Calico Cat

Red, black and white – with its three-colored fur, the fortune cat immediately attracts attention. How does the special fur pattern come about? Why are almost all lucky cats female? Does the lucky cat really bring luck? You can read answers to these questions here in the article.

What is a Calico Cat?

Lucky cats are not a breed of cats in and of themselves. The name describes a special color and pattern of the cat’s fur.

Cats whose fur is patterned in black, red, and white are popularly called lucky cats. Breeders also often use the term “tricolor”. In the English-speaking world, the three-colored cats are called “calico cats”, after a colorfully printed cotton fabric called calico.

Tricolor cats are therefore found in many different breeds:

  • British shorthair
  • British longhair
  • German longhaired hair
  • European shorthair
  • Maine Coon
  • Persian
  • Siberian forest cat

How does the three-colored coat of the lucky cat come about?

The three-tone lucky cat and the two-tone tortoiseshell cat are often confused with one another. While the fur of the tortoiseshell cat is patterned in black and red, the color of white is added to the fortune cat.

Genetically speaking, both types of fur have a lot in common.

Basic colors of the cat’s fur: black and red

All coat colors, shades, and patterns in cats are based on the two basic colors black and red. The color pigment eumelanin ensures black fur, the color pigment pheomelanin ensures red fur.

These two pigments can be present in different proportions and thus result in different color variants. If the fur is composed of black and red spots, one speaks of a tortoiseshell cat.

Provides white spots: the piebald gene

If a cat has white spots, the so-called “spotting gene” (S-gene) is active. It takes care of the white areas in the cat’s fur. The size and distribution of the spots are left to chance.

The piebald gene turns a black and red tortoiseshell cat into a black, red, and white lucky cat. This combination of genes is extremely rare and a cat needs a bit of luck to be born with this particular coat of paint.

Why are almost all lucky cats female?

If you come across a calico cat, you can assume that it is a female. There are genetic reasons for this:

The gene for a cat’s coat color is located on the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, one from the mother and the other from the father. Genetically speaking, a female cat can be black and red – for example, if the mother has black and the father red.

During embryonic development, one of the two X chromosomes is switched off. However, the shutdown does not take place smoothly. Sometimes the maternal, sometimes the paternal X chromosome is shut down. That means: sometimes the black fur color is suppressed, sometimes the red. This creates the different colored spots in the fur.

The white parts – regardless of this – are contributed by the check gene.

Male cats only have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Therefore, males can only have one genetic coat color: either black or red. If the piebald gene is active, males can also have black and white or red and white piebald fur – but never black, red, and white piebald fur.

The exception is male cats who have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome due to a genetic abnormality. Because of the two X chromosomes, their fur can be spotted black and red, like the females. Hangovers with this abnormality, also called Klinefelter syndrome, are sterile.

Temperament: A little diva?

Lucky cats are considered little divas. They are said to be “bitchier” than velvet paws of different colors. So far, there is little scientific evidence to support this assumption.

Study on “aggressive lucky cats”

In a study from 2015, American scientists wanted to have found a connection between the color of the coat and the character of a cat. More than 1,000 cat owners had completed a questionnaire on the behavior of their velvet paws for the University of California.

Accordingly, three-colored, black and white, and gray and white cats are said to have been more aggressive towards people.

The behavior of the house tigers also depended on the respective situation: Black and white cats were particularly annoyed when they were touched. Gray and white cats were particularly aggressive at the vet, while the lucky cats were more likely to show their stubborn side in normal everyday life.

Such studies should be treated with caution because aggressive behavior in a cat can have a number of causes. For example, some cats become aggressive after being neutered. It is relatively unlikely that it is because of the color of the coat that a cat becomes “angry”.

Lucky Cats as a Lucky Charm

In some cultures, tri-colored cats are considered lucky charms – probably because they’re so rare.

They are particularly important in Japan. In the past, they were often used as ship cats to protect the crew from storms and diseases on their journey.

Even today, the “Maneki Neko”, the waving cat, is a popular Japanese lucky charm. It is an upright sitting cat figure, which is supposed to wave good luck with a raised paw. A three-colored waving cat is said to promise good luck and prosperity.

The three-colored “calico cat” is also a lucky charm in England. In the US state of Maryland, it was named “State Cat” in 2001 because its colors are similar to the plumage of the Baltimore rupials, Maryland’s state bird.

Buy a Calico Cat

The special coat pattern of a lucky cat is always a coincidence and cannot be specifically bred. If you are looking to purchase a tricolor cat, one of the cat breeds listed above might be an option.

What Does a Lucky Cat Cost?

The price for a lucky cat is based on the price of the breed in question. The same applies to the keeping and care of a tricolor cat what applies to the respective breed.

You can get a lucky cat from a breeder or from a farm. You might also find something at your local animal shelter – if you’re lucky.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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