Calico Cats are Always Female. True or False?

Posted in Uncategorized - Last Updated: February 12, 2014 - Author:  Jan Travell
Posted in Uncategorized 
Last Updated: February 12, 2014  
Author:  Jan Travell

We recently posted this adorable picture of a calico cat with a calico kitten.

I'm with him

As you can see the caption reads “I’m with him”, a lot of you commented on this saying ‘but calicoes are always female’. Well I thought I’d look in to this as I was sure that a friend of mine used to have a calico cat and he was male.

So let’s look at all the facts. For starters, calico refers to the colour and markings on the fur and therefore is not a breed. But there are breeds whose standards allow calico colouration and these include  Persian, Manx, Japanese Bobtail, Maine Coon and Turkish Van.

A female calico cat.
A female calico cat.

The markings are usually made up of predominately white with orange tabby and black patches. Occasionally, the tri-color calico colouration is combined with a tabby patterning. This calico patched tabby is called a caliby.

A female caliby cat.
A female caliby cat.


 Wikipedia saysThe calico cat seems to have no definitive historical background. However, the existence of patches in calico cats was traced to a certain degree by Neil Todd in a study determining the migration of domesticated cats along trade routes in Europe and Northern Africa. The proportion of cats having the orange mutant gene found in calicoes was traced to the port cities along the Mediterranean in France, Spain and Italy, originating from Egypt.”

Now let’s move on to the genetics, do you remember from your science class that male mammals possess the XY sex chromosomes, while females have the XX chromosones. The genetic coding for displaying a black or orange colour is found on the X chromosome therefore female cats can display black and orange, while males with their single X chromosome, generally display one or the other.

So, if male cats only possess one X chromosome, how can it be possible to have a male calico? Well there IS an exception and it’s called Kleinfelter Syndrome, this is when the male cat possesses the XXY chromosome and in this instance the male could have tortoiseshell or calico markings. It’s very rare only occurring in about 1 in 3,000.

So there we have it, it IS possible to have a calico male cat albeit rare and unfortunately they are usually sterile making it impossible to hand down the XXY chromosome in their genes.

Whether male or female the calico cat is a stunning animal and has a reputation for being  sweet, loyal and loving.

If you have a calico we would love to see it, so please send in your pictures using this easy method:

calico kitten 1


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About the author

Jan Travell is a lifelong cat owner and a feline expert. She's been the Cats and Kittens lead editor from the start. She lives in rural France with her two rescue cats, Tigerlily and Mr.Gee. Her senior kitty, Ducati, passed over the rainbow bridge recently at the ripe old age of 22.

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