Calico Cat: Interesting Facts and Types of Calico Cats

Calico cat
This post may contain affiliate links. We earn a commission from purchases made via those links at no added cost to you. The humble effort of bringing you the content, worthy of your eyes, is partly bankrolled by such commissions. Learn more

Everything looks pleasant in colors. Do you concur? Perhaps, you do. And now you are looking for a colorful cat—a calico cat. Calico cats are the most colorful cats of the feline world, only rivaled by tortoiseshell cats and tabby cats.

If you are looking to adopt a calico cat, you should keep on reading as we are going to discuss all about calico cats: calico cat origin, colors, personality, genetics, and types of calico cats. We are going to solve the mystery—why all calico cats are female. In the end, we will discuss some interesting facts about calico cats.

What is a Calico Cat?

The calico cat is not a cat breed like Ragdoll and Siamese. Rather, it is a coat pattern that can be found in any cat breed. According to CFA, there are 19 calico cats breeds that feature the tricolor pattern. So there can be a calico Persian cat, calico American Shorthaired cat, calico Sphynx, calico Ragdoll, or a calico Munchkin cat.

Actually, calico is a coat pattern. Cats that have at least three hues—orange, black, and white—in their coats are termed calico cats. The white color is highest in concentration as if it is the base coat color and black and orange existed in the form of irregular patches.

So, if a kitten in your cat’s litter has a three-colored pattern featuring orange, black, and white colors, it’s a calico kitten. Both purebred and mixed-breed kittens can have calico coats.

Which Breeds of Cats Can Have a Calico Kitten?

Now that you know calico is not a breed but a color pattern, you must be wondering: Can any cat breed be calico. Well, not all cat breeds can give birth to a calico cat, but most cat breeds can. Below we have listed some of the cat breeds that can have a calico kitten.

Persian cat Maine coon
Norwegian Forest CatTurkish Angora
Cornish RexDevon rex
American Short-haired CatAmerican Bobtail
American WirehairAmerican Long-haired

Calico Cat Origin

There is no substantial evidence to trace the origin of calico cats. However, it is thought that the first calico cat appeared in Egypt. From there, it is thought to have been brought along by merchants into the European port cities and Northern Africa through the Mediterranean routes. From these port cities, calico cats spread across Europe and into the African continent. Merchant brought calico cats along to keep rodents and rats away from their food. Today, calico cats can be found anywhere around the world.

Calico Cat Colors

Calico cats are the most colorful cats of the cat world, as mentioned earlier. They are usually tricolored—having orange, black, and white patches. Because of their tricolored coats, they are often referred to as tricolored cats or “orange black and white cats.” 

Sometimes, there could be variations in the calico cat colors, so you can get to see colors like cream, blue-gray, blue-black, or a brown shade in a calico cat.

While most calico cats have intense color hues, some have flaxen and less intense color hues. These calico cats with faded colors are known as dilute calico cats.

Calico Cat Personality

Given that calico cat is not a breed, calico cats do not have specific personality traits. The personality and behavior of calico cats are dependent on their specific breed.

However, calico cats are often described as one of the sweetest and most friendly cats of the feline world. They are gentle and affectionate, but at the same time, they also have some reputation for being independent and strong-willed than other cats. They often share the personality traits of tortoiseshell cats by being a bit sassy, spunky, and feisty. At times, calico cats can be a bit quirky—but all cats are quirky at times.

Give and take, calico cats make a warm pet cat. Bring your calico cat home, and she will surely fill your life with love and affection.

Calico vs. Tortoiseshell

Calico vs Tortoiseshell

Being multi-colored cats, calico cats are often confused with tortoiseshell cats. While tortoiseshell cats are quite similar to calico cats when it comes to their coat coloring—both have black and orange patches—but they are not the same.

Where calico cats usually have white base coat color with orange and black patches, tortoiseshell cats have a brownish coat with streaks of patches.  

Tortoiseshell CatsCalico Cats
Mostly two colors—ginger red and black
Lack white patches
Darker hues  
Mostly three colors—orange, black, and white
25% to 75% white
Comparatively light hues
Tortoiseshell and Calico Cat Common Features
Considered a lucky charm
99.9% of them are females
Males are sterile—they cannot reproduce
“Tortitude” personality—gentle, affectionate, a bit sassy, strong-willed, and independent

Types of Calico Cats

Calico cats are some of the most beautiful cats around the globe. There are six well-known types of calico cats, giving you the option to choose the one that bewitches your eyes the most.

Calico Cat

A calico cat is any cat that has at least three colors—white, orange, and black. Traditional calico cats have intense and bright colors. White is the major color—around 25 to 75 percent—and orange and black are present in irregular patches and spots.

Dilute Calico Cat

Dilute calico cats are often called as clouded tigers because their coat colors appear to be clouded—faded. Like traditional calico cats, dilute calicos also have three basic colors (white, orange, and black), but they have diluted colors. Their black patches may vary from smoke to black-blue color. Similarly, their diluted orange patches look tanned or cream-colored. The dilute calico coat of these calicos is due to a recessive gene. To produce a dilute calico coat, both parents must possess the recessive gene.

Patched Calico Tabby Cat

Calico cats often exhibit tabby cat features like stripes running along their bodies and capital M-shaped markings on their foreheads. A patched calico tabby cat may have black and orange stripes running along their backs, legs, and tails.

Male Calico Cats

Male calico cats are the rarest, and the rare male is always sterile. Male calico cats only occur in the case of Klinefelter Syndrome—XXY chromosomes. This is why if there happens to be a male calico cat, he will be sterile. This syndrome also increases the risk of many abnormalities in male calico cats, so they have a shorter lifespan as compared to their female counterparts.

Short-Haired Calico Cat

Calico cats can be short-haired as well as long-haired. The most common breed of short-haired calico cats is the Domestic Shorthaired cat, a mixed cat breed. Any cat that does not belong to any particular cat breed and has a short-haired coat is considered a Domestic Shorthair cat. Calico coat patterns can also be found in British Shorthair and American Shorthair cats.

Long-Haired Calico Cat

The most common breeds of long-haired calicos are Maine Coon and American Forest Cat because they are the most popular long-haired cats. These cats are known for their fluffy coats. The calico coat makes these cats look more elegant and charming.

Calico coats are known for their warm personalities, but when calico is a Maine Coon, you can expect her to be even more affectionate and friendly.

Why All Calico Cats Are Female?

Around 99.9% of the whole calico cat population is female. Only 0.1% of the calico cats are male, and even those are sterile.

Actually, the genes responsible for imparting black and orange colors to calico cats are present on the X chromosome. Since females are XX, they will have two chromosomes carrying color genes. A calico kitten will happen if it carries one chromosome coding for black color and another chromosome coding for orange. In addition to two X chromosomes carrying genes for black and orange color, calico cats also need to inherit color gene—responsible for coding white color—that is unrelated to the sex chromosomes.

Why Are Normal Male Calico Cats Not Possible?

Normal male calico cats are not possible because they have only one X chromosome with a gene that will either code for black or orange and a Y chromosome, which carries no color genes. Male cats can only express either black or orange color. They cannot express them both like female calico cats.

Interesting Facts About Calico Cats

Not only do calico cats have interesting color patterns, but there are many other interesting facts about them. Below, we list a few.

  • Given that calico cats have a unique genetic makeup and rare male cats are always sterile, calico cats cannot be bred. They only occur randomly.
  • As mentioned above, calico is not a breed but a color pattern that exists in many different cat breeds. So, they don’t share personality traits. However, most cat lovers think of them as affectionate and warm pets.
  • Calico cats are considered a lucky charm not only in Japan but also in the United States. Japanese fishermen used to carry them along to protect them from storms and ghosts.
  • In the United States, calico cats are considered to bring good fortune to their owners. Thus they are often called “money cats.”
  • Calico cats are the official cat of Maryland, maybe because they have the same coloring as Baltimore oriole—the state bird of Maryland.
  • A calico cat, Yontama, is a stationmaster at the Kishigawa railway line in the Wakayama prefecture of Japan.
  • Calico cats are named after a cotton fabric that was imported from India to North America. 

Explore: Cat Breeds


Table of Contents