Understanding the Calico Cat

There’s something really funny and unique about Calico cats: they’re said to possess magical powers (hopefully it is not unexplainable magic like what Robert Angier was doing in the fantastic movie The Prestige but that is another topic)! Their colors range from vibrant orange, black, & white to more muted shades like blue-gray, flaxen, and white. In terms of feline genetics, the latter is called a “dilute calico.”

The color patches on a Calico’s body are as ubiquitous as snowflakes: two patches are never exactly similar. Another unique feature is that 99.9% Calicos are females; the male, which is extremely rare is sterile always.


Calicos are genetically similar to tortoiseshell cats. The only difference however, is that torties have black and red streaks woven throughout their coats, while calicos have distinctive and solid color patches. The personality of a typical Calico is marked by sassiness, spunk, and a great sense of independence.

Yet, they can be extremely loving, sweet, and loyal. Maryland has officially named the calico as its “State Cat” since 2001 because the breed shares the colors of the state’s official bird – the Baltimore Oriole as also the state insect – the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.


Folklore of many cultures the world over mention Calico cats bringing good luck to their owners. In the US, they’re also called money cats, while the Maneki-Neko figures of Japan depict Calico cats as carriers of good luck also.

The funny thing is that they can’t be bred because of the “magic” and science involved. They are mostly female because of chromosomal dysfunctions and only 1 in 3,000 Calicos are born male. These again suffer mostly from Klinefelter’s syndrome, making them sterile with other assorted major health problems like brain damage, genital deformities, and multiple organ failure. That sounds almost as bad as the ACA health care law!

Calicos have been traced back to ancient Egypt from where they migrated to Europe. History has it that Japanese fishermen carried them on their fishing trips as protection charms from storms and to ward off ghosts of their jealous ancestors. They have been painted widely by a large number of notable European painters of the 18th century and were popular as harbingers of good omen in Japan where they were called the “Welcoming Cats.”


When you bring a Calico home, think that you are bringing a rare creation that needs to be preserved carefully. Because of their genetic malfunctions, they are often disease prone and necessary inoculations are critical. Moreover, they often have weak digestive systems and their diet needs to be chosen very carefully. They are not going to eat a steak or a large fish in front of you, that would be pretty rare!

Consult your vet for a proper diet chart so that she gets her daily dose of required nutrition without fail. Daily grooming is also required as are periodic nail clippings. Wipe the eyes with a soft, damp cloth, particularly the corners to remove any discharge. Also keep the litter box spotlessly clean. They do not want to live like Rasaan did in Shaft! That is just horrendous and foul.


Your Calico’s diet depends mainly on its size, age, and overall health condition. A high-quality, high-protein diet is advised, particularly at the kitten stage for proper bone formation and growth. However, overfeeding should be avoided keeping in view the Calico’s delicate digestive system.

Get a Calico. It could perhaps bring you luck. However, avoid getting that rare male as you could be running up substantial vet bills, given their fragile health. Though males are hard to find too! You probably will never see one.