Calico Cats→ Genetics, Personality, Lifespan And Intelligence | All About Cats (2022)

Calico Cats→ Genetics, Personality, Lifespan And Intelligence | All About Cats (1)

Whether you’re thinking about getting a cat yourself or not, you’ve probably come across the wonderful calico at some point. Who hasn’t?

What Makes Calico Cats So Special?

Calico cats have an air of mystery about them along with a rich history, not to mention their unique appearance…

But what really makes calico cats so special?

They aren’t even a breed of cat! Calicos get their name from the coloration of their coat!

In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about calico cats, along with 10 fun facts about them. Let’s dive in!

Calico Cat Appearance

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Because calico cats are not a breed unto themselves, calicoes will have unique and varied personalities influenced by a wide range of factors.

Calicoes are often described as the world’s most colorful cats. After all, they are one of the only cats to exhibit such a wide range of color variations in its coat.

The calico is not a breed of cat but a domestic cat with a variety of genetic color variations.
The most common calico is a tri-color pattern of orange, black, and white. It is possible, however, to have a calico pattern with shades of cream, red, blue-black, and even chocolate brown.

Calicoes with less intense coloration are known as dilute calico cats. They are primarily white in color with patches of light color ranging from blue-gray to cream to strawberry blonde.

You can find calico cats across many distinct breeds with the exception of solid-color and pointed breeds like the Bombay, Russian Blue, British Shorthair, Siamese, and Himalayan. Because calico cats occur across so many different cat breeds, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether the cat is a calico or actually a tortoiseshell.

The best way to tell is to examine the calico patches.

A tortoiseshell cat usually has the primary colors (red and black) woven throughout the coat while a calico will have distinctive solid-colored patches (like black patches or white patches).
Some of the breeds you can find in calico appearance include Maine Coon, Manx, Persian, American Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, Siberian, and more.

If you’re curious to know the genetics of your calico cat, we recommend the BasePaws cat DNA kit. Using a sample of your cat’s saliva, BasePaws compares your cat’s genetics against the largest cat DNA database in the world to help you better understand your cat’s breed composition.

Personality And Behavior

Calico cats aren’t a breed unto themselves, so we can’t assign breed-specific personality or behavioral traits to them. Like many cats, calicoes will develop their unique personalities according to many factors, such as socialization and life experiences.

Because calico cats are so different from one another, it’s particularly exciting to get one.
You could get a laid-back, mellow cat that enjoys being around you and wants to be your loyal companion.

You could also get the opposite: an aloof, high-maintenance cat with an attitude.
That being said, many calico owners report that their cats share a similar personality with tortoiseshell cats – they called it “tortitude.”

Torties are known for being spunky, sassy, and independent by nature. Calico cats may share these characteristics but, like we mentioned, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Plus, calico cats can’t be bred, so they’re even less likely to share common characteristics.

Mysterious Genetics

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Calico cats are characterized by a unique set of genetic traits.

The genetics of calico cats are quite fascinating and have long been the topic of scientific research. We could really get into the weeds about these genetics, but your eyes might glaze over. So, we’ll keep this as short and simple as possible.

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. Nearly all calico cats are female, so they have two X chromosomes. The rare male calico cats have one X and one Y 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 the calico kitten is just a tiny ball of cells in the mother’s womb.

Thus, if the X chromosome carrying the gene for white fur in one particular spot of the body is inactivated, the orange gene might become active in that spot instead (and vice versa). Because the deactivated chromosomes are chosen randomly, the combination of fur colors in calico cats is also random and unique for every calico cat.

You could have a orange tabby with calico patches of white fur or black fur just as easily as a black cat with calico patches of white and orange fur.

Health And Lifespan

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While the rare male calico may encounter some health issues and have shorter life expectancies, female calico cats are just as healthy as cats with other coat patterns, with an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years.

The average lifespan of calico cats is 12 to 16 years. Is this more or less than the average lifespan for most cat breeds?

Yes and no. It depends if the calico cat is male or female.

Male calicoes tend to live shorter lives than female calicoes because of a genetic condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This syndrome is the presence of two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome – in other words, a male calico cat has an extra X chromosome.

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 whether your cat is a male or female calico, 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.

How Rare Are Male Calico Cats?

Male calicoes are rare. 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. But put worries aside, because just like with any cat, a calico cat can live longer than average if provided the best health care along with a healthy and balanced diet.

Calico vs. Tortoiseshell Cats And Tabby Cats

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All calico cats have tricolor coats, but these coats also come in other patterns, like tortoiseshell.

Calico cats aren’t the only cats with unique coat colors. Tortoiseshell cats (aka, torties) and tabby cats have them, too. It can be tricky to differentiate a calico from these other cats, so we’ll help you out.

Calico cats have three coat colors (white, orange, and black), while torties typically are bi-colored (marbled orange and black). Torties have very little white coat, which usually appears as small spots on the face, chest, or paws.

Tabbies have an unmistakable ‘M’ on their forehead. Calicoes don’t have this on their forehead, so that is an easy-to-spot difference between calicoes and tabbies. Also, tabbies have distinct tabby stripes, along with prominent ginger and black patches.

10 Fun Facts About Calico Cats

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  1. Females dominate – The unique genetics of calico cats that determine coat color mean that 99.9% of calico cats are female cats. Remember, coat color is linked to female sex chromosomes (XX).
  2. Nearly all male calicoes are sterile– Male calicoes often have Klinefelter’s syndrome (XXY chromosomal makeup), a genetic condition that causes sterility, among many other health problems.
  3. They represent a state – Because of their color, calico cats were declared the official state cat of Maryland in 2001. A calico cat’s fur colors are a mixture of white, black, and orange, the same as feather colors of the Baltimore Oriole, which is Maryland’s state bird. Only two other states have state cats!
  4. Beckoning cat -The famous Beckoning cat character is based on a calico cat.
  5. Different names – Calico cats have different names in different cultures. For example, they are called “lapjeskat” in the Netherlands, which means “patched cat”, and “mi-ke” in Japan, which stands for “triple fur”.
  6. Lucky charm – Given their rarity, calico cats are known as lucky charms and signs of good luck around the world. 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 1870’s, calico cats were declared an official symbol of fortune in Japan (Maneki-Neko).
  7. Calicoes are brave – A calico cat saved Japan’s railway station from being closed down. In 2007, the Kinokawa 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. The calico cat’s good luck is indeed true.
  8. Calicoes are everywhere – Considering how rare calico cats are, they have really spread around the world. 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.
  9. You cannot breed them– You can’t breed a calico cat because they happen only by chance. This chance occurrence is why they are so rare and considered to be a lucky charm.
  10. They cure warts – While it’s just a rumor, it’s often believed that calico cats can cure warts. Rubbing warts against the tail of a calico cat in May is supposed to cure it. We are not sure if this is true, but we are sure that the cats probably don’t enjoy it!

Happen to have a calico cat? Know anyone who does? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are all calico cats female?

Yes, for the most part. Because their coloring is linked to the X chromosome and cats with two X chromosomes (XX) are female, 99.9% of all calico cats are female. It is possible for a calico cat to be male, but it is exceedingly rare.

Can calico cats be male?

Though it is very rare, male calico cats do exist. Male calico cats are most likely to have a chromosomal abnormality that gives them two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (XXY).

How long do calico cats live?

Calico is a coloration rather than a breed, so it’s difficult to say whether calico cats are different from other cats in terms of lifespan. Indoor calico cats generally live 12 to 16 years while outdoor cats have shorter lifespans around 7 to 9 years.

How rare are male calico cats?

According to a study conducted at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, only 1 in every 3,000 calico cats is male. Because they are so rare, they are often considered good luck charms.

Are calico cats mean?

Owners of cats with sex-linked color patterns (like tortoiseshell or tortie cats) often report a higher frequency of aggression than owners of cats with other colors. Calico cats aren’t always “mean,” per se, but they do tend to be more independent than other cats.

FAQs

Are calico cats intelligent? ›

They are said, for example, to have sweet, endearing personalities. The Calico cat's disposition is also considered warm-hearted, affectionate, and intelligent. Many Calico breeds get along well with children and other pets to0.

What is the personality of a calico cat? ›

The calico is a medium-sized domestic cat renowned for its spunky, assertive personality. While it's a generally independent cat that doesn't require constant attention, the calico is also sweet, loving, and loyal. It will readily bond with a single owner but enjoy the company of an entire family, too.

What is special about calico cats? ›

Because calico cats are not a breed unto themselves, calicoes will have unique and varied personalities influenced by a wide range of factors. Calicoes are often described as the world's most colorful cats. After all, they are one of the only cats to exhibit such a wide range of color variations in its coat.

Are calico cats more crazy? ›

Her study, based on a survey of more than 1,200 cat owners, found that calicoes and torties are more likely to hiss, chase, bite, swat or scratch during interactions with humans.

Are calico cats good luck? ›

Calico cats are good luck.

In England and the United States, male calicos are considered especially lucky due to their rarity. Maneki neko, a Japanese cat talisman thought to bring good fortune and wealth, is almost always calico.

How rare is a calico cat? ›

In very rare cases—about 1 calico cat in every 3,000—cats can have an extra X chromosome, known as XXY Syndrome or Klinefelter's Syndrome. These cats are male, but are always sterile and unfortunately tend to have a host of health problems due to their genetic abnormalities.

Are calico cats talkative? ›

They are one of the more intelligent cat breeds. They are very talkative and have an extensive tonal range to their voices. Their intelligence and mischief may challenge some humans, especially people who want a quiet lap cat.

Do calico cats meow a lot? ›

Calico cats do meow a lot more, and it is not always something bad. Typically vocalization is a normal thing for cats since this is their way of communication. If your female Calico cat is meowing excessively, it's probably because of pain or medical issues which need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Why is my calico cat so scared? ›

Why are cats shy or fearful? Shy or fearful behavior is most often caused by negative associations made in early life. If a cat doesn't interact with people often or experiences abuse or trauma, later, he or she may be afraid to trust human caretakers and become a skittish kitty.

Can calico cats see in the dark? ›

Cats do have an excellent ability to see in the dark but they are not nocturnal (no vampire kitties here). Cats are actually crepuscular which means they are more active during twilight. Their ability to see in the dark, combined with their other senses, makes them well-equipped for post-bedtime adventures.

Which breed of cat is friendliest? ›

The Maine coon, nicknamed "America's cat," sits at the top of the friendliest cat breeds list. Don't let the large size fool you: there's nothing to fear about this sweet-natured breed that is great for families, including those with small children.

Are calicos violent? ›

In the research from experts in the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, the researchers discovered that cats with calico and tortoiseshell coat patterns tend to be the most challenging and aggressive cats compared to those with less flashy, single-color coats.

What health problems do calico cats have? ›

Cognitive and developmental issues that can lead to behavioral problems. Reduced bone mineral content that can up the risk for broken bones. Increased body fat, which can lead to conditions such as joint pain, heart disease, and diabetes.

Are calico cats good with dogs? ›

Calico cats are known to be friendly around dogs. But not all dogs are suitable playmates for them. Playful dogs such as Spaniel and Poodle are the perfect companion for Calico cats. They will engage in activities and will get along pretty well.

What is the rarest cat color? ›

What is the most rare cat color? The rarest cat color is albino. In order to get an albino cat, both parent cats must have two recessive genes and their offspring have to receive both.

What color of cat is lucky? ›

Black cats draw wealth and prosperity

Those little cat figurines with the raised paws are meant to draw good luck, wealth and prosperity to their owners. Often they are white, but Lucky Cats also come in black. A black Lucky Cat not only brings luck but also frightens away demons, evil energy, and stalkers.

Can a calico be a boy? ›

But male calicos are rare: Only one out of every 3,000 calico cats is male, according to a study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri. The gene that governs how the orange color in cats displays is on the X chromosome.

What colors is a money cat? ›

Colors. Originally, maneki-neko were white, but over the years with the combination of Feng Shui, different color variations were born. The original white color is to get good luck and overall good fortune, while black is to ward off evil, red is for good health, yellow or gold is for wealth, and pink is for romance.

How much is a calico cat worth? ›

Calico cats may cost from around $400 up to $2,000 especially if you got them from a reputable breeder. Their price is mainly determined by age, sex and if the cat is a purebred calico. Female calico cats cost around $400 to $500 while male calicos cost around $1,000 up to $2,000 because they are very rare.

What breed are calicos? ›

A calico cat isn't a specific type of breed — in fact, they can be any domestic cat breed with a tri-color coat; typically black, orange, and white. The white can be 25-75% of their fur. However, variations including cream, blue-black, brown, and reddish-orange can also be found in calico cat coats.

Are all calico cats deaf? ›

Deafness. Tortoiseshell calico cats of all types are also more at risk of hereditary deafness, if they have a large amount of white fur. This is because white spotting gene which produces white fur also affects cells in cats' inner ears which are important for hearing.

Is 3 colored cat lucky? ›

The three-colored so-called tortoiseshell or lucky cats are considered in the vernacular as lucky charms, as special gifts of nature.

Why do female cats cry at night? ›

Your cat might meow at night because they feel bored, unstimulated, lonely or just want to go outside. If your cat won't stop crying at night even when they have plenty of play time, other causes to consider are thyroid or kidney disease.

Do calico cats stay small? ›

Small to Large. Calico cats aren't breed specific, so they range dramatically in weight and size. They've been seen to weigh as little as 4-8 pounds for smaller breeds, or 9-12 pounds for much larger breeds like the Maine coon.

Can calico cats get pregnant? ›

Can calico female cats have kittens? Yes! While male calicos are sterile, female calicos are more than capable of getting pregnant and giving birth as long as they are healthy.

Why does my cat stare at me? ›

Your Cat Stares at You to Show Affection

Cats can use staring as a nonverbal way of communicating. Even though a long, unblinking stare may not be the best way for humans to show affection, when your fur baby does this, it may mean they're showing love to their favourite owner.

How can you tell if your cat is sad? ›

Signs of a Depressed Cat

Changes in body language, including ears held back, tucked tail, and hairs standing on end. Meowing more or less than usual or making low-pitched, mournful meows. Lack of energy or a decrease in activity level. Retreating from humans or other family pets.

Why is my calico so mean? ›

These aggressive behaviors included swatting, hissing, and biting. The researchers suspect that the genetics responsible for calico and tortie coat colors may also partially control these aggressive tendencies.

Do cats cry? ›

Can cats cry tears? The short answer is yes, cats' tear ducts function the same way humans' tear ducts do, but they don't cry emotional tears from sadness or pain. While cats do “cry out in the sense that they may vocalize (meow, yowl, etc.)

How do cats see human faces? ›

No, cats can't recognize human faces because they're long-sighted. Cats need to hunt and scope out far-away places, so our faces look blurry. Also, cats don't get close enough to our faces to memorize them. Instead, cats recognize people based on their unique scents and the sound of their voices.

Do cats view humans as cats? ›

Cats do often treat humans like other felines, using gestures like licking or rubbing on both feline friends and human caregivers, she says. “In a way, cats think of us as bigger cats,” Bonk says. “They might not necessarily know that we're a different species or they just don't care.”

What are the three types of calico cats? ›

There are 3 well known types of calico cats: Dilute, Tortoiseshell, and Patched Tabby. Each of these three calico cats differ in color.

What Colour eyes do calico cats have? ›

The calico's eyes can come in many colors, including blue, yellow, green, and in between. They are not to be confused with tortoiseshell cats, which are similar but with significantly less white.

Do cats get jealous? ›

Jealousy over the presence of another cat is very common. All cats have different personalities, and some will be made insecure and display jealousy more easily than others. It is important to watch your cat and observe their cues and triggers.

Which cat is smartest? ›

Regardless of where they come from, Abyssinian cats are known as the smartest cat breed due to their inquisitive nature and top-notch detective skills. They are incredibly independent, and they enjoy mind-stimulating activities like puzzle toys.

Are girl or boy cats better? ›

The truth is that the sex of the cat really doesn't matter when it comes to choosing the purrfect pet for you. Although there are some behavioral differences between male and female cats as they grow from kittens to adults, a cat's genetics and environment play a bigger role in how well the two of you will bond.

Are calico cats sterile? ›

Due to genetic abnormalities, boy calicos are prone to health issues. They are also sterile. That means calico cats really can't be bred: they just appear randomly.

Do calico kittens change color? ›

So the question if calico kittens change color might as well refer to cats in general. And yes, like other cats, the colors of their fur can change as they age. Their coats can also change colors due to their environment, sun exposure, diet, stress, and medical conditions.

Why do cats nip you? ›

Cats use nipping or biting behavior as a way to communicate. They are typically trying to say either “No! Stop that!,” “I'm scared!,” “Give me some affection!,” or “I want to play!” Cats can also bite when teething as kittens or as part of hunting behavior.

How long do calico cats sleep? ›

Cats sleep an average of 15 hours per day. However, they can sleep as much as 20 hours within a 24-hour period. In general, cats do the majority of their sleeping during the day, since they are most active overnight. If you've wondered why that is, the answer lies in their physiology.

Do calico cats get fleas? ›

No, there aren't, however, their color coat can make it difficult to spot issues with their skin, including fleas and ticks. To keep an eye on things, brush your cat once a week and always stay up to date on flea and tick meds.

Why is a male calico cat so rare? ›

The calico fur pattern is predominantly white, with patches of two other colors — in David Bowie's case, orange and black. And because a cat's fur color is linked to its cells' X chromosomes, calico cats are rarely male. Male cells have only one X chromosome, meaning normally, males are just one color.

Do calico cats like to snuggle? ›

Yes, most breeds that have the calico pattern will enjoy cuddles. While calico cats tend to be sassy, spunky, and independent, they will jump on their owner's lap when they want to seek affection.

Are calico cats always hungry? ›

Calico's Physical Traits and Lifespan

The extra hormones cause the cat to feel hungry more often and seek out food. The average lifespan for calico cats is 11 years compared to about 15 years for non-calicos. Calicos tend to be fatter than other breeds, which also lowers their life expectancy.

What breeds make a calico cat? ›

Among the breeds whose formal standards allow calico coloration are the Manx cat, American Shorthair, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, Persian cat, Arabian Mau, Japanese Bobtail, Exotic Shorthair, Siberian, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora and Norwegian Forest cat.

Are calico cats talkative? ›

They are one of the more intelligent cat breeds. They are very talkative and have an extensive tonal range to their voices. Their intelligence and mischief may challenge some humans, especially people who want a quiet lap cat.

Do calico cats meow more? ›

Calico cats do meow a lot more, and it is not always something bad. Typically vocalization is a normal thing for cats since this is their way of communication. If your female Calico cat is meowing excessively, it's probably because of pain or medical issues which need to be addressed as soon as possible.

What is the kindest breed of cat? ›

The Maine coon, nicknamed "America's cat," sits at the top of the friendliest cat breeds list. Don't let the large size fool you: there's nothing to fear about this sweet-natured breed that is great for families, including those with small children.

What health problems do calico cats have? ›

Cognitive and developmental issues that can lead to behavioral problems. Reduced bone mineral content that can up the risk for broken bones. Increased body fat, which can lead to conditions such as joint pain, heart disease, and diabetes.

Are calicos aggressive? ›

Calicos and torties have reputations for being feisty and unpredictable, characteristics that the study appears to confirm. Calicos are mostly white with patches of orange and black.

What color of cat is lucky? ›

Black cats draw wealth and prosperity

Those little cat figurines with the raised paws are meant to draw good luck, wealth and prosperity to their owners. Often they are white, but Lucky Cats also come in black. A black Lucky Cat not only brings luck but also frightens away demons, evil energy, and stalkers.

Are calico cats good with dogs? ›

Calico cats are known to be friendly around dogs. But not all dogs are suitable playmates for them. Playful dogs such as Spaniel and Poodle are the perfect companion for Calico cats. They will engage in activities and will get along pretty well.

Are all calico cats deaf? ›

Deafness. Tortoiseshell calico cats of all types are also more at risk of hereditary deafness, if they have a large amount of white fur. This is because white spotting gene which produces white fur also affects cells in cats' inner ears which are important for hearing.

Can a calico be a boy? ›

About one in every 3,000 calico cats is born a male, and, unfortunately, don't live as long as female calicos due to their genetic abnormalities. XXY Syndrome renders male calicos sterile and can be the root cause of many other health problems.

How much does a calico cat cost? ›

Calico cats may cost from around $400 up to $2,000 especially if you got them from a reputable breeder. Their price is mainly determined by age, sex and if the cat is a purebred calico. Female calico cats cost around $400 to $500 while male calicos cost around $1,000 up to $2,000 because they are very rare.

What is the most intelligent cat? ›

Regardless of where they come from, Abyssinian cats are known as the smartest cat breed due to their inquisitive nature and top-notch detective skills. They are incredibly independent, and they enjoy mind-stimulating activities like puzzle toys.

Do cats get jealous? ›

Jealousy over the presence of another cat is very common. All cats have different personalities, and some will be made insecure and display jealousy more easily than others. It is important to watch your cat and observe their cues and triggers.

How long do calico cats sleep? ›

Cats sleep an average of 15 hours per day. However, they can sleep as much as 20 hours within a 24-hour period. In general, cats do the majority of their sleeping during the day, since they are most active overnight. If you've wondered why that is, the answer lies in their physiology.

Do calico cats get fleas? ›

No, there aren't, however, their color coat can make it difficult to spot issues with their skin, including fleas and ticks. To keep an eye on things, brush your cat once a week and always stay up to date on flea and tick meds.

Why are there no male calico cats? ›

The occurrence of male calico cats is theoretically impossible. Ordinarily, male cats have XY sex chromosomes, while females have XX. The X chromosomes carry the genes for coat colours. Therefore, female cats inherit their coat colour from both their queens (XX) and their toms (XY).

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