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:

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

Calico -- Tortoiseshell-and-white -- Maine Coon bred in Russia

Calico — Tortoiseshell-and-white — Maine Coon bred in Russia. Photo and breeder: Irina Goriunova.

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.Ā  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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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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14 Responses

  1. Cadence says:

    I have a calico named Cally

  2. Sarah Hartwell says:

    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.

  3. Well done. I love calico’s. I think you covered the science end of things perfectly.

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