not a breed all of their own. They are a coat color. Specifically, calico cats are tri-colored cats that feature at least 25 – 75% white fur. The other two colors tend to be orange and black. This makes for a wonderfully distinctive coat of white with orange and black splashes! 

Pair Of Calico Cats Grooming Each Other
Calico Sisters Bonding

Lots Of Breeds Feature Calico Cats 

Although most calicos are going to be domestic shorthairs there are actually a whole bunch of pedigree cat breeds that specifically accept the calico as a standard coat color in their breed standard.

Manx, American shorthair, Maine coon, British shorthair, Persian, Arabian Mau, Japanese bobtail, Siberian, Turkish van, Turkish angora, exotic shorthair, and Norwegian forest cat breeds all feature calicos as breed recognized standard color variations.

Calico Cats Can Be Long Haired Or Short Haired.

You might have spotted a calico and thought they only come as shorthaired cats. The fans of long-haired cats needn’t worry. Persian, domestic longhair, and Norwegian forest cats all feature calico variations which means you can get long hair as well as short hair calico cats!

norwegian forest cat dilute calico cat
Dilute Calico Norwegian Forest Cat

Each Calico Cat Has Different Patches 

No two calico cats have the same coat. Their patches are located randomly and in different black and orange combinations! 

This is down to how their X chromosomes undergo Lyonization. This is the process by which cells become active and inactive featuring the specific color chromosomes.

Calico Cats Are Born Female 99.1% Of The Time

Calico cats are always female with the odd exception. This is because the color of the coat is dependent on a sex-related chromosome, in this case, the female x chromosome ( a bit like that of orange tabby cats – who are male 80% of the time because of the color being determined by the sex-related chromosome). 

As females have two x chromosomes this makes the chances of a tri-colored cat possible. The female, who has two x chromosomes can inherit genes for orange on one x chromosome and black color on the second x chromosome and additionally inherit the piebald gene that produces the white fur. Males with only one x chromosome can only have either orange or non-orange – not both at the same time so can’t be tri-colored but can be orange or bi-colored by having the piebald gene.

adult calico cat sitting on a fence in sphinx pose

Male Calico Cats Are Very Rare

How rare? Well, 1 in 3000 calicos is male. Which is an incredibly low number. Why is this? Its genetics. As we covered, the female chromosomes define a calicos color but, due to Klinefelter syndrome – where male cats are unusually born with two xx chromosomes as well as a y, when male cats have two x chromosomes this leads to potentially male calicos!

Male Calico Cats Are Usually Sterile 

Male calicos are rare and unfortunately sterile. Apart from meaning they can’t have any offspring it also means that anyone who tells you they breed calico cats is likely to be misinformed! 

To ensure you got a litter with many calicos you would have to breed two calico cats together and hope for the best! As male calico’s are sterile and very rare this makes the purposeful breeding of calicos practically unpredictable and difficult – they remain a happy accident!

Torties Are Not Calicos

You might be thinking that torties feature orange and black colors so they must be a variation of calicos as well? But they do not feature any white so are neither a tricolor nor do they meet the 25% white body fur characteristic of calicos…

dilute calico kitten grooming
Dilute Calico Kitten Grooming

Calico Cats Can Be Dilute Or Muted

Calicos are not just white, orange, and black tricolor cats. When their colors are toned down to cream, white and gray shades they are called dilute calicos or muted calicos.

Calico Cats Are Believed To Be Lucky

If you need a bit of luck get a calico cat in! The Japanese really favor calico cats. Japanese fishermen often went to sea with a calico cat to ensure a safe passage and return. The Japanese Maneki-Neko “lucky cat” is always represented as a calico and in the USA and UK male calico cats are thought to be incredibly lucky due to their rarity.

japanese maneki neko calico lucky cat
Japanese Maneki Neko Calico “Lucky Cat”

Calico Cats Live On Average 12 – 18 Years

Calico cats tend not to suffer from congenital health problems as most are domestic shorthairs or longhairs from a genetically assorted background. Calico’s have an average lifespan of between 12 and 18 years.

They Are Named After A Fabric

They get their names from Calicut, a city in India that made brightly colored fabrics. The British traded the fabric and weave worldwide and the bright colors of the weave reminded them of the colored cat so they adopted the moniker for calico cats, the name stuck and the rest is history.

Are Calico Cats Friendly, Aggressive Or Clever, Or Both?

In truth, Calico cats have variable personalities because they can be any breed and any type of cat! They don’t have any standard outlook that can be identified. Their personality is going to be a result of their early socialization with people and their environment during kittenhood, plus any genetic factors that might come into play. 

portrait of a calico kitten with amber eyes

Calico Cats Are Generally Smaller

Calico cats are normally smaller than other cats, but only because they are female and female cats tend to be smaller than male cats! Your average domestic shorthair calico cat is 7 -12 pounds – unless they are a Maine coon calico in which case they are going to be as small as 11 – 20 pounds!

They Are Often More Expensive To Buy

Calico cats are often a little more expensive to buy than a standard tabby or standard color cat. But this is for no reason other than they are considered lucky, are rarer, and have a characteristic coat. 

A domestic shorthair calico will usually cost about $100 compared to a tabby domestic shorthair that may cost nothing! 

Specific breed calicos like Persian calico or Manx calico are far rarer than domestic shorthairs and will be priced according to their individual breed – which may range from $600 – 1200 depending on the breeder and the pedigree papers associated with the cat’s bloodline.

Summary

Now you know all the interesting things there are to know about calico cats! They tend to be female, they are not a breed but are a coat color featuring three colors, orange, black and white with white being dominant. They come in long and short hair variations. They are rarer than other cats and are considered lucky – especially if you find a male. And don’t believe anyone who tells you they are a calico breeder it is genetically impossible to be a successful calico cat breeder!