The Calico Cat In Focus | Calico, Tabby, And Tortoiseshell Cats: What's The Difference?

Calico cats are mystical. They have a rich history and have many interesting characteristics. In today's blog, we will share with you everything there is to know about calico cats!
The Calico Cat In Focus | Calico, Tabby, And Tortoiseshell Cats: What's The Difference? - KittyNook

In a previous blog, I shared some facts about the Tabby cat. Now, it's time for Calico cats to take the spotlight!

What Makes Calico Cats So Unique?

Calico cats are mystical. They have a rich history and have many interesting characteristics. Like with Tabby cats, Calico is not a breed! Calico cats get their name from their coat colors.

Because calico isn't a breed, we can't appoint breed-specific individuality or behavioral attributes to them. Calicoes have unique and very varied personalities that are affected by different factors.

Since calico cats are so different from one another, it's exciting to get one. You can get an easygoing cat that will take pleasure in being around you and be your devoted buddy. However, it is also possible to get a reclusive, high-maintenance pet cat with an attitude!

It's All In The Genes

The genetics of calico felines are exciting and have long been the subject of researches. I could get heavy with all the gene talk, but I know you will gloss over them. So we'll keep this portion short.

The black and orange patches of hair that define these cats result from the random "X-chromosome inactivation." In cats, the genetics that determines fur color is located on the X chromosome. Almost all calico cats are female, so they have two X chromosomes. The rare male calicoes have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome.

X chromosomes also possess countless genetic codes for healthy proteins required for survival. With female cats having two X chromosomes, this double dose of 'survival' genes might be harmful. To make up for this double dose, the X chromosomes are randomly "inactivated" when the cats are just cells in their mother's womb.

Thus, if the X chromosome brings the genetics for white hair in one particular place of the body is inactivated, orange hair takes its place (and vice versa). Because the "inactivated" chromosomes are picked randomly, the mix of hair shades in calico cats is also unique for each calico cat.

How Rare Are Male Calico Cats?

All You Need To Know About Calico Cats

Male calicoes are unusual. It is estimated that just 1 in 3,000 calico cats are male. More than 90% of calico cats are female because of this one-of-a-kind genetic makeup.

Calico Cats vs. Tabby Cats vs. Tortoiseshell Cats

Calico felines aren't the only cats with distinct coloring. Tortoiseshell cats (or torties), and tabby cats, have them, too. It can be tricky to tell a calico cat apart from these two, so we'll help you out.

Calico felines have three colors on their coat: white, black, and orange. Torties, on the other hand, are typically are bi-colored and marbled. Torties have very little white coloring, which usually looks like tiny specs on the face, chest, or paws.

Tabbies have a distinct 'M' on their forehead, which you can't find in a calico cat. This is an easy-to-spot distinction between calicoes and tabbies. Likewise, tabbies have unique stripes that calicoes do not have.

Fun Facts About Calico Cats
All You Need To Know About Calico Cats


  • The genetics of calico cats that determine their coloring makes it so that 99.9% of calico felines are female.
  • Almost all male calicoes are sterile--male calicoes usually have Klinefelter's syndrome. This is a genetic problem that creates sterility, amongst numerous other health problems.
  • As a result of their color, calico cats proclaimed the Maryland state cat in 2001. A calico's fur colors are a mix of white, black, and orange. This is the same as the Baltimore Oriole's feather shades, Maryland's state bird.
  • The famous Lucky Cat is based upon a calico cat.
  • Calico cats are given different names across cultures. For example, they are called and Mike Neko (三毛猫) (Japanese for 'triple fur') and lapjeskat (Dutch for 'patches cat').
  • Because of their rarity, calico cats are considered fortune charms and indicators of good luck worldwide. Individuals also think that calico cats bring good luck to the homes of families who embrace them. In some cases, Calilcoes are referred to as "cash cats."
  • A calico feline saved Japan's train station from being shut down. In 2007, the Kinokawa train station will be shut because of expenditure concerns. As a last hope, the town sent out a local calico feline to be station master, where she would welcome travelers as they passed by. The calico feline became a celebrity, thereby causing a 17% rise in station traffic. The luck of calico cats did sure work!
  • Given the rarity of calico cats, you might be surprised to know that they are everywhere in the world. Calico cats were traced, moving along paths in Europe and Northern Africa. Although they come from Egypt, they were likewise discovered in cities along the Mediterranean, France, Italy, and Spain.
  • You can not breed them. The calico coat color happens purely by chance. This is also the reason why they are so unusual and have a timeless appeal.
  • It is believed that calico felines can treat warts. Apparently, rubbing the tail of a calico cat in a blemish in May can cure it. I am not sure if this holds, but I will probably enjoy that!


Do you have a calico feline, or do you know any person that does? Tell us in the comments below!

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Ed @ Wed, Dec 30, 20

I have a Turkish Van calico that was very sweet at first, but became very aggressive to my other cats later on.
I have seen this aggressive nature in other Turkish Vans, including a neighbor’s TV that attacked another of my cats violently.

My TV, named Persephone, lost one of her front limbs, and we call her our tri-color tripod.

Patty @ Wed, Dec 30, 20

I have a beautiful calico cat! Her name is Snickers! Her markings are absolutely gorgeous! She is my little love bug!

Cindy @ Tue, Dec 29, 20

I have a calico cat named Sassi. She was a feral that I took in & now she is the sweetest fur baby ever, not to mention beautiful ❤