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What’s a Calico Cat?

calico catA calico cat is not a breed of cat, it is simply a term used to describe a particular pattern and color of the cat’s coat. A calico, known by some as a tri-color cat, is usually a predominantly white cat with orange and black patches on their fur. Calicoes are often confused with Tortoiseshell cats, another common coat color and pattern. The difference between the two is quite simple. Tortoiseshell cats have black and orange fur, sometimes with an occasional patch of white. Calicoes have white fur, with the occasional patch of black and orange.

The calico coat pattern is found in many different breeds of cats including the Manx Cat, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, Persians, Japanese Bobtails, and Exotic Shorthairs. Calico coats are also very popular amongst our most common cats – the mixed or multi-breed domestic shorthairs and domestic longhairs.

One of the most interesting things about calico cats is… they are almost all female. Mammals have two sex chromosomes, X and Y. Females have two Xs, and males have an X and a Y. In cats, certain coat colors are carried in the X chromosome. For a cat to have both black and orange in their coat, they need to have two X chromosomes to carry them. Therefore, males cannot have a calico coat. There is rare condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome which can cause a male cat to be born with two X chromosomes, and those males could be calicoes.

Calico coats are seen as lucky in many cultures. The Japanese Maneki-Neko or “Lucky Cat” is always depicted as a calico, some in the US refer to calicoes as “Money Cats.”

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