What is a calico cat?

A cat.

Contrary to popular belief, a tabby cat is not a specific breed of cat. Rather, it’s a coloring pattern that can occur in many breeds, including Manx cats, Persians, and domestic shorthair cats. To be considered a tabby, a cat must be tricolor, with patches of white, black, and red or orange fur. Some breeds have rules regarding the percentage of the cat’s fur that must be white in order for it to be called a tabby cat.

determined by chromosomes

Cheetah cat.

Calico cats are almost always female because the genes that determine the fur color of cats are carried on X chromosomes. A tabby cat has an X chromosome that contains the gene for orange fur and an X chromosome that has the gene for black fur. Women have two X chromosomes, so it is possible that they carry one X chromosome with the orange color gene and the other with the black color gene. Male cats, however, normally have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome, so it is possible that they only have one color gene or the other. Some male cats that have a genetic abnormality that makes them have XXY chromosomes may be calico cats, but they are extremely rare and almost always sterile.

color mixes

Cheetah kitten in a bowl.

Cheetah cats have different colored sections on their fur. Typically, cheetahs that have whiter fur also have larger, more distinct patches of color. If the orange and black fur are mixed, the cat is called a tortoise. Tortoiseshell cats, or “torties” as they are commonly known, have little or no white fur.

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Variations

A variation on the usual calico color pattern is seen in diluted or pastel calico cats. These variations owe their name to the fact that the color pattern is a diluted or pastel version of typical colors. A diluted or pastel tabby has a pattern of pale yellow or cream instead of orange, as well as blue – a slate gray color – instead of black.

traditions and more

Throughout history, many cultures have considered tabby cats lucky. At one point in Japan, tabbies were believed to bring good luck to homes and protect sailors on their ships. The tabby was adopted as the state cat of Maryland on October 1, 2001 because its colors are the same as the Baltimore Oriole and the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly – the state bird and insect, respectively.

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