Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
After we adopted Kalista a number of our friends congratulated us on our beautiful new Tortoiseshell Cat. The only issue was… Kalista is not a tortoiseshell! It can be pretty hard to pin down what breed of cat you have, and although Tortoishell isn’t a breed, it can still sometimes be confusing what cats with this colouring are called.
What Defines a Tortoiseshell Cat?
Tortoiseshell cats or Torties are commonly a mixture of black and orange. Torties don’t always have dominant colouring and can be born with something called “dilute colouring” which simply means that the black and orange appear lighter on their fur.
What Defines a Calico Cat?
While Calicos share a similar colouring, being black and orange, they also have patches of white fur on them. This makes our cat Kalista a Calico.
So Why Do Some Cats Have White Fur And Others Don’t?
Well, it comes down to genetics. The colours black and orange are carried in the X chromosomes, while the colour white is expressed from your cat’s genes. These genes are called melanocytes and have a simple “on-off” function. While any cat can have white colouring, not ever cat can express both orange and black. (If you’re interested in why check out my post about it here.)
Do All Calicos Have Big White Spots?
Nope! Some Calicos only express very, very little white on them. This can be as small as a cm spot on your cat’s body. Even though the spot may be extremely small, doesn’t make your cat any less of a Calico!
Are Calicos or Torties Always Short Hair?
Nope! Calicos and Tortoiseshell cats can be almost any breed, including long haired! There are, however, some breeds that express these colourings more frequently than others.
Do Calicos and Torties Share a Similar Personality?
Although not completely scientifically based, it is believed that both Torties and Calicos have a very particular personality. Being a Calico owner, I can confirm that my cat shows signs of “Tortitude” or “Calico Attitude.” If you think that your cat has a particular attitude, you should definitely check out this article for a description of both.
Are There Any Other Names for These Cats?
Yes! Calicos are also called tri-colour cats or tortoiseshell with white. Torties, unfortunately, don’t have any other names/nicknames.