5 Calico Cat Facts Debunk Common Myths

Calico cats are gorgeously marked felines that are shrouded in myth and mistaken assumptions. Having owned a tortie cat and also a calico, I have learned five cat facts that you should know. What are they?

1. Calico cats are not a different breed. Unlike the Persian, American shorthair or Siamese, the term “calico” refers to the coat coloration. It is therefore not surprising to find an American shorthair calico, a Siamese calico or a British shorthair calico. It is a common misconception that this type of cat is differentiated on the breed level.

2. A tortie cat is not necessarily a calico. Tortoiseshell cats usually feature a coat with black, orange or tan makings. These color markings appear in brindle patterns that circle around the animals’ bodies. A true calico cat features a white basecoat with some of the tortie cat markings. PoC traces these markings back to the Piebald gene (aka the gene responsible for white spotting).

3. Calico cat behavior is not noticeably different from other cats. At face-value it is odd to surmise that the way a tortoiseshell calico cat acts is vastly different from a tabby simply because of the genes that determine its fur pattern. In spite of the urban legend that proclaims calico cats to be sweeter (or more aggressive) than their differently-colored counterparts, genetics and experience do not confirm it.

4. All calico cats are not female. While it is true that the vast majority of calico cats are indeed female — calico colorings are based on the presence of two X chromosomes, whereas a male would require the rare XXY combination — there are some males. Even so, it stands to reason that the cute little calico you see at the animal shelter is most likely a female.

5. Male calico cats are not money-makers. Sarah Hartwell dispels the myths that somehow obtaining male calico cats is a great way to augment the waning 401(k) earnings. Even though a researcher may find these cats to be fascinating test subjects, a breeder has little use for them (if they are fertile), since these felines cannot pass on the genes that determine the calico pattern. They do not even show like other cats, since there is no recognized color class for fanciers with male calicos. Thus, there really is no dollar value to these genetically rare animals.

Why not visit the local animal shelter in search of a calico of your own?


PoC: “Behavior of a Calico Cat”
Sarah Hartwell: “Mosaicism, Tortie Tomcats and Genetically Impossible Kittens”