Red, white and black – the calico cat immediately stands out with its tricolour fur. How does this special fur pattern emerge? Why are almost all calico cats female? Do they really bring good fortune? Read the answers to these questions in this article.
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The calico cat catches the eye with its striking fur.
What is a calico cat?
Calico cats aren't an independent cat breed. The name describes a special cat fur colour and pattern. Breeders often also use the term tricolour.
Many different breeds can be tricolour:
How does the calico cat's tricolour fur pattern emerge?
The tricolour calico and bicolour agouti cats are often mixed up with one another. Agouti cats have black and red fur. The calico's fur also has white.
From a genetic perspective, both fur patterns have something in common.
Cat fur base colours: Black and red
All cat fur colours, shades and patterns can be traced back to the base colours red and black. The pigment eumelanin ensures black fur and phaeomelanin red fur.
Both pigments are present in different proportions and thus result in different colour variations. Agouti cats have fur made up of black and red markings.
Ensures white spots: The piebald gene
The piebald gene (S locus) ensures the white areas in the cat's fur. The size and distribution of the spots are down to chance.
The piebald gene makes a red and black agouti cat into a red, black and white calico cat. This genetic combination is extremely rare and a cat needs a real dose of luck to be born with this unusual fur pattern.
Why are almost all calico cats female?
If a calico cat approaches you, you can assume that it's female. Genetic causes are the reason for this:
The gene for a cat's fur colour is found on the X-chromosome. Female cats have two X-chromosomes, one from the mother and the other from the father. In genetic terms, a female cat can be black and red – such as if the mother has black fur and the father red.
Male cats only have one X-chromosome and a Y-chromosome too. Hence, males can only have one genetic fur colour: either black or red. If the piebald gene is active, males can also have black and white or red and white checked fur – but never black, red and white checked fur.
Males that have two X-chromosomes and one Y-chromosome due to a genetic anomaly are an exception. Because of the two X-chromosomes, their fur may be mottled black and red, as with females. Males with this anomaly, also known as Klinefelter's syndrome, are infertile.
Character: A little diva?
Calico cats are considered little divas. It is said that they are touchier than cats of different colours. There is so far little scientific evidence to support this assumption.
Study about aggressive calico cats
In a study from 2015, US scientists claim to have found a connection between a cat's fur colour and its character. More than 1,000 cat owners filled out a questionnaire on the behaviour of their cats for the University of California.
According to the questionnaire, tricolour, black and white and grey and white cats are said to have been more aggressive towards humans. Black and white cats were especially displeased when they were touched. Grey and white cats were mostly aggressive at the vet's, whilst calico cats showed their unruly side in normal day-to-day life.
However, aggressive behaviour in cats can have numerous causes. For instance, some cats become aggressive following castration. It's relatively unlikely for a cat's unruly behaviour to be down to its fur colour.
If you wish to find out whether your cat is happy, this article in the zooplus magazine will help you: Is My Cat Happy?
Calico cats as lucky charms
Tricolour cats are considered lucky charms in some cultures – probably because they are so rare.
They have great importance in Japan in particular. Previously they were often used as ship cats to protect the crew from storms and disease on their journey.
Even today, the Maneki Neko, the waving cat figurine, is a popular Japanese lucky charm. A tricolour waving cat is said to promise especially good luck and prosperity.
In England, the calico cat is also a lucky charm.
Buying a calico cat
The special fur pattern of a calico cat is always a product of chance. Calico cats cannot specifically be bred. If you wish to buy a tricolour cat, one of the cat breeds listed above could be an option for you.
What does a calico cat cost?
The price for a calico is based on the price for the breed in question. What applies to this breed in terms of housing and care is relevant to a calico too.
You can get a calico cat from a breeder or perhaps you will even find one in your local animal home – if you're lucky.