Fun Facts About Calico Cats

Although almost all cats have an air of beauty and dignity to them, for sheer charming prettiness, none surpasses the calico cat. This three-toned (black, orange, and white) feline inspires awe in some, terror in others, but indifference in none. This article offers some interesting info about the elusive calico cat.

What Makes A Calico?

Calico cats, by definition, have patches of orange, white, and black fur. In the calico, these patches are distinct. Tortoise shell cats have the same coloring as calicoes, but their colors blend together.

Yes, We Have No Boy Calicoes

First for a quick lesson in basic biology: Female cats are formed when each parent donates an X chromosome. Male cats are formed when the mother donates an X chromosome and the father donates a Y chromosome.

Part of the genetic anomaly that gives calicoes their unique coloring is linked to the X chromosomes. In calicoes, one X chromosome carries the gene for black fur and the other X chromosome carries the gene for orange fur.

Since males only have one X chromosome, they rarely become calico cats. The very few male calicoes usually have genetic abnormalities (such as carrying an XXY chromosome pattern). They are almost always sterile and may experience other health problems as well.

Calico Cats Are The Bane Of Breeders

Calico cats are not a species unto themselves, and there’s no such thing as a “purebred” calico cat. They’re usually part domestic shorthair (e.g., alley cat), part Manx, part Persian, and part kitchen sink. For this reason, it’s very difficult to breed a calico cat. Breeders can increase the odds of getting a calico (say by breeding a black cat with an orange cat) but the results depend largely on gender and luck. There are no guarantees.

The Price Is Right

Given that the genetic combination must be just right to get a calico, you’d think they might be expensive cats, but most often, they’re not. Many people who end up with calicoes are not professional breeders but hapless pet owners who weren’t expecting or wanting a litter. If you check your local newspaper in the spring, you probably won’t have much trouble finding a calico for either a very low price, or “free to a good home.”

The only time calico cats can get pricey is if they’re also bred for another trait. A calico Munchkin, for instance, will cost upwards of $500, not because it’s a calico but because it’s a Munchkin.

Devil’s Plaything?

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was afraid of calico cats. He believed them to be signs of the devil.

And The State Cat Is…

In 2001, calico cats were voted the state cat of Maryland, because their colors match the state bird (the Baltimore oriole) and the state insect (Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly).

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