Geneticists have discovered that only one of the two X chromosomes in females is functional, which explains why you usually can make a blanket prediction that any male offspring will be the color of the queen. Note that the presence of the extra X chromosome doesn’t in itself create the calico.
But, unlike their female counterparts, male calicoes do tend to have a common problem-their sexual organs are often malformed, so they are usually sterile. Although most people know that the vast majority of calico cats are female, they don’t always know that calico refers to a color pattern, not a breed of cat.
Calico cats are named for their coat color that resembles calico cloth, which was once imported from England to India. Calico can also have dilute coats, with fawn, cream, chocolate, and gray patches, rather than the traditional bright white, orange, and black.
If your heart is set on owning one of these tricolored beauties, here are some of the more popular breeds that have calico coloring: Ivaloueva / Getty Images It's a fact that 99.9 percent of all calico cats are female because of the unique chromosomal makeup that determines the color variations in their coats.
Each cat has a pair of sex chromosomes with the possible combinations of XX (female) and By (male). The X chromosome also carries the coding gene for the black and orange colors in a calico's coat.
During development, one X chromosome will override the other, allowing either black or orange to be the dominant color. This particular color development occurs in each individual cell, shutting down one X chromosome while allowing the other to be active.
To make things even more complicated, calico cats must also inherit a gene unrelated to the X and Y chromosomes that codes for white fur. There is one exception to the females-only calico rule: A genetic anomaly called Klinefelter’s Syndrome.
In humans, Klinefelter’s Syndrome occurs when a male inherits an extra X chromosome from either his father or mother, making his genetic makeup OXY. Unfortunately, since male calico cats are born because of a genetic anomaly, they are often much less healthy than their female counterparts.
Understanding why nearly allcalicocats are female takes us back to high school biology class. Think back to Punnet squares and you'll remember that babies receive one chromosome each from their mother and father.
This rule applies to humans, dogs, horses, cats, and all our other furry friends. So instead of the cat's fur coming out all orange or all black, it has patches of each color.
Those cells replicate, and the cat ends up with patches of both black and orange fur. This special coat color phenomena can happen in any and all different cat breeds.
A male calico must receive an extra X chromosome from either his mother or his father, making his genetic makeup OXY. In humans, this condition is called Klinefelter's Syndrome, and an OXY cat is almost always sterile.
The calico is thought to be good luck in many cultures, and are sometimes referred to as money cats. “Mani Nero, a Japanese cat talisman thought to bring good fortune and wealth, is almost always calico.
The Baltimore, Maryland Orioles baseball team also wears these colors. Thespians is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
A long time ago, when I was just a wee child, I spotted a cat running feral on a farm. It was a white cat with big orange and black cow spots.
I was told that they were called Money Cats because males were so rare that they could be worth thousands. I forgot about this old wives tale until many, many years later when I started to learn about cat color genetics on my own.
These Maine Coons show that Calico coloration can be found in many pure breeds. The fact that they are calico means something strange must have happened involving their DNA.
Some may has the appearance of a male but have the extra chromosome of a female. These can be hermaphroditic cats, sharing the qualities of both sexes, either at a base level with the chromosomes or at a visible level to the average cat owner.
Calico males of the OXY variety are always sterile. Generally speaking, what makes an animal extremely valuable is its rarity and its ability to breed and create more of itself, however, male calicoes are worthless as breeders.
Tortoiseshell cats, on the other hand, have black and orange hairs that are dispersed much like a brindle dog's coloration. Occasionally you'll see a dilute Tortoiseshell who has blue and cream hairs instead of black and orange but the pattern stays the same.
At other times Tortoiseshells will sometimes have white patches on them, called appropriately Tortoiseshell and White, but again, they will not display the calicoes trademark cow spots. Classic Calico : A white cat with big black and orange spots.
Classic Tortoiseshell: A cat with orange and black hairs intermingled like the brindle of a dog. Dilute Tortoiseshell: A cat with intermixed blue and tan hairs.
Dilute Tortoiseshell: A cat with gray and tan hairs intermingled. Dilute Sortie Point: These cats will have blue and tan hairs only on their face, tail, and possibly paws.
Yes, calico can be seen a variety of animals, from rabbits to chickens. However, they are distinct from calico cats in the sense that calico coloration in these animals is not sex-linked.
This is because their color genes do not reside on the extra leg of the XX chromosome. But there is another sex-linked calico animal, which is the yellow gene found in Syrian hamsters.
Just like cats, any animal showing this coloration will be either female or a male with a very rare and unusual mutation. I have had the luxury of dealing with a number of calico cats and save for two (one a purebred Persian) they were all within the range from aloof to downright nasty.
Devon rices Sphinxes Maine coons Munchkins Siberians Exotics Manx Turkish Van Scottish Fold Hemingway Cats Others However, if breed is not something you care about, calico cats show up in shelters all the time as they are a pretty easily bred color for feral cats to reproduce.
Because most of these are not bred intentionally there will be a lot of diversity in color, fur length, temperament, etc so take your time in picking a new pet if this is the route you choose. I had a domestic short hair sortie with white who was extremely timid around strangers but quite affectionate to her family.
I handled her a lot from a young age, though, and I think getting a kitten acclimated to frequent contact can overcome a genetic predisposition to be aloof. You could snuggle up with her and love on her all you wanted, but the minute you tried to pick her up, she'd panic.
Just goes to show how much of a cat's personality is molded by their early experiences! Her feet are white and chest area that looks like she is wearing a vest.
I have worked in Catteries for 6 yrs on both the East and West coast of Australia. We took in a gray white tabby and her sister a calico with an oddly pointed face and different textured coat, like she was made up with the parts of 3 different cats.
But I am not allowed to own a pet, except for fish. My baby girl is very attached to me to the point that she attacks me when I am leaving the house she is not kidding when she bites me she makes me bleed daily.
A little while ago there was this feral calico kitten with an injured leg eating all the trash in my neighborhood. I have fostered many cats, as well as socialized abused, abandoned, hoarding cases, etc.
For me personally, every cat is different and unique, regardless of color. I have worked with many sorties and calicoes and most were sweet and loving once they got through the trauma they came from.
However once I realized she was the “middle “child of the fur friends in the house, and was more or less being ignored. She's getting the attention now, the affection and has calmed down and actually laid back and sweet.
I do not believe that breed type plays a part in behavior. I do believe there are cats born that have chemical imbalances, or other issues that make them the way they are, and I do believe they behave based upon how they were brought up and the situation they were in.
Thespians Avery (author) from New England on April 23, 2017: I, too, have done a lot of rescue and worked with breeders and have had the joy of owning a number of calico and Tories and let me tell you -- all of them were vicious.
She was so mean she'd seek people out to attack them, full claws, leaping onto their back and all. God bless her tiny warrior spirit.
@Theophanes What a ridiculous thing to say- Calico cats are, in my experience, no different in temperament than any other cats. Your mother's anecdotal evidence is not nearly enough to support your theory.
They do have a certain reputation for being aloof and cranky, but that usually is a function of the fact that they are very clever and do not suffer fools gladly. It sounds as though you yourself have no idea of what the differences between Calico cats and Tortoise Shells are.
Black cats are still thought of as unlucky, and are hard to home. Sorties, NOT Calico, are thought of as “mean”, so people don't want them.
Not overly cuddly, but they do tend to form very deep bonds with one person. Calico cats tend to be more or less just like all other domestic cats, as do Tories, or Tortoise Shell-Tabbies.
Please do not make it more difficult to find any of them permanent homes. You're online-fact check instead of just repeating what your mother and your friend have told you.
Is it a form of calico missing the orange gene? I don't have any formal education in genetics, but the topic does fascinate me.
However since the calico is in a sense three different colors she'll usually throw black, black and white, orange, orange and white, and calico kittens. A male only needs one copy of the orange gene so a calico can give birth to one in any litter no matter who the father is.
A female needs two copies, which means the father had to be orange. So now you have a calico queen giving birth to kittens who are already a bunch of different colors, and now also needs an orange father.
She looks an awful lot like the one living in my backyard with her tortoiseshell mother. I have a female tortoiseshell, 2 female calico, 1 black male and one orange female, and they all have such good nature and friend, especially my calicoes they instantly purr the moment you pick them up and one of them climbs up on my shoulders and wraps herself around my neck to sleep (she's currently doing it right now).
Hello, I have the copyright of the calico cat in the snow, with the Jenna Johanna marks on it. Our next door neighbor had a male Tortoiseshell who was also polydactyly and fertile, we got one of his kittens, and she was Tortoiseshell and had double upper and lower fangs, and was a very sweet cat. We have never actually ever had a mean cat.
You can train ACAT just like any other animal and it helps keep them from being bored. I just Googled “What do they call a Calico with BIG spots & got your explanation, which is beautifully complete.
I have a calico named Audi who went insane when we moved her to our new home. I enjoyed your article very much, found it interesting as my vet had told me allcalicocats are female.
We took in a calico about a year ago, and she, Cali is the sweetest and gentle cat ever, she is very appreciate of the home we have given her. There is a gene that is favored in feral, especially in cold climates, that causes great size in the males.
Maine Coons used to have this a lot but breeders worked on getting bigger females with other genes so the breed would be more uniform... you can see why this gene is either added to or avoided in the cat breeding world. The father is orange tabby with white paws (both front paws have a heart shaped orange spot in the middle of the white).
A solid blue cat crossed with a solid orange cat would give you any combination of orange, black, and Tortoiseshell (which can have varying degrees of black.) Your story is not at all unusual but it's nice to understand what causes these similarities.
I found it interesting when my blue cat got out and got bred by my long haired orange tabby, they had just one kitten...a black sortie. The orange haired male had a black tore for a mother.
I have friends who breed Bengals and laughed at you comments because their´s get up to antics with water too. One of them refused to drink other than from the kitchen tap and quite a number of the off spring love to play in the water fountain.
Oh dear, draining that water cooler must have created a heck of a mess for you :( People get purebred cats and don't fix them because they want to breed them later on.
Their tomcat escapes the house one night and suddenly there're five litters of half Turkish Vans on their way! I did catsuit a Bengal once that decided it'd be hilarious to drain a 5 gallon water cooler to watch the bubbles pop up in it.
In the UK all multicoloured cats are called tortoiseshell or tortoiseshell and white but after reading this hub I realize my last cat was calico as she was mainly white but had a big orange circle on her side and what was referred to as Turkish van cat markings on her face, she did like playing in puddles too so somewhere along the line (she was a moggy not purebred) there may have been the Turkish van cat genes in her family tree as they are known to enjoy water so much they actually swim in it. Interesting read nevertheless and a great answer as to why calico ´s and sorties are more than likely female.
One of the calicoes we had here for a while we named Morley (you know since she was a money cat) but over time it somehow morphed into Bitch Kitty. Ripped my uncle up like a wild badger when he let her out and tried to catch her again.
Melissa Flag Coal OSC from Rural Central Florida on September 14, 2013: We have a calico kitty that is a real B&B lol, but if you catch her on a good day, she's really sweet.
She grew up with her two brothers who got most of the attention because Freya (our calico) was constantly hiding. Her brothers are pure white with tan spots and gorgeous blue eyes.
I have two calicofemalecats and I had also heard that male calicoes are very rare. One is actually super shy and her sister can get a little annoying with her curiosity.
Thespians Avery (author) from New England on July 05, 2013: Sounds like you were lucky to have a sweet calico grace your life.
Helen Lush from Cardiff, Wales, UK on July 02, 2013: We used to have a tortoiseshell cat, but she very sadly disappeared a few years ago.
StephanieBCrosby: That'd make your girl a Pointed Calico. It means she must have Siamese or some other pointed breed in her background.
I babysat one that ended up being nick named “the ass-grabbing cat” because that's what he'd do, claws out, whenever I passed by him! I never knew the difference between calico and tortoiseshell, great hub and very informative.
On a side note last summer I got a little orange kitten from Craigslist at 6 weeks old, he has been raised with love in my home and while he is nice some time he can be a real butt 75% of the time. I never knew all these differences in calico and tortoise shell cats.
All three were the calico tabby type, white with patches of orange and dark (ranging from brown to almost gray). Their Mother was my orange striped cat, no idea who the Father was.
In fact a normal colored Calico queen can give birth to a dilute calico if she's bred to a dilute male (either blue or cream.) This litter will usually result in a number of black and orange kittens with the chance of a calico or maybe two, so the calico coloration itself is rarer than the other common colors.
Instead of having a black and orange set of parents they'd have to have one or both parents displaying the dilution gene as well (which means instead of black one would be blue, otherwise known as gray, and one might be a cream, a lighter version of orange.) Since blue and cream cats are rarer than black and orange it comes as no surprise that dilute calicoes only pop up now and then.
They are pretty common here but that's only because one town over there is a huge feral population of blue cats for some odd reason! I hope that answered your question... if you have any more feel free to ask.
One thing I do know about Beans (our dilute calico) is that she's very vocal, loving....it's amazing. It's wonderful to hear about all your little calico fur babies.
As per Annemarie's question: Yes, I did write this myself, based on all the knowledge I learned when I was looking into cat color genetics over the years. When I read in your title that they were called “Money Cats I thought it was going to have something to do with why they love to knock coins off tables, dressers, etc.
I know this is probably not related, but my friend has a Singapore, and it's small, but with this awesome coat, big eyes, thin tail. He jumped up on my shoulders, and I'm told he does that a lot.
I have been rescuing cats for roughly 12 yrs now and I have had all kinds and colors come into my home. Right now, 3 are orange, one black, one sortie, one black and white, 2 Siamese, one classic tabby, one harlequin tabby, one white Manx and three blue cats.
Two of the orange ones I raised from kittens, the other I rescued out of a tree as an adult in his prime. So from my own experience, no one breed tends to be mean...their history should be taken into consideration.
I never knew that an actual Calico male was even possible, so thank you for explaining that. I have had a few classic Calico's and they sure are feisty when riled up, but when they just wake up, and they're hungry, they're the sweetest little things I've ever seen.
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. However, if a cat has a mix of blue, gray, and white it’s known as a “dilute” calico.
If for any reason you have your heart set on a male calico cat, you’ll probably have a hard time finding one! Apart from the term used to describe a type of cat coat coloring, calico is also a fabric.
If you’re interested in knowing what makes a cat develop calico coloring, it’s all down to genetics. 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. 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.
If one of your kitten inherits two Lb alleles from both parents her fur will be black. As you can imagine this will result in patches of orange and black similar to tortoiseshell.
Unlike tortoiseshell cats, calicoes have white patches of fur, as well as black and orange. 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 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 sortie, or calico. Calico cats can be found in a variety of breeds, from Persian to British Short hair.
Breeds that do allow calico though include Persian, British short hair and Manx. If you manage to find a male calico kitten, just because it’s sterile doesn’t mean there’s no need for neutering.
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. 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.
You’ll find a Nero 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.
This is the state bird, and you’ll also find orange, black and white worn by the Maryland Orioles basket ball team. There are plenty of resources online to help, and contacting local breeders is another option.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at calico cats and learned something about these beautiful felines. In this article you’ve discovered exactly what calico cats are and how genetics plays a big part.
They ’re generally easier to care for than dogs and make ideal pets if you live in an apartment. This is also true for a similar coat pattern called tortoiseshell.
Genetics behind calico coat pattern Calico, or tricolor coat pattern, is the pattern of white fur with patches of two different colors, most commonly orange and black (or their diluted forms: cream, ginger, red and blue, tabby, gray). There is usually a significant amount of white in their coat, and the red and black patches form patchwork.
A similar coat pattern is tortoiseshell, where there is a lot less white in the fur, and the colored patches are mottled. The gene which determines whether the coat will be orange or black (or one of the diluted colors) lie on the X chromosome.
Female cats carry two copies of the X chromosomes in their cells. If a female cat is a heterozygote for the orange gene (OO), it will carry the orange allele (O) on one X chromosome and the non-orange allele (o) on the other X chromosome.
The cells in which the first X chromosome is silenced will express only the non-orange gene, and therefore produce the black (or brown) pigment, and the other cells will produce the orange pigment. The third color of a calico is a product of a completely separate gene.
This mutation exists in humans too, and it's called Klinefelter syndrome. When I adopted a calico kitten, Rookie, several years ago, I didn’t think twice about the fact that she’s female.
I wanted to get a female cat, and Rookie was adorable and fit with my personality, so that was that. To start this investigation, it’s important to point out that calico is a color pattern of a cat, not a breed.
This eliminates a breed specific reason for a female majority of calicoes. In fact, any breed of cat can be born with calico fur; although, it’s rarer for purebreds like say, Russian Blues.
In order for a cat to be considered calico,” three colors must be present in the coat: white, black, and orange. Since a male cat only has one X-chromosome from his mother, his fur color is dictated by that gene.
When a female cat is in fetal development, one of her two X-chromosomes is randomly deactivated, which is known as X-inactivation, for each cell. White fur is determined with a separate gene and may speckle throughout the coat.
A male cat can have tricolor fur if he inherits an extra X-chromosome, making his genetic makeup OXY as opposed to By. If you spot a male calico, it’s highly likely that this cat is sterile, or unable to reproduce.
Because calico cats are not a breed unto themselves, calicoes will have unique and varied personalities influenced by a wide range of factors. Calico cats aren’t a breed unto themselves, so we can’t assign breed-specific personality or behavioral traits to them.
Like many cats, calico cats will develop their unique personalities according to many factors, such as life experiences. The black and orange patches of fur that characterize these cats are a result of the genetic phenomenon called “X-chromosome inactivation”.
In cats, the gene that dictates fur color is located on the X chromosome. In addition to determining a cat’s coat color, X chromosomes have numerous genes that code for proteins that are necessary for survival.
With females having two X chromosomes, this double dose of ‘survival’ genes could be toxic. To compensate for this double dose, one of the X chromosomes is randomly inactivated when kitties are just a tiny ball of cells in their mother’s womb.
While the rare male calico may encounter some health issues and have shorter life expectancies, femalecalicocats are just as healthy as cats with other coat patterns, with an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years. Klinefelter’s Syndrome can lead to numerous health problems, such as the increased risk of broken bones, joint pain, and diabetes.
These health problems can result in shorter lifespans for male calicoes. Regardless of whether your calico cat is male or female, you can help them have a good quality of life by providing them with good shelter, feeding them a nutritious diet, and providing quality veterinary care with the help of a solid pet health insurance plan.
A study by the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine estimated that only 1 in 3,000 calico cats are male. The good news is that 99.9% of calico cats are female because of this unique genetic makeup.
Sorties have very little white coat, which usually appears as small spots on the face, chest, or paws. For example, they are called “lapjeskat” in the Netherlands, which means “patched cat”, and “Mike” in Japan, which stands for “triple fur”.
People also believe that calico cats bring good fortune to the homes of families who adopt them. Another fun fact is that they are sometimes referred to as money cats in the United States.
In the 1870s, calico cats were declared an official symbol of fortune in Japan. In 2007, the Okinawa train station was about to be closed due to budget issues.
As a last resort, the town sent a local calico cat to be station master, where she would greet passengers as they passed by. The calico cat became a celebrity, causing a 17% increase in station traffic.
Calico cats were traced migrating along routes in Europe and Northern Africa. Even though they originated in Egypt, they were also found in cities along the Mediterranean, France, Italy, and Spain.
Rubbing warts against the tail of a calico cat in May is supposed to cure it. According to a recent study by the at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, only one in every of every 3000 calico cats is male.
Remember, calico is a color pattern and not a breed, and reports of temperamental behavior are anecdotal and not documented by scientific study. All puns aside, many people who are thinking of purchasing a kitten will keep these rumors in mind when selecting between calicoes and other colors.
If the rumors regarding the disposition of calico cats are true, purchasing a calico cat will make life more interesting. Finicky cats may possess an array of quirks and idiosyncrasies that are both fun to discover and observe.
Cats with an attitude can be all the more lovable because their peculiar behaviors give you endless stories to discuss with your fellow pet owners. Also, don't be disappointed if your calico kitten turns out to be distressingly normal and not the psychological terra incognita that you've been led to expect.
However, if breeder rumors hold any truth, you may increase your chances of having a fiery, furry companion by choosing a calico over a solid color.