Fun Facts about Calico Cats

April 20, 2017

By Julia Williams

I’ve always loved the unique look of the calico cat. Although I’ve wanted to adopt one for ages, it hasn’t happened yet because my cats have all been unplanned rescues so I didn’t get to pick their color. Someday, maybe! In the meantime, here are some interesting calico cat facts you may not know.

Calico is Not a Breed

The term “calico” refers to a tri-color pattern of the cat’s coat that can occur in almost any domestic feline. Since “calico” is a color and not a breed, these kitties can have either short or long hair, and can range from small to large.

For a cat to be considered a calico, three distinct colors must be present. Calicos are predominately white with patches of orange (sometimes red or reddish brown) and black (sometimes gray or blue).

There are quite a few “show cats” whose breed standards allow a calico coloration, including the American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Exotic Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, Manx, Persian, Siberian, Turkish Angora, Turkish Van and Norwegian Forest Cat.

Why are Most Calico Cats Female?

Only 1 out of every 3,000 calico cats born is male. Calico cats are predominantly female because their coat coloring is linked to the X chromosome. Specifically, two X chromosomes are needed for a cat to have a tri-color coat. Males usually only have one X chromosome, so calico cats can’t be male. However, there is a rare condition where a male cat has an extra X chromosome (resulting in XXY instead of the typical XY) and thus, he can be a calico! Confused yet? There are several YouTube videos that explain the male/female calico cat conundrum in greater detail.

Calico Versus Tortoiseshell

Calico cats are sometimes confused with tortoiseshell cats (torties). Both terms refer to coat colors and patterns rather than breed, but there are several differences. Both cats have orange and black coloring, but calicos also have large patches of white. The calico coat also has distinct patches of color, whereas the tortie’s colors are typically more swirled together and predominantly black and orange with almost no white.

Maneki Neko is a Calico

The Maneki Neko is a popular Japanese cat statue that’s believed to bring good luck and good fortune. This cute ceramic cat with one raised paw is frequently found at the entrance of Japanese and Chinese restaurants, and other places of business. Also called the Beckoning Cat and the Lucky Cat, the Maneki Neko is said to be a calico Japanese Bobtail cat. If you’re curious to know more about the history and legends surrounding this adorable ancient feline, read my article Maneki Neko, the “Lucky Cat” of Japan.

Maryland’s State Cat

The calico became the official cat of Maryland in October of 2001. It was chosen because its orange, black and white colors are shared with the state bird (Baltimore oriole) as well as the state insect (Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly).

Famous Calico Cats

One of the most well known celebrity kitties is a calico named Pudge. This Instagram feline favorite (@Pudgethecat) currently has 670.8k followers.

In the late nineteenth century, a children’s poem by Eugene Field was titled “The Duel” but was also known as “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat.”

In the 2001 movie Cats & Dogs, the male cat named Calico (voice of Jon Lovitz) is actually a tabby, not a calico.

Got Warts? Get a Calico!

Ok, I have to end this calico trivia post on a humorous note. According to Irish folklore, you can get rid of a wart by rubbing it against the tail of a calico cat – but only in the month of May! Then again, this could be just another one of those cra-cra urban legends the internet is known for. If you have a calico and wart, you could always try it and let us know if it works!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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