Calico Cat Facts For Kids

Calico cats have a type of coat that is colored orange, black and white. People also call orange fur “red”. The orange fur is usually a tabby coat, as well. You will see lots of different sorts of calico cat patterns but they all have the same three colors. The amount of each color and the shape of the pattern changes from cat to cat. Sometimes the colors are faded. These are called “dilute calico cats” because the strength of the color is diluted.

Calico cat facts for kids

Calico cat facts for kids. Main photo by tanakawho. Gizzy was photographed by Elisa.

Calico cats are not a breed of cat. This means that a lot cats from many cat breeds, and cats that don’t belong to a cat breed, can have a calico coat. Some of the cat breeds that are allowed, by the cat associations, to have calico coats are the:

  • American Shorthair
  • Manx
  • Persian
  • British Shorthair
  • Turkish Van
  • Japanese Bobtail — the favorite cat color and pattern of this cat breed is the calico cat. There’s lots of white fur with blobs of orange and black. This is a three color cat. The Japanese have a lucky cat or beckoning cat that is put outside shops and so on. These cats are usually calico cats. They are not living cats but statues. They wave with their left paw.
  • Exotic Shorthair.

Another name for the calico cat is tortoiseshell and white. This name is used in Europe. The name “calico” is an American name for this sort of cat.

A tortoiseshell cat is orange (red) and black.

The cat in the main picture, on this page, has clear areas where you can see these three colors. Sometimes it is hard to see the colors as they blend together.

The Name

Why do Americans call cats with red, black and white fur, calico cats? It seems to have come from Britain (United Kingdom – UK). More than 400 years ago, a brightly colored cloth (not a cat!) that came from Calicut, India was called calico cloth by the British people. Then the word “calico” was used to mean a brightly colored cat, which the calico cat is. Words can change like this over time. Then the Americans liked the word and used it. Meanwhile the British people decided they preferred “tortoiseshell and white”.

Calico Cats are Nearly Always Females

Almost all calico cats are females. There are some male calico cats. People used to think that male calico cats were sterile, which means that they were not able to become a father to kittens. Male calico cats were also meant to be not very active and lively. However, it seems that these beliefs were not quite correct. A lot of male torties are, in fact, fertile. They can become fathers to kittens.

The reason why calico cats are female cats is difficult to explain in straightforward English because it is a tricky subject.

It is all about genes. Genes are very small particles (things) that are inside the cells of a cat. They control how the cat looks and how the cat behaves and so on. The genes that make the calico cat’s fur red, white and black are linked to the genes that makes a cat female. So, if a cat is female she might have a calico coat. If a cat is male, he can’t have a calico coat, unless something goes a bit wrong.

Do Calico Cat Behave Differently?

Some people think calico behave differently to other cats. I don’t think they do.  You will see lots of stuff on the internet about this. Calico cats are meant to have “attitude”. Do you believe it?

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Calico Cat Facts For Kids — 11 Comments

  1. There’s been a lot more study into male torties. It used to be thought male torties were caused by a chromosome abnormality and sterile. As a result of recent studies and tissue samples, the main cause is now thought to be chimerism (fused embryos) and a lot of male torties are fertile. There are some cat familes that have two or three generations of tortie males in the pedigree and a very famous male tortie Maine Coon called Pretty Boy Floid who fathered 27 kittens. The recent studies suggest that fertile male torties may be the rule, rather than the exception.

        • Venus hasn’t yet been proven to be a chimera and the comment by Lyons about tortie toms is a little misleading (she means XY/XY or XX/XY chimera, rather than XXY).

          I’ve written extensively on causes and occurrences of tortie males and chimeric females (http://www.messybeast.com/genetics-index.htm) and there are some pics of black/grey/white chimeras. As well as colour mixes, in theory you could get longhair/shorthair chimeras. It’s not so much the multiple partners, but the effect of fertilised eggs bumping into each other at an early stage of development before implantation. But with multiple partners you could get a kitten that has 3 parents: the mother and 2 different fathers. So far I know of 4 breeding programmes that have multiple generations of fertile tortie males (the breeds involved are Persians, Sphynxes, Norwegian Forest Cats and Siberians). And there have been quite a few chimeric tomcats cropping up in Maine Coons.

          http://tortietom.nidoba.nl/tortiete.html also has a lot of info and interesting pics.

    • This may be way out there, but given that pregnant females can have several male partners for one litter (as each kitten has her/his own sac), does this make the possibility of a chimera more likely in the domestic feline?

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