What is a calico cat? Calico cats have beautiful coats with three main color combinations – orange, black, and white. Calico is not a breed of cat, but rather, a color pattern on their coats.
You will most likely hear the term “calico cat” used in the United States. It refers to a fabric with a printed design that came to the U.S. in the 1780s.
In other countries, calico cats are called:
- Tobi mi-ke (Japanese for “triple fur”)
- Lapjeskat (Dutch for “patches cat”)
- Calimanco or clouded tiger (if they have a lighter color scheme)
- Piebald (if they are predominantly white with colored spots)
They are the preferred cat pattern for many cat owners, who say calico cats are special. Here, we will examine some things you might or might not know about calico cats.
Why do Calico Cats Look the Way They Do?
Calico is not a breed of cat. Rather, it is a pattern of color variation in the cat’s fur coat. Mostly, calico cats will sport shades of orange, black and white in their coats. They may also feature cream, red, chocolate brown, and bluish-black colors. Calico cats have this unique, intricate pattern of colors due to genetics.
Types of Calico Cats
There are a few different types or variations of the calico cat:
- The standard calico cat has a white coat with large spots of black and orange colors.
- The dilute calico cat has lighter colors, a white coat with large spots of dark grey and reddish-blonde colors.
- The calibby is a mixture of a calico cat and a tabby cat. The calico patches of orange and black on the calibby have a tabby striping or spotting to them.
What Cat Breeds Are Sometimes Calico?
Breeds in which you can find calico cat patterns include, but are not limited to:
- Cornish Rex
- American curl
- Maine coon
- Norwegian forest cat
- Japanese bobtail
- American shorthair
- Domestic shorthair
- Domestic longhair
- Exotic shorthair
- British shorthair
- Turkish Van
- Turkish Angora
Are Calico Cats Predominantly Male or Female?
The calico pattern is most often found in female cats. In fact, 99.9 percent of all calico cats are female. Coat color is a sex-linked trait, and therefore usually varies based on a cat’s biological sex.
It is estimated that one in every 3000 calico cats is born male. They unfortunately don’t live as long as females, and usually have a chromosomal aberration (xxy). These types of cats are usually also sterile and unable to breed, however.
Breeders will be sad to discover that they cannot breed calico cats. This makes sense when you consider that male calico cats are born sterile. Instead, these beautiful cats are produced randomly by nature.
Do Calico Cats Have Personality Traits Linked to their Color Patterns?
Contrary to popular belief, calico cats as a type of cat don’t share personality traits or temperaments. Some owners will disagree with this point, but experts note that calico cats differ greatly in personality based upon their breed. Researchers at the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science say that calicos do not show more aggression or fierce independence than other patterns of cat.
Is a Tortoiseshell Cat a Calico Cat?
A tortoiseshell cat is not a calico cat. Tortoiseshells also have black and orange in their coat patterns, but have a black-based coat, not white-based like calicos do. Tortoiseshells have a more balanced blend of orange and black, and occasionally white mixed into the color pattern.
Which Countries Have Calico Cats?
Calico cats are rare but, nevertheless, have spread worldwide. They have been seen in Europe, Northern Africa, Egypt (where they originated), France, Italy and Spain.
Fun Facts About Calico Cats
- Calico cats have long been revered around the world as good luck symbols.
- Japanese sailors often had a calico cat on board of their ships to protect them from hazards at sea.
- The Maneki Neko (Japanese lucky cat/fortune cat) was originally modeled after a calico.
- In the U.S., calico cats have been called “money cats” because of the good fortune they supposedly bring to their owners.
- Irish folklore says that warts can be cured by rubbing a calico cat’s tail on them, but only during the month of May.
- The calico cat is the official cat of the state of Maryland (possibly because they share the same colors as the oriole, the official state bird).
- In 2007, when a Japanese railway station was about to be shut down, a calico cat was sent to be its station master, greeting passengers. Soon, she became an attraction and the station’s foot traffic grew by 17 percent. The cat saved the station from being shut down.
- In Greek mythology, the calico cat was created when a red-haired servant lied to Hera about Hercules’ birth. When Hera learned of the lie, she turned the servant into a red and white cat.
Famous Calico Cats
- Calico, the cat in the 2001 movie Cats & Dogs, is actually not a calico cat, but, rather, a tabby.
- The children’s poem “The Duel” by Eugene Field was originally called “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat”
- Pudge, the calico cat, is an Instagram cat (@Pudgethecat) with over 670,000 followers.
- Inga is a calico cat who lives in the Washington Observatory and keeps mice away.
- French painter Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin painted calico cats
- Painter El Greco has a famous work depicting women of his family working in textiles while a calico cat looks on.
- Many characters in the musical Cats are likely calicos, including Mungojerrie, Rumpleteaser and Jenny-Any-Dots.
- A calico cat named London is the vice president in charge of claims for the store Lloyds of London.
- The late Tarter Sauce, aka “Grumpy Cat,” had a calico mother named Callie.
- Martha Stewart owns two calico cats named Empress Tang and Princess Peony.