Popular for their unique tri-color coat, calico cats have a reputation for being beautiful, feisty, and even lucky pets. But have you ever wondered whether they're born with their signature three colors or if they're born white? Have you considered the possibility of having a calico cat of your own to produce calico kittens? We've scoured the web searching for reliable sources and cat experts to answer your queries.
Calico cats are typically born with their three colors intact and showing, but some breeds may change color days after birth. A female calico cat can give birth to calico kittens. However, because calicos cannot be bred, there is no way to know for sure whether a pregnant calico cat will have a calico kitten.
Curious to find out more about the lovely calico cat? Keep reading as we explore more on how calicos get their color, how to differentiate them from other cat colors, why the male calico is so rare, and other interesting facts about them.
How do calico cats get their color?
To understand how calico cats get their color, we need to go back to the basics of biology. Like humans, most cats inherit one sex chromosome from each of their parents.
A female parent contributes the egg which carries one X chromosome, while the male parent contributes sperm which carries either an X or a Y chromosome. The combination of either XX (female) or XY (male) determines the sex of the kitten.
Now the gene that determines fur color is found in the X chromosome. In order for a calico mix to occur, there has to be one X chromosome that carries the gene for black fur and another X chromosome that carries the gene for orange fur. This is why calico cats are typically female.
However, male calicos do exist due to a genetic anomaly called XXY syndrome. Cats who have this syndrome have two X chromosomes from the female parent and one Y chromosome from the male parent.
If both X chromosomes have the calico blueprint, the result is a male calico cat. This is an extreme rarity; so much so that male calico cats can cost thousands of dollars.
Another interesting fact about calico cats' colors is that there can be no two calicos with similar markings. This is because of a complex process called lyonization where one X chromosome in every cell of the female embryo becomes inactivated.
So for instance, if the X chromosome carrying the gene for black fur is inactivated, the other X chromosome carrying the gene for orange fur becomes the active chromosome, creating a patch of orange fur.
Lyonization is completely random, which is why it results in completely different markings for each calico.
Wondering if calicos change color as they get older? Take a look at this article to find out: "Do Calico Cats Change Color As They Age?"
Is calico a breed?
Calico does not refer to a specific feline breed, but rather to a specific color pattern that occurs in several cat breeds. This color pattern is made up of three colors: white, black, and orange.
There are also dilute or muted calicos that have lighter variations of these colors. They have white or cream fur with blue or gray and tan or light orange patches.
Many breeds of cats can have calico coloration, such as:
- Japanese Bobtail
- Maine Coon
- American Shorthair
- British Shorthair
- Persian Cat
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van
Are calico cats rare?
Calico cats are considered rare, although female calicos are quite common. Male calicos, on the other hand, are an extreme rarity. Only 1 in 3,000 calico cats is born male.
Because of their uniqueness, calicos (male calicos in particular) represent good fortune in many cultures across the world! For instance, they're often called money cats in the United States.
In Japan, a Maneki Neko or a calico cat figurine is a famous symbol found in shops and restaurants that is thought to bring wealth and good luck to a business.
How can I tell if my cat is calico?
Calicos often get confused with tortoiseshell cats, more commonly known as "torties". However, an easy way to distinguish them is by checking whether they have white fur.
Torties have only two colors, which are black and orange. Calicos have patches of black and orange on a white coat. They may be 25% to 75% white with different sizes of orange and black spots.
Learn more about the difference between tortoiseshell cats and calicos by reading this article: "Calico Cat Vs. Tortoiseshell – What’s The Difference."
Can you breed two calicos?
Unfortunately, you can't breed two calicos to have calico kittens. First off, you would have an extremely difficult time finding a male calico cat as they are extraordinarily rare.
Secondly, even if you do manage to find a male calico, he won't be able to reproduce. Due to their chromosomal abnormality wherein they have an XXY combination instead of an XY combination, male calicos have malformed sexual organs. This means they're generally sterile.
Only 1 in 10,000 male calicos is fertile. In the very rare event that a male calico isn't completely sterile, he still usually has a low sperm count and a number of health issues and birth defects. This is why breeders typically reject fertile male calicos.
Can calico female cats have kittens?
Yes! While male calicos are sterile, female calicos are more than capable of getting pregnant and giving birth as long as they are healthy.
While veterinarians and cat care experts recommend spaying your female cat, you may have your own reasons for wanting to breed your pet. If you want your female calico to have kittens, be sure to provide proper care for her while she is pregnant and consider how you can guarantee that her kittens go to safe and loving homes.
Here are a few tips on caring for your pregnant calico cat:
1. Consult with your veterinarian
It's best to see your veterinarian to confirm your cat's pregnancy and to determine whether she is healthy enough to give birth. They will also check her for worms and other health issues.
Be sure to have regular checkups with your veterinarian all throughout the pregnancy. This will guarantee that her kittens are healthy and help you prepare for her delivery at home.
Around 55 days into your cat's pregnancy, you can have her get a radiograph to see how many kittens she'll have. This information will be useful later on when she's giving birth, so you know if she's done or if she's experiencing difficulties during the process.
2. Ensure proper nutrition
Your veterinarian will recommend a high-quality diet to keep your cat and her kittens healthy. In most cases, premium kitten food is best for pregnant cats. This gives them more calories and necessary nutrients for their growing kittens.
You will also need to feed your cat more often throughout the day, but make sure to keep the meals small especially when she's near her due date.
3. Keep her fit and active
It's important to encourage physical activity in your pregnant cat. This will help prevent obesity and other complications that can make her pregnancy more difficult. Using toys is a good way to get your cat moving.
4. Prepare for delivery
As her due date approaches, your pregnant cat will want a safe and cozy place to give birth. Prepare a cardboard box lined with blankets or towels in a space where she won't be crowded, such as a closet or a bathroom.
It's best to add a heating pad to this box to keep her comfortable. You can introduce this spot to her as she looks for a place to nest, but don't be too concerned if she ends up not using it.
When your cat is ready to go into labor, she may want to be left alone. It's alright to let her give birth by herself since cats are highly independent animals. But it's also important to check on her once every 15 to 20 minutes. Monitor her contractions and the time between births.
Calico cats are unique, beautiful felines with a tri-color coat that they're usually born with. They can be found in many breeds and are highly valued in many cultures.
Unfortunately, if you want a calico kitten, there's no way to breed two calicos to produce one since male calico cats are typically sterile. However, a female calico cat can get pregnant and give birth to calico kittens, although there's no way to guarantee this.
Remember to consider your cat's health and well-being before deciding to breed her, as a successful pregnancy will require constant care from you.