Calico Cat Facts to Know

calico cat

Calico cats consist of a variety of domestic cat breeds with an abundance of lovely colours, similar to patchwork quilts. One calico may be a vivid mixture of red and black, while another may be a more subtle combination of cream and blue. The latter is referred as in feline genetics as a “dilute calico.”

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The varied patterns of the calico patches are nearly as distinct as snowflakes, so you will never find two identical ones. Their dispositions are similarly intriguing; calico cats are recognised for their sass and vivacity, yet they are also affectionate and devoted friends for owners of all ages.

Interestingly, almost all calicoes are female, and the few males that exist are always sterile.

Breed Overview

PERSONALITY: Sassy, spunky, bold, affectionate, independent, loyal

WEIGHT: Up to 12 pounds

LENGTH: About 18 inches

COAT LENGTH: Short Hair and Long Hair

COAT COLORS: Black and red, blue and cream, or lilac and cream

COAT PATTERNS: Tri-color (calico)

EYE COLOR: Yellow, green, or blue

LIFESPAN: Up to 15 years


ORIGIN: Possibly Egypt and the Mediterranean Coast

Calico Cat Characteristics

The calico is a medium-sized domestic cat with a reputation for its spirited and forceful nature. While often autonomous and not requiring constant attention, the calico cat is also affectionate, loyal, and lovely. It bonds easily with a single owner, but also enjoys the companionship of a whole family.

In contrast to tortoiseshell cats, calico cats’ colours (red and black) are interwoven throughout the coat, rather than showing in discrete patches.

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  High
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Vocalize  Medium
Amount of Shedding  Medium

History of the Calico Cat

No one knows for certain where the calico breed originated, but it is believed to have begun in Egypt and spread over the Mediterranean.

In the 1940s, major research on calico cats was initiated. Murray Barr and his graduate student E.G. Bertram observed dark, drumstick-shaped lumps within the nuclei of female cat nerve cells, but not male cat nerve cells. These dark lumps were ultimately referred to as Barr bodies. Susumu Ohno, a Japanese cell biologist, determined in 1959 that Barr bodies are X chromosomes. Mary Lyon proposed the concept of X-inactivation in 1961: one of the two X chromosomes within a female animal becomes inactive. She found this similarity in the coat colour patterns of mice and calico cats.

In the folklore of many countries, calico cats are supposed to bring good luck. The United States occasionally refers to these as “money cats.” In Japan, Maneki-Neko are figures of good luck depicting calico cats.

Calico Cat Care

The maintenance of a calico cat will depend significantly more on its breed than on its coat pattern. The coats of short haired calicos, for instance, require less grooming than those of longhaired types.

Common Health Problems

Male calico cats are susceptible to a hereditary disorder called Klinefelter’s Syndrome, regardless of breed. In addition to being sterile, these cats have cognitive and developmental abnormalities, behavioural issues, decreased bone mineral content, and are obese. 1

Female calico cats do not have health difficulties associated with their colour patterns, although they may have breed-specific health issues.


Calico cats are among the most brilliantly patterned cats, sporting vibrant spots of red, black, white, blue, and cream. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) rules for Calico Persians, the cat should have black, red, and white fur with white feet, legs, chest, and nose. In addition to a coloured tail and coloured patches on the head and/or body, the cat should have a coloured tail.

Copper, blue, green, or odd-eyed eyes can be seen in calicoes. Odd-eyed bi-color Persians should have one blue and one copper eye with similar colour intensity. 2

Diet and Nutrition

Feeding calicos of any breed a nutritious, dehydrated and/or canned cat food is generally a good idea. However, investigate your cat’s breed to determine if it has specific nutritional requirements.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Calico Cat

Calico cats are not uncommon, but it can be difficult to find one in a local shelter. Check with local breeders to see whether they specialise in calico patterns, or browse online adoption sites to find a kitten or cat in your area.

Types of Calico cat

It would be simpler to list the breeds that do not tolerate calico cats than those that do. Calicoes are not permitted in pointed breeds, such as the Siamese and Himalayan, or in breeds that only permit solid colours, such as the Bombay, Russian blue, and British shorthair. While the calico pattern may appear on numerous cat breeds, the following are most likely to have it:

  • American shorthair
  • British shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Exotic shorthair
  • Japanese bobtail (calico is the most popular color pattern in this breed)
  • Maine coon
  • Norwegian forest cat
  • Persian
  • Scottish fold
  • Turkish Angora/van

Breed Overview

The calico is not a breed and has no technically distinguishable personality traits, but owners and enthusiasts often assert that the calico pattern imparts a particular vivacity and sassiness to female felines carrying the colourful genes. These outgoing, sociable cats have a taste for independence, but they also enjoy interacting with their human families and other pets.


How much is a calico cat?

Calicos are not often breed-specific. You may find one from a local animal shelter or rescue for less than $100. Breeds with calico patterns are more expensive.

How long does a calico cat live?

Similar to other non-breed-specific cats, calicos live approximately 15 years.

How big do calico cats get?

This varies because they are not breed-specific. In general, calicoes weigh between 7 and 12 pounds.

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