Calico Cats

Calico Cats

Last update: 10 July, 2018

99.9% of female calico cats have a unique three- colored coat: white, orange and black.  Their coats have random patterns and these cats can be born from parents of different shades. Continue reading this article to learn more about this condition.

Calico Cats: What to know

Believe it or not, 1 in every 3,000 three-colored cats is male, and only 1 in 10,000 is fertile. This pretty much means that they are almost always females and they have cells with two X chromosomes. A gene located on the X chromosome is responsible for the orange fur in felines. The only way for a cat to have fur with black and white patches is by having two X chromosomes (for females).
However, the X chromosome that produces three-colored fur comes from either the mother or father (males have XY chromosomes). The colors orange and black are in the X chromosome, and white is in the S gene, which can vary by being less or more light on certain areas.
Females have two X chromosomes, so they can pass the colors black and orange to their offspring. Males, having only one X chromosome, are able to pass on black or orange, but never both. It is worth mentioning that the Y chromosome is not linked to any specific color, and is only responsible for determining sex.
Genes may be dominant or recessive (which are hidden when a dominant gene is present). In the case of calico cats, an orange dominant gene and an orange recessive gene would cause a “combination”.

When can a male be calico?

This is very rare, and the conditions are:

  • Genetic anomaly: the presence of more than two sex chromosomes. If the cat has XXY chromosomes, the cat will have a three-colored coat, but also be sterile.
  • Somatic mutation: An orange male cat can have black spots, similar to moles on people.
  • Chimeras: When the cat comes from eggs fertilized by different sperms.
  • Hermaphroditism: Comes from females that have a hormonal imbalance during fetal development.
You should keep in mind that calico have Klinefelter’s syndrome, which not only makes them sterile, but also causes several health problems, such as genital deformity, brain damage, or organ failure. They don’t usually live long, and if they do, they need extensive care and treatment.
calico cats

Legends about these cats

Due to this cat’s fur being so unique — ever since ancient times (there are remains of three-colored cats in ancient Egypt) — some people believed that calico cats had magical powers. For example, Japanese sailors carried one on their ships to protect themselves from storms and scare away ghosts.
The main legend related to these three-colored cats comes from the year 1100, in Tibetan monasteries, where there were constant misunderstandings and disagreements. Everyone felt deeply uncomfortable because they couldn’t live in harmony.
The three monks of the most important temples began to fast in search of wisdom and enlightenment in order to solve the problem. The next day, a three-colored cat appeared at the monastery door with her three offspring, all calico females just like her. The monks believed this was a sign from the heavens and vowed to take care of them.
During the next meeting, the monks came to the conclusion that the colors of the kittens were symbols: white and black represented Yin and Yang (the opposing forces), and Orange was the Earth. Therefore, they had to overcome their differences. The newborns also symbolized something: they represented everything new, change, and union.
In Ireland people believe that if you pet the tail of a calico cat with your wart during the month of May, it will fall off within minutes.
Likewise, the famous “Lucky Cat” or Maneki-Neko of Japan is based on a calico. People often place it in their homes and shops for good luck. This little statue has a raised paw and waves.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.