The Calico Cat: A Patch of Joy

Calico cutieHave you ever wondered why some cats are calico and why they are almost always females? Well, wonder no more. Coat coloration in cats is a complex equation, but simply speaking, calico coloring and tortoise shell coloring are controlled by several genes. Both are a combination of color patterns resulting from genetic traits, and neither is specific to any particular breed of cat. A blend of colors creates the coloration; the result almost like the accidental slip of an artist’s palette of black, chocolate and cinnamon. The sizes of the patches differ greatly, ranging from a fine, speckled pattern to large and dense areas of color. The coloring can also be modified by dilution genes, which may lighten the fur to a mix of cream, lilac, blue or fawn. When a brown or blue/grey tabby pattern appears, it is usually referred to as a “tortie”.

Tortoiseshell coloring is also known as “calimanco” or “clouded tiger” which is how it is known throughout North America. This term is strictly reserved for cats with coats that are devoid of white markings. Those cats whose coats contain large white with black patches are known as calicos. In order for a cat to be calico, it must express two alleles (one or more forms of a gene occupying the same position on paired chromosomes and controlling the same characteristic). In the case of a calico cat, these alleles are located on the X chromosome. Male cats cannot do this as they only have one allele.

The calico cat is the state cat of Maryland. They are said to be very temperamental (mine is a bit moody and aloof as well). Throughout history, the calico cat has been associated with the advent of good luck and health, notably in Asia and Scotland.

Do YOU own a calico cat? Please share your experiences.

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About Marjorie Dorfman

Marjorie Dorfman is a freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of New York University School of Education, she now lives in Doylestown, PA, with quite a few cats that keep her on her toes at all times. Originally a writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non-fiction writing in the last decade. Many of her stories have been published in various small presses throughout the country during the last twenty years. Her book of stories, "Tales For A Dark And Rainy Night", reflects her love and respect for the horror and ghost genre.