When we first adopted our cat Kalista we weren’t aware of how special calico cats were.
In regards to Kalista’s coat, we thought it was really cute if we adopted a second cat that had a white belly like our first cat, Beau, had. Though, that being said, this was not a requirement for adopting a new cat.
Shortly after adopting Kalista we kept bumping into people asking us if the rumours were true about calico cat personalities.
I was quickly caught up on how calico cats are actually quite sought after, especially when they are male.
There are a lot of myths about calico cats out there, so today I thought I’d break some down for you, including the ever-illusive: can Calico Cats be Male?
FIRST, WHAT IS A CALICO CAT?
Calico cats are defined as domestic cats who have spotted or particoloured coats.
Calico cats have coats that are predominantly white with splashes of two other colours, the most common being orange and black.
Other colours that calico cats can have include ginger, gray and cream.
Sometimes calico cats are called “tortoiseshell and white cats” especially outside of North America.
Another name for them is “tri-colour cat”, however, this is also less commonly used than “calico cat” or simply “calico.”
Calico cats often get confused with Tortoiseshell cats.
Tortoiseshell cats are usually classified by their black and orange coat, while calico cats require white in their fur as well.
CALICO IS NOT A BREED
With the number of cat breeds out there, it can be confusing what names are actual breeds and what names are not.
Calico, for example, is not a breed. Calico is merely a colouring or patterning.
Of the many breeds of cats that there are, the following are known to have the most frequent calico colourings:
Domestic Long Hair
Norwegian Forest Cats.
HOW FUR COLOURING WORKS (GENETICS)
I shockingly didn’t learn a whole lot about genetics when I was in high school, but my partner, who is a biology major, sat me down and explained the whole process to me a few years back.
Fur colouring works very similarly to the way that eye colouring does.
It all has to do with the genetics mother and father cats pass down into their baby cats and which genes they have that are dominant or non-dominant (also known as a recessive gene).
Now, unlike eye colours, coat colours can be complicated as they are so heavily connected to the gender of the animal. This is actually true of many physical features on a cat, though we won’t dive very far into that.
Just like humans, female cats have two X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y.
Simply put Females = XX and Males = XY.
The colours black and orange are only found inside of X chromosomes, however, only one colour is usually expressed when a cat is born.
White, unlike black and orange, is not found in X or Y chromosomes. Instead, white is expressed from a completely separate gene.
Now when you dig further into the genetics you realize that in some female cats, one of the X chromosomes may be deactivated. This is called an X-inactivation.
If a cat has an X-inactivation it commonly leads to a random mix of colours. This is why calico cats often appear to have a splashed look of colour on their coats.
Since female cats have XX chromosomes they are able to express both black and orange.
This creates the possibility for a cat to become a tortoiseshell cat, though if the conditions are right cats may have the possibility to express white based on their other genes.
Due to the fact that males have XY chromosomes, the majority will only display black or orange.
This is why you see many male cats who are orange or black; and orange with white or black with white.
SO ARE THERE NO MALE CALICO CATS?
Nope, it’s actually possible for there to be male calico cats, though it is extremely rare.
About 1 in every 3000 male cats who have the chromosomes which can express orange or black are calico cats.
This is only possible due to a “chromosomal aberration.”
A chromosomal aberration is when a male cat has two X chromosomes or is XXY.
Cats who have XXY chromosomes are often unable to breed due to being sterile.
This is also true amongst other mammals who are able to carry XXY chromosomes.
MY MALE CALICO IS STERILE, SHOULD I STILL NEUTER HIM?
This is 100% your choice.
I would recommend neutering him still as he will exhibit behaviours of an unneutered male.
Similar to sterile humans, just because they shoot blanks does not mean they do not have a libido.
Sterile male cats will continue to spray, show signs of wanting to mate and show signs of aggression.
Although very rare, male cats can express Calico colouring.
This being the case most of them are sterile.
I’m curious how many of my readers were told that only female cats were Calicos and how many knew the science behind it!
It’s quite interesting and I have yet to meet a male Calico in real life!