Calico cats comprise many breeds of domestic cats that feature a myriad of colours, almost like highlights done on their coat. One variety may be vibrant orange and black, while others may be a more subdued shade of cream mixed with greyish. In feline genetics, the latter is known as “dilute calico”.

The various patterns in the calico’s coat are almost as unique as snowflakes, so you will never see two exactly alike. Their personalities are equally interesting; calico cats are known for their sass and spunk, but they are also loving and loyal companions for owners of all ages.

Characteristics of the calico cat

The calico is a medium-sized domestic cat known for its courageous and bold personality. While a generally independent cat that does not require constant attention, the calico is also sweet, affectionate and loyal. It will easily bond with a single owner, but will also enjoy the company of an entire family.

The calico differs from tortoiseshell cats by its distinct colour patches all over its body, usually with a predominance of white, the tortoiseshell has a more scattered pattern, with black predominating.

History of the calico cat

No one is sure where the calico breed originated, although there is speculation that it originated in Egypt and was traded throughout the Mediterranean.

Researchers began seriously studying calico cats in the 1940s. Murray Barr and his graduate student EG Bertram noticed dark, drumstick-shaped masses inside the nuclei of nerve cells in female cats, but not in male cats. These dark masses eventually came to be called Barr bodies. In 1959, Japanese cell biologist Susumu Ohno determined that Barr bodies were X chromosomes. In 1961, Mary Lyon proposed the concept of X inactivation: one of the two X chromosomes within a female mammal is switched off. She observed this in coat colour patterns in mice, similar to the patterns in calico cats.

Calico cats are believed to bring good luck in the folklore of many cultures. In Japan, for example, they are good luck figures.

Common health problems in the calico cat

Regardless of breed, a male calico cat is prone to a genetic health condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. In addition to being infertile, these cats experience cognitive and developmental problems, behavioural problems, reduced bone mineral content and obesity.

Calico cats do not have health problems that correlate with their colour patterns, but may have problems specific to their respective breeds.

Appearance of calico cats

Calico cats are some of the most visually striking cats, with striking patches of colours including orange, black, white, grey and cream. Calico eye colours include copper, blue, green or bicolour eyes.

Diet and nutrition for calico cats

A healthy dry and/or canned cat food is usually a great choice for feeding calicos of any breed. However, it is always best to research whether the specific breed of cat needs a particular diet, to find out if it has any dietary requirements you should be aware of.

Types of calico cat
It would be easier to list those breeds that do not accept calicos than those that do. Calicos do not appear in breeds such as the Siamese or Himalayan, nor in those that only accept solid colours, such as the Bombay. While the calico pattern can appear in many breeds of cats, the following are the most likely to show it:

  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Devon Rex
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Japanese Bobtail (calico is the most popular colour pattern in this breed)
  • Persian
  • Turkish Angora

The calico is not a breed and has no technically identifiable personality traits, but owners and enthusiasts of these kittens often insist that the calico pattern seems to impart a particular vitality and cheekiness to female felines who carry the colourful genes. These friendly, outgoing cats have a knack for independence, but they also enjoy socialising with their human families and other pets. Do you have a calico cat with you? Tell us a quirk about them!