The Calico cat is not a breed of cats, as is popularly believed. It is just a variation in terms of coloring and pattern that occurs in various varieties of cats. These varieties include Manx, Persian, and Domestic Short-Hair cats. So, what makes a cat a Calico cat, or when is a cat considered Calico? A cat that has tricolor patches on its body of white, black, and red or orange fur is known as a Calico cat. There are various specifications among breeds about how much of each color is supposed to be on a Calico cat.
A Calico cat is almost always a female. This is because of its genetic makeup. The chromosomes passed on to a Calico by females contain the orange or black color, and this constitutes the requirement to be a Calico cat. The male cat has an X and Y chromosome, and an X is required for the cat to be female. The father can pass either of these chromosomes to the kitten. The mother cat however, possesses two X chromosomes, and so passes an X chromosome to her kitten. This combination produces the female Calico cat. Rarely, a Calico cat is male. This happens when there is some genetic mishap, and the kitten has XXY chromosomes. These male Calicos are always sterile.
There are many kinds of color patterns that can be seen on a Calico cat. When a Calico cat has black and orange mixed in its fur, it is called a tortoiseshell Calico, or 'torties' as they are commonly called. They have little or no white fur. The Calicos with more white fur on their bodies have distinct and larger color patches. A color type also found in the Calico is a dilute or pastel shade. This happens the typical three colors are mixed or diluted, therefore instead of orange, it is buff or blue and instead of black, it is grey. Sometimes, one can spot a fawn or chocolate cream Calico, instead of the usual colors. The patches in the typical Calico cat are very distinct and separate, and are not mixed as in the tortoise shell Calico.
Since time immemorial, Calico cats have been considered lucky. Japanese believed that a Calico cat would bring them good luck and good fortune, so they always used to keep one at home. Sailors also have been taking Calico cats with them on ships as they are known to protect them from danger. They are very popular for their distinct looks.
Since these cats are so popular, it is believed that they would be easy to breed. However, this is not true. It is pretty difficult to prompt one of the X chromosomes to shut off at any point. But this could be possible with genetic experiments. Breeders can try to produce a Calico by breeding specific colors together, or using only Calico females for breeding, but this is a difficult process.
A Calico cat is one of the most unique gifts that you can have, should you think of owning one.