Calico cats are cats that have 3 fur colors and are always female or males two X chromosomes.

I've seen many cats that will have 2 fur colors (one of them is usually white) and another, third, color which is a darker shade of one of the other colors. As exampled in the pictures below (taken from the internet). Are those considered Calico cats?

pic of cat 1
(source: mirror.co.uk)

pic of cat 2

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know much about calico cats, but from those pictures nobody can tell you for sure if they are female. One of the upper two closely resembles a male (and fertile) cat I know. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Nov 28 '13 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ The relation to female was only through Calico cats. I don't really care about their gender. $\endgroup$
    – SIMEL
    Nov 28 '13 at 9:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd say, those could as well be normal tabby cats. Calicos are more often those with big brown and black patches on white. Or at least they have a distinctive amount of visible bright brown in their coat. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Nov 28 '13 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ @skymninge, are tabby cats considered to be Calicos, and can they be of both genders? $\endgroup$
    – SIMEL
    Nov 30 '13 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ Tabby is just another name for the color. Like Calico, it is not a breed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabby_cat Some Calicos could also said to be tabbys. Like Calicos, they can be of both genders. (It's just that most calicos are female, not all of them.) $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Dec 2 '13 at 7:42

I think you are misunderstanding "color" here. When applied to cats, it doesn't literally mean a color shade as used in color theory, but "coat color" which can in fact also be a "coat pattern".

The cats above are two-colored, not three-colored. One color is white. The other color is what is called "tabby" in English and is a pattern of dark spots arranged in regular stripes on a lighter background. These spots are not considered a third color in cats.

calico picture

This is a calico cat. Her three coat colors are white, orange, and grey tabby. See how the orange and grey are irregularly interspersed, this is the pattern of paternal and maternal chromosome expression on her body. Again, the grey and black patches within the tabby part are regularly placed. They don't make two separate colors, grey and black, but a single coat coloring, grey tabby. There are also other color combinations in calico cats, for example white-orange-black, and they are more straightforward to recognize.

  • $\begingroup$ note two patterns is quite common in cats as some coat color genes can be affected by temprature. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 21 '20 at 0:13

Tortoiseshell cats (which is the normal name for Calico style cats in Europe) arise due to a gene on the X chromosome. Some patches are ginger, and some tabby due to the deactivation of one X chromosome in each cell at an early stage of development. This produces a tortoiseshell-like pattern.

What you see in these tabby cats with the white colouring is due to temperature dependence, this gives the patterning on the feet/nose etc. Tortoiseshell cats looks quite different, where the different coloured patches of fur are random.


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