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. 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.
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 is a chromosomal mutation known as XX male syndrome.
Understanding why nearly all calico cats 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. 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.
Breeders still tend to shy away from these fertile male calicoes, as there are potential health issues that can arise in their offspring due to the extra chromosome. 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.
Male calicoes often have reduced bone mineral content, increasing the risk for broken bones; cognitive and mental developmental issues, which can lead to behavioral problems; and increased body fat, which can cause joint pain, heart disease, and diabetes. Thespians is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
Read on to find out and learn more about these “Money 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. On the other hand, females have XX chromosomes, meaning they have an extra “leg” to store information.
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.
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.
However, there are other conditions that may cause a male cat to be a calico. This depends on if there's someone looking for a male calico cat.
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. Instead, they produced the same kittens a regular orange male would.
Calico cats are essentially white cats with big orange and black spots on them. 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. 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! Also, just so you know, a tricolor tabby cat is called a orbit.
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. 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.
Thank you this helped me figure out why my calico cat always has females. A little while ago there was this feral calico kitten with an injured leg eating all the trash in my neighborhood.
I work with a rescue, saving, rehabilitating cats. I have fostered many cats, as well as socialized abused, abandoned, hoarding cases, etc.
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 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.
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. 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.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 14, 2016: We are currently fostering a group of semi-feral kittens for our local rescue organization.
I have them fairly well socialized, but they sure don't like it if you try to grab them in a hurry; they'll show you just how fast a little kitten can run! one is a dilute calico with the white bib; and the last is a brown/cream orbit.
Whoever adopts him is liable to have a curtain-climber on their hands...LOL (I didn't put that in his profile, though.) We've seen a few female orange tabbies lately, and that was formerly thought to be as rare as a male calico.
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).
Thespians Avery (author) from New England on September 09, 2016: 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. I just Googled “What do they call a Calico with BIG spots & got your explanation, which is beautifully complete.
All are “mother's kids”, are all over my daughter & I, sit on whoever will let them. I have a calico named Audi who went insane when we moved her to our new home.
Thespians Avery (author) from New England on February 08, 2016: I enjoyed your article very much, found it interesting as my vet had told me all calico cats are female.
There is a gene that is favored in feral, especially in cold climates, that causes great size in the males. We think this is because larger males have an easier time protecting territory.
The interesting part is the females remain the size they normally would be (which can be very petite if that's what the rest of the family is!) 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.
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.
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.
Huh, didn't know that about cat colors and the UK standards. 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.
Thespians Avery (author) from New England on September 14, 2013: 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.
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.
Jennifer Vasquez from Long Beach, CA on September 10, 2013: 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.
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. She is mostly pure white but has an orange spot on her head by her ear and one by her butt.
Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on March 17, 2013: 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. They both found good homes later with families who also thought they were amazing.
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.
Tom Rizzo from Santa Clara, CA on October 02, 2012: 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.
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.
Tom Rizzo from Santa Clara, CA on October 02, 2012: 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. You would throw her mouse toy down the hallway, and she would run and get and bring it back.
In this Animalized article we'll explain why this type of coat happens to help you find out whether this is indeed a female -only characteristic or if males can also have calico or tortoiseshell coats. A very common pattern type is that of stripes, lines or dots that create a swirling or marbled effect; these are called tabby cats “, and can be male or female.
Cats can also be bi color or piebald, that is, have coats with two distinct colors. These cats usually have white fur combined with a different color or pattern.
Variations of bi color coats include tuxedo and van. Tortoiseshell or sortie cats have mottled red, orange or cream and black, brown or blue coats.
Calico cats have tortoiseshell coats with white patches, which is why they are also called “tortoiseshell-and-white” or “tricolor”. The color and pattern of a cat's coat depends on the animal's genes; more specifically, the information for hair color is coded into the two chromosomes that determine the animal's sex.
Therefor, the color and pattern of the cat's coat is a feature that is linked to its sex. Chromosomes are structures found in the nucleus of cells that contain all of a living organism's genetic information, that is, its DNA.
Females have two X chromosomes, so they can have genes for both black and orange and thus create tortoiseshell patterns. This is why a female cat can have three colors and therefore a tricolor or calico coat: they have an X chromosome for black, an X chromosome for orange, and white is expressed independently.
They only differ in the proportion of white or type of pattern of their coat: Calico or tricolor cats : These cats show wide and noticeable white patches, and they can be mostly white, especially on the abdomen, legs, chest and chin.
They show black and orange spots on their coat, which can appear diluted (blue or gray, cream) on the skin. The coat pattern is caused by a chromosomal abnormality: instead of having two sex chromosomes (By), which would prevent them from showing orange and black at once, these cats have three (OXY).
Because they have two X chromosomes, tortoiseshell and therefore calico patterns can be expressed just like in females. This is a rare condition, but it banishes the myth that all tortoiseshell and tricolor cats are females.
If you want to read similar articles to Why Are Calico and Tortoiseshell CatsFemale ? , we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
Domestic cats with a spotted or partly-colored coat that consists of 3 colors. The calico cat is most commonly thought of as being typically 25% to 75% white with large orange and black patches (or sometimes cream and gray patches); however, the calico cat can have any three colors in its pattern.
They are almost exclusively female except under rare genetic conditions. A calico is not to be confused with a tortoiseshell, which has a mostly mottled coat of black/orange or gray/cream with relatively few to no white markings.
However, outside North America, the calico pattern is more usually called tortoiseshell and white . In the province of Quebec, Canada, they are sometimes called chatted'España (French for '(female) cat of Spain').
Other names include brindle, tricolor cat, mike Nero () (Japanese for 'triple fur'), and lapjeskat (Dutch for 'patches cat'); calicoes with diluted coloration have been called claimant or clouded tiger. “ Calico refers only to a color pattern on the fur, from colorful printed Calico fabric, not to a cat breed or any reference to any other traits, such as its eyes.
Among the breeds whose formal standards allow calico coloration are the Manx cat, American Short hair, Maine Coon, British Short hair, Persian cat, Arabian MAU, Japanese Bobtail, Exotic Short hair, Siberian, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora and Norwegian Forest cat. In most cases, males are only one color (for instance, black) as they have only one X chromosome.
Male calicoes can happen when a male cat has two X chromosomes (Klinefelter syndrome, with OXY sex chromosomes and generally sterile); is a chimera, with two different cell types; or, rarely, when some skin cells of the developing kitten spontaneously mutate. Fairly common among calicoes , dilutes are distinguished by having gray (known as blue), cream and gold colors instead of the traditional black, red and brown patches along with their white.
The coat pattern of calico cats does not define any breed, but occurs incidentally in cats that express a range of color patterns; accordingly the effect has no definitive historical background. However, the existence of patches in calico cats was traced to a certain degree by Neil Todd in a study determining the migration of domesticated cats along trade routes in Europe and Northern Africa.
The proportion of cats having the orange mutant gene found in calicoes was traced to the port cities along the Mediterranean in Greece, France, Spain and Italy, originating from Egypt. In genetic terms, calico cats are tortoiseshells in every way, except that in addition they express a white spotting gene.
In contrast a non-white-spotted tortoiseshell usually has small patches of color or even something like a salt-and-pepper sprinkling. This reflects the genetic effects on relative speeds of migration of melanocytes and X-inactivation in the embryo.
Serious study of calico cats seems to have begun about 1948 when Murray Barr and his graduate student E.G. Bertram noticed dark, drumstick -shaped masses inside the nuclei of nerve cells of female cats, but not in male cats. In 1959, Japanese cell biologist Subsume Ohio determined the Barr bodies were X chromosomes.
In 1961, Mary Lyon proposed the concept of X-inactivation: one of the two X chromosomes inside a female mammal shuts off. Calico cats are almost always female because the locus of the gene for the orange/non-orange coloring is on the X chromosome.
Since the Y chromosome does not have any locus for the orange gene, there is no chance that an By male could have both orange and non-orange genes together, which is what it takes to create tortoiseshell or calico coloring. One exception is that in rare cases faulty cell division may leave an extra X chromosome in one of the gametes that produced the male cat.
That extra X then is reproduced in each of his cells, a condition referred to as OXY, or Klinefelter syndrome. All but about one in three thousand of the rare calico or tortoiseshell male cats are sterile because of the chromosome abnormality, and breeders reject any exceptions for stud purposes because they generally are of poor physical quality and fertility.
The orange mutant gene is found only on the X, or female, chromosome. If expressed, this gene codes for white, or no color, and is dominant over the alleles that code for a certain color (i.e. orange or black), making the white spots on calico cats.
If that is the case, those several genes will be expressed in a blotchy coat of the tortoiseshell or calico kind. But the male, with his single X chromosome, has only one of that particular coat-color gene: he can be not-ginger, or he can be ginger (although some modifier genes can add a bit of white here and there), but unless he has a chromosomal abnormality he cannot be a calico cat.
Calico cats may have already provided findings relating to physiological differences between male and female mammals. Cats of this coloration are believed to bring good luck in the folklore of many cultures.
In the late nineteenth century, Eugene Field published The Duel “, a poem for children also known as “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat”. In Japan, the Maneki-neko figures depict calico cats, bringing good luck; Japanese sailors often had a calico ship's cat to protect against misfortune at sea.
^ Gilbert, Scott F. “Transcriptional Regulation of an Entire Chromosome: Dosage Compensation.” Thanks To A Genetic Anomaly, An Extremely Rare Fertile Male Calico Is Born”.
Calico cats are known for their sassy but loving personalities and penchant for causing trouble. Photo: Kurt I adopted my spunky calico cat, Lou, when she was just a kitten.
A standard calico has a primarily white coat with patches of orange and black. A dilute calico has the same white base, but their patches are softened to charcoal gray, cream and light orange.
The caliber has the same color variations as calicoes, with the addition of the signature tabby stripes. Coat color is a sex-linked trait and occurs because of dominant and recessive genes that interact with X chromosomes.
What most people don’t know is that the genetic code for having either orange or black fur is only found in the X chromosome. With just 1 X chromosome, a male cat only has the chance of displaying the black or orange gene, not both.
Photo: Katie Venison/Potful As it turns out, calicoes are well-known for their personalities and, more specifically, their sassy attitudes. Despite these qualities, Lou also exhibits neediness, a tendency to be startled by the crunch of a chip and a sweetness.
Although not all breed standards recognize the beauty of a calico cat, quite a few do, including Persians and Maine Coons. In the 1870s, the Japanese declared calico cats to be an official symbol of fortune in Japan, and the country’s signature lucky cat, maneki-neko, is often depicted with calico coloring.
With a sassy but loving personality and a penchant for causing trouble, calico cats make ordinary days far more interesting. Growing up on a small farm in rural North Dakota, Katie developed a love for animals of all shapes and sizes.
Thus, Calico and/or Tortoiseshell color combination occurs mostly in female cats, rather than male cats. Male cats, with genetic aberration having OXY chromosomes can express Calico and/or Tortoiseshell color combination.
However, due to abnormal chromosomal configuration, male Calico or Tortoiseshell cats are sterile. Unlike the usual Calico coat combination (white, black and orange), if the coat color of a cat has patches of white, blue and cream, then the cat is known as muted Calico.
Calico and Tortoiseshell cats, due to their independent and quirky nature, make wonderful pets and are fun to be around. If proper training is provided in the kitten stage, they make good companions.
As per the folklore of some cultures, Calico and Tortoiseshell cats are believed to bring luck to the owner. The Japanese sailors often carry Calico cats in their voyage, believing that the cats will protect them while at sea.