Calico Cats and Their Colouring Facts

By Valdette Muller| February 28, 2018 | Blog

Calico cats are identified by their tri-coloured coats, Black, Orange and White.

Cat lovers are often inquisitive about the calico cat, because of the multi-coloured coat which they exhibit.

What makes a cat a “True” calico cat?

“Calico” refers to both the colour and the pattern of a cats fur, but it is not exclusive to one breed of cat. Many breeds and mixed breeds of cats can be calico, such as the American shorthair, American longhair, Manx, Japanese bobtail, Cornish Rex, Maine coon, Persian and the Ragdoll.

A “true” calico cat not only has three different colours on its coat; one of the colours must be white, and the colours must appear in spots or patches.


Although calicos can be found in most cat breeds, the birth of a calico coloured cat is not that common. It happens once in a while, when an embryo acquires the specific genes for this colour combination.

The genes that are responsible for this is found in X chromosomes which can affect the colour combinations as well as the sex.

Almost all calico felines are female.

Genetic code for the colour black is carried by one X chromosome. Red/orange colour code is carried by another X chromosome, and the White colour is carried by an entirely different gene.

So a cat needs two such X chromosomes to get this colour combination. Two X chromosomes are only possible in females.

1 out of 3000 calico cats are born male.

It is extremely rare to find calico males, but they have an unusual genetic composition – XXY. Calico males are also often found to be sterile. Sterile or not, Male Calicos can be sold for between R11 000 and R23000 because of their rarity. Male calicos are seen as a novelty and a symbol of wealth.

As these cat colours do not comprise a of specific breed, their personality will be based on the breed to which they belong too and is not based on their coat colourings.

Dilute Calico

The dilute calico is born with an additional gene which shows a lighter, dilution of the original colours. This means that black becomes a blueish/grey colour, and the red/orange will instead be a tan colour.

Origins and history

The origins of the patchy multi coloured cats was traced to a certain degree by Neil Todd in his study on the migration of domesticated cats along trade routes throughout Europe and Northern Africa. The earliest place where the colours have been recorded is in Egypt.

Folklore of cultures such as those of Japan, describe cats with the calico colouration as a good luck omen. They are still believed to imbue magical powers by many eastern cultures. Japanese sailors are known to have travelled with calicos in the early 1800s to ensure a safe voyage and protect their ships from harm.

The Japanese talisman Maneki neko, is frequently seen in shops and restaurants. This is almost always portrayed as a calico cat and is known as the fortune cat in english terms.

In the United States and England, calicos are sometimes referred to as the money cats because of their rarity and the extreme rarity of male calicos.




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