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Calico cats and kittens are known for their gorgeous, tricolor fur with shades of orange, black, and white. But their appearance is not the only impressive thing about these kittens.
Their genetics, for example, has been the subject of many detailed scientific studies since the 40s. In folklore, Calico cats are worshiped worldwide for their luck.
Calico is not a cat breed
The Calico breed does not exist. Rather, calico refers to the color variations on a feline’s fur. Although orange, black and white are the most common colors in calico, some cats may have shades of cream, bluish-black, red, or brown on their fur.
The origin of calico cats is a little unclear, it is a characteristic of the fur and not of the breed. But some evidence shows that they originated in Egypt, where they migrated to Italy, Greece, and Spain.
You can find cats with calico fur in many distinct cat breeds, such as the American Shorthair, the Persian cat, the Maine Coon, and the Cornish Rex.
Most Calico cats are female, males are very rare
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It is a known fact that 99.9% of calico cats are female due to the unique chromosomal structure that determines the color variations of their fur.
The chromosomes, X and Y, determine whether a cat will be male or female. Each cat has a pair of chromosomes with possible combinations of XX, female, and XY, male. The X chromosome is the one that carries the coding gene for the black and orange colors in the calico fur.
Female calico cats have two X chromosomes, so they have two color-coded chromosomes. By chance, and depending on the parents’ colors, both X chromosomes may bear the black code or both may bear the orange code, in which case the cat would have one of these colors.
Only if the cat has an X chromosome with the orange code and an X with the black code will it be calico, showing both black and orange color. To manage these two sets of color codes, the female embryo will close one X chromosome in each cell, resulting in variations of black and orange on the calico cat’s fur.
Because male cats have an X chromosome with black or orange code and a Y chromosome without color genes, they cannot technically be calico. They can be black or orange, but not both.
There is an exception. A genetic abnormality called Klinefelter syndrome, with the chromosomes XXY, occurs when a cat has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. This can result in a calico male cat.
About one in 3,000 calico cats are male and unfortunately do not live as long as a calico female due to genetic abnormalities. XXY syndrome causes calico males to be sterile and can be the leading cause of many other health problems.
However, with a healthy diet, exercise, and lots of love and attention, a calico male cat can lead a longer and happier life.
Calico cats cannot be multiplied
Due to the unique genetic structure, and the fact that calico males are born sterile, calico cats cannot actually be multiplied. Rather, nature creates these colorful kittens at random.
Calico cats do not have the same personality traits
Because calico cats are not a single breed, and cannot be multiplied, they do not share specific personality traits, temperaments, or tendencies.
If you are, however, looking for a certain personality type, many cat breeds can be calico. In this case, you can choose American Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, and Maine Coon, among others.
Calico cat lifespan
The great thing about getting a Calico cat for a pet is that you can choose not only the signed tri-color appearance but also the life expectancy.
Some Calicos live up to 18-20 years, like the American Shorthairs, while others have a shorter lifespan of 12-15 years, like the Persian.
The average lifespan of calico cats can vary greatly, but remember, the secret to a long, happy and healthy life is a nutritious diet, a protective shelter, and a lot of love when the cat allows it.
Calico cats are a sign of luck
Because calico cats are so rare, especially tomcats, they are considered a sign of good luck all over the world. Here are some examples of folklore and superstitions about these cats:
In the past, Japanese fishermen brought calico cats on their ships to protect them from storms, but also from the ghosts of their envious ancestors.
According to Irish folklore, you can cure warts by rubbing the tail of a calico cat on the affected area, but only during May. It’s probably a better idea to make an appointment with a dermatologist for this.
The famous Japanese cat Beckoning, or Maneki-Neko, was inspired by a calico model. They are often placed at the entrances of homes and business offices to bring good luck. Maneki-Neko dates back to 1870, so these kittens have a long history of bringing good luck.
In the United States, calico cats are often called “money cats” because they bring good luck to their owners.
The calico cat is the official cat of a state
Only three states in the United States have official feline representatives: Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
Just as the Main Coon is the official cat of the Main State, the calico cat is the official cat of Maryland State in the United States. It was elected by the government as a symbol in October 2001.
How to care for Calico cats
If you have recently adopted a new kitten and it happens to be a Calico cat, here are some useful tips and tricks that will guide you on your journey.
Find the right breed
It is extremely important to discover the real breed of your Calico cat. Knowing the breed will help you focus on the right cat food, as each breed has specific food requirements. In addition, it is one of the easiest ways to know what to expect in terms of personality, growth, lifespan, health problems, etc.
Beware of the health problems of the calico cat
Once you have found out the breed of a Calico cat, you need to take into account the specific health problems of the breed. Some breeds are generally healthy, while others tend to be more prone to disease development.
Pay special attention to the fur
Calico cats are notorious stops wherever they go due to their unique and colorful fur patterns. Unfortunately, their uniqueness is a two-edged sword. Different colors make it more difficult to detect skin problems at once, as well as other things, such as fleas and ticks.
And the ultimate advice for caring for a new Calico kitten – don’t forget to give it the love and attention it needs and deserves every day. Even though cats can’t talk, they know how to show us how grateful they are for all our efforts and devotion in their unique ways.