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September 19, 2018 |0 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

A Comprehensive Guide to Calico Cats

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You've probably heard of the calico cat and maybe you thought it was a specific breed. However, much like the tortoiseshell cat, which is a form of the calico, this cat isn't a breed at all.
Here is a mini comprehensive guide to all you ever wanted to know about the calico - hey, that rhymed!

How the Calico is Created

Instead of being a breed like mentioned earlier, the calico cat is actually a natural anomaly. It is actually genetics that determine this unique color variation known as Mosaic Expression - the same thing found in other animals with this variance like the tortoiseshell cat, which is a form of the calico cat.
According to Meowingtons:
  • A cat needs two X chromosomes to present with the tri-color calico pattern.
  • If a cat has an XX pair of chromosomes, it will be female.
  • Male cats have an XY chromosome pair, so they can rarely be Calicos.
So, as you can see - the calico cat is a very special kitty and can be any breed at all.
It's all about the coloring and according to All About Cats:
There are 3 well known types of calico cats: Dilute, Tortoiseshell, and Patched Tabby. Each of these three calico cats differ in color. Dilute means that the colors are less intense, hence “dilute.” However, the Tortoiseshell and Patched Tabby types do feature unique differences in color.

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How About Temperament, Lifespan, and Health Issues?

Long Haired Calico Cat
Like any cat, you may be wondering about the temperament, lifespan, and any health issues of the calico. The problem with answering these questions is that the calico isn't a specific breed. The calico can be any breed at all - it is simply the cat's unique coloring and genetic makeup.
It is best to simply treat a calico cat like any other cat by keeping up with vet visits and loving it as much as possible. The average lifespan of a cat is 12-16 years but there is one specific thing you should know.

Males are a Rarity

Having a male calico is extremely rare but if you are lucky enough to find this unicorn then keep in mind that the males live shorter lives than female calico cats because of their unique chromosomal makeup.
Don't let that worry you, though. Just take care of this rare animal and treat it with tender loving care as well as regular healthcare. Oh and one last thing, the males are almost always sterile. This doesn't mean they'll eventually die out as a breed because as we mentioned, they're not a breed at all.

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Luck Be a Lady (or Not)

Since almost all calico cats are females, luck be a lady is definitely not appropriate here, but there is still a lot of luck involved. It is considered good luck both in the United States and England to find a male calico cat.
Another area where calico cats are considered lucky is in the ancient days with Japanese sailors who brought calico cats with them as good luck charms along their voyages.
Even the Irish believed that calico cats cured warts. Well, that's certainly a very specific ailment but who are we to judge?

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Christina Scamporrino

Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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Geoff DeWire

PrettyLitter's Veterinarian in Chief Dr. Geoff DeWire graduated UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 where he earned the Pfizer Clinical Achievement Award for Excellence in Veterinary Medicine.