With butterscotch, chocolate, and vanilla swirls, calico cats are the showstoppers of the feline world. With such a distinctive pattern, we may think calico cats are a specific type of cat, but they aren’t a breed at all. Many types of cat breeds (American Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, and Persian to name a few) can have the signature calico cat markings. In other words, your calico kitten can come from a wide variety of genes!
Interestingly, a calico cat’s three-toned fur almost always corresponds with being female. Calico’s are 99.99% female due to the X chromosome determining the cat’s coloring. ‘XX’ (female chromosomes) means multiple colors can show up, while ‘XY’ (male) means usually only one color can be present. Due to this anomaly, only one out of every 3,000 calico cats are born male.
Though no one has records of where calico cats officially originated, they’re said to be discovered first in Egypt. Cats with the orange color gene can be traced back to Mediterranean ports such as Spain or Greece, suggesting that travelers brought these cats with them on ships back to Europe.
The wondrous calico cat didn’t just land overseas. They’re highly popular in the U.S. as well. In fact, calico cats are the official state cat of Maryland!
Sometimes, your calico kitten may be confused with a tortoiseshell cat, (or “tortie” for short.) They both tend to have brown and orange fur, but calico cats will have a lot of white coloring as well. Here are some important facts when doing research on your new calico kitten.
|Size||Small to Large. Calico cats aren’t breed specific, so they range dramatically in weight and size. They’ve been seen to weigh as little as 4-8 pounds for smaller breeds, or 9-12 pounds for much larger breeds like the Maine coon. Note that these weights are based entirely on female varieties, as male calico cats are very rare.|
|Breed Characteristics||According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, they recognize 16 cat breeds that can result in the calico pattern. This means the breed characteristics for calico cats vary widely, but the coloring remains the same. The main colors are orange, brown and white, white being the central color. The colors come in a wide variety of shades including tans, gingers, and darker browns as well.|
|Temperament||Like most cats, calico kittens can be equal parts affectionate and fiercely independent. As a kitten, they should vary between being playful and energetic, while also sleeping for long periods of time. All cats have their own unique personalities, and reading up on breed temperament will only tell part of the story of your new furry friend.|
|Grooming and Health Needs||Like many cats, depending on the type of calico cats fur, brushing your calico out weekly is recommended. Because of their unique fur patterns, be sure to check their skin closely for skin issues such as rashes or fleas, as it’s harder to spot under the patterned fur.
In general, calico cats are healthy when they are female. Check with your veterinarian specifically about what you can expect with your female calico cat.
However, If you happen to have a highly rare male calico cat, they may be diagnosed with something called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This is due in part of their XXY chromosomes that are present. This syndrome leads to weak bones, developmental issues, and abnormal weight gain.
|Training||When you first get your calico kitten, it’s important to train them within the first 2-7 weeks. This is essential to build trust and boundaries between humans and cats. Even as a kitten, you can train your cat to use the litter box.
With many kittens, biting may be an issue. Be sure to discourage it by pulling your hand away, saying a firm “no”, and have plenty of toys for them to bite instead!
|Energy Level||Calico cats traits will mirror their breeds. For instance, Persian cats, a common calico breed, are lower energy and prefer lounging in the sun most of the time, while the Turkish angora is much more playful and loves attention from all ages of family members.|
|Life Span||Calicos live between 12 – 20 years on average, depending on the type of breed your calico cat is.|
Calico kittens personality mostly depends on what breed the calico gene came from. For instance, Turkish angoras do well in larger families with small children and Maine coons are often known as “gentle giants” and get along well with other pets. For most cats, however, it’s important to have plenty of higher spaces and breathing room for them to climb up to and survey their new kingdom.
Choosing to adopt or go through a breeder for your new calico kitten is a personal choice that requires research. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to help you find a rescue or breeder that offers healthy, ethically sourced calico kittens.
Knowing what you’re in for when you get a calico kitten is an important step in being a responsible pet owner. Whether you find a responsible breeder or are planning on adopting, it’s up to you to be prepared for an energetic and friendly addition to your household.
Adopting calico kittens
You may be surprised to hear that adopting a calico kitten is possible. Most breed rescues report that a majority of their rescue cats come from individual owner surrender, with the most common reasons being a change in lifestyle or the breed not being right for them. This means that there may be many cats and kittens out that that are looking for a new forever home.
The main difference between a breeder and a rescue is that a rescue may not always have young kittens to choose from. The benefit, however, is that most are mandated to only adopt out cats that have been microchipped and spayed/neutered. This means you may end up with a cat that’s already been housebroken, and doesn’t need these common medical procedures. You may also find a calico mix that has all the traits you want from the breed, but with a little extra thrown in.
Finding a calico breeder
The first step is to do your research. Sadly, there are many kitten mills posing as reputable breeders along with many online scams. Be aware, and reach out to different online forums for conversations about getting your future furry family member.
Be sure to ask questions, make arrangements to meet the breeder and cat parents, and follow your gut. If something seems wrong at a breeder you visit, or the calico kitten seems too good to be true, there’s likely something going on.
After you find the right calico kitten, it’s time to prepare your home! More than just showering love on your new family member, creating a healthy environment for your kitten means storing away a few things and purchasing the right kind of food. Here are a few resources to get you started:
- 14 Best Kitten Toys For Active Kittens
- Our Favorite Healthy Kitten Treats
- How Long Can You Leave A Kitten Alone?