Cat Breeds: Calico

My favorite “breed” of cat isn’t actually a breed at all!

Calico actually refers to the color pattern of a cat’s fur. Your calico cat may actually be a Maine Coon, a Persian, or any of 16 different breeds. Maybe she’s a Manx or a Scottish Fold or a Norwegian Forest cat. Sixteen out of the forty-one breeds officially recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association could be calico; that’s not a bad percentage.

Or your calico could be one of the many “Domestic Shorthaired” cats out there: cats of indeterminate, not pure breed that actually make up more than 85% of America’s cat population! Purebred or not, I think calicos are absolutely lovely. Take a look!

A calico cat has to have three colors in patches (not blended) in their fur. Your calico may be mostly white with splotches of black and red/orange. There’s actually a name for this – a “high white” calico. If your cat is mostly white on the body and is only colored on the facial area, you’ve got a “van” calico.

The majority of calico cats are females. The occasional male calico is usually sterile, thanks to the particular genetic mix it takes to produce a calico. And it’s pretty tough to try to breed for calico kittens. The genetics of the whole thing are just too random. So if you happen to find a calico in your cat’s litter… consider yourself lucky! Genetically lucky, at least.

And if you’re one of the many who used to think calico was a breed, and not just a coloration pattern, you’re not alone. Doesn’t make me like them any less!

PS – Here’s another fun fact if you’re ever on a game show – the state cat of Maryland is the calico cat, even though it’s not an actual cat breed. They picked it to match the colors of the state bird (oriole) and state butterfly – black, white, and orange.