Calico cats are domestic cats with a spotted or particolored coat that is predominantly white, with patches of two other colors (often, the two other colors are orange and black). Outside North America, the pattern is more usually called tortoiseshell-and-white. In the province of Quebec, Canada, they are sometimes called chatte d’Espagne (French for ‘(female) cat of Spain’). Other names include brindle, tricolor cat, tobi mi-ke (Japanese for ‘triple fur’), and lapjeskat (Dutch for ‘patches cat’); calicoes with diluted coloration have been called calimanco or clouded tiger. Occasionally, the tri-color calico coloration is combined with a tabby patterning. This calico patched tabby is called a caliby.
“Calico” refers only to a color pattern on the fur, not to a breed or two-colored eyes on a cat. Among the breeds whose standards allow calico coloration are the Manx, American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Persian, Japanese Bobtail, Exotic Shorthair, Siberian, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora and Norwegian Forest Cat.
Because genetic determination of coat colors in calico cats is linked to the X chromosome, calicoes are nearly always female, with one color linked to the maternal X chromosome and a second color linked to the paternal X chromosome. Because males only have one X chromosome, a male calico would have to have a rare condition where they have three sex chromosomes (two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome) in order to be calico. In addition to other symptoms caused by the condition, these male calicos are often sterile.
There is also a type of calico cat referred to as a Dilute Calico. Dilute Calicos are not necessarily rare. They are recognized by their grey, silver, and gold colors instead of the traditional white, black, brown or red patched coat of a calico. Dilute calicos are also called light calicos, because they usually have no dark colored fur.
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