9 Myths and truths about calico cats

Calicos are known for their vibrant white, orange, and black tri-color coat. But did you know that it is a myth that all Calicos are…

Calicos are known for their vibrant white, orange, and black tri-color coat. But did you know that it is a myth that all Calicos are this color? Calicos can have a variety of colors including cream, red, and brown.

Let’s take a look at some this and 8 other common myths about Calico cats.

1. Calico is a breed of cat

Calico is actually not a breed of cat but points to the color of the cat.

There are many breeds of cats that can have the calico coat color pattern. Some common breeds that are calicos are the Bobtail, Manx, Norwegian Forest cats, Maine Coon, and Domestic Short Hairs.

2. All calico cats are female

If you come across a calico cat it is most likely that it is a girl since 99% of them are female. But there are of course male calicos out there.

Male calicos make up a very small percentage of all of them, it is said that about 1 out of 3000 calicos is a boy.

The reason for the lack of male calicos is due to their genetic makeup they have an extra X chromosome which is the same as Klinefelter syndrome in humans.

Just a little background, normally females carry the XX chromosomes and males XY. Male calicos have XXY chromosomes.

When creating a kitten, the mother will pass on one of her X chromosomes and the father an X (making the kitten female) or Y (making the kitten male) chromosome to the offspring.

Since the genes that determine the cat’s coat is on the X chromosome and you need two X chromosomes to get the calico color most of them are female, unless in the rare instance that an extra X chromosome is added to the male XY chromosomes.

This XXY combination occurs when paired X chromosomes do not separate and is known as Klinefelter syndrome and is also seen in humans.

3. Calico cats are good luck

Okay while this may not be a myth for some owners, like myself, it is taken from old folklore that calicos are good luck. The ‘myth’ started when Japanese sailors would travel with calicos during their voyages and it is said that they protected the ships from harm and monsters.

In Celtic folklore, they are sometimes known as ‘money’ or ‘fortune cats’ because of the belief that they are worth a lot of money (another myth we’ll discuss later).

Also, some Irish old wives’ tales claim that you can cure warts if you rub a Calico cat’s tail on them.

The Japanese talisman Maneki Neko, seen in stores and restaurants was created based on calico cats. It is said that they bring luck. If the left paw is raised they are said to bring in customers and the right paw raised means to bestow wealth and luck.

4. Calico cats are rare

Female calicos are not as rare as some believe, but male calicos however are pretty rare and in some cases have been called the ‘unicorn’ of cats.

5. Calico and Tortoiseshell cats are the same

Many people interchange calicos and torties but they are not the same. Calicos have three colors (tri-colored) white, black, and orange coats whereas tortoiseshells lack white and can have a variety of colors including cream, chocolate, lilac, and black.


Calicos and Torties do however have similar talkative personalities. Sometimes pet owners describe them as having ‘tortitude’ which means they can be quite demanding, strong-willed, and temperamental. As the owner of a calico, I can confirm that all of this is true.

6. Male Calicos don’t need to be neutered

Due to Klienfelters syndrome, male calicos are sterile and can not have kittens. Some owners believe that this means that you don’t have to neuter them.

However, many owners find out this isn’t true once their male starts to spray or mark their homes or seek a mate.

In addition, neutering will prevent issues later in life like testicular cancer.

7. There is only one type of calico

dilute calico cat
This is my cat Gnocchi you can also follow her on Instagram @love.peace.catnip

Many people believe that calico cats are only the typical orange, black, and white colorings but there are actually dilute calicos, like my Gnocchi.

Dilute calicos are just a variation of the calico coloration and their tones are just muted, less intense, cream, gray, and blond.

These cats have a much lighter coat due to the dilution gene.

8. You can breed calico cats to get other calicos

It is extremely difficult (pretty much next to impossible) to intentionally attempt to breed cats to get the calico coloring or

9. Calicos are worth a lot of money

It depends on where you get your calico, my diluted calico, Gnocchi was free as she was found on the street but per the internet calicos that are bred can range in price from $100-$2000.

Males are extremely rare, so some people will pay towards the upper end for them, but many won’t due to health issues that sometimes come along with them. Also, breeders usually won’t purchase males either since they can’t reproduce.

Compared to some of the more expensive breeds of cats in the world like the Ashera which can cost upwards of $100K calicos are on the less expensive side of the scale.

Interesting Facts about Calicos

1. Calicos are the official state cat of Maryland

Calicos are the official state cat of Maryland because of the color pattern. Their colors resemble the black, white, and orange colors of the Maryland flag

2. Calicos may have lived in ancient Egypt

While this isn’t a proven theory some people believe that they were popular pets in Ancient Egypt. They have also been seen in Japanese paintings that date back to the 1800s and in French paintings dating back to the 1700’s