Sassy, Spunky, and Sweet: All About Calico Cats


  • Characteristics
  • History
  • Care
  • Health Problems
  • Appearance
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Where to Adopt or Buy
  • Breed Overview
  • Further Research

Calico cats comprise many breeds of domestic cats that boast a bounty of beautiful colors—almost like patchwork quilts. One calico may be a bold combination of vibrant red and black, while another is a more subdued shade of cream mixed with blue. In feline genetics, the latter is known as a “dilute calico.”

The various patterns of the calico patches are almost as unique as snowflakes, so you’ll never see two exactly alike. Their personalities are equally interesting; calico cats are known for their sass and spunk, but they are also loving and loyal companions for owners of all ages.

Interestingly, calicoes are almost all female, and the rare male is always sterile.

Breed Overview

Personality: Sassy, spunky, bold, affectionate, independent, loyal

Weight: Up to 12 pounds

Length: About 18 inches

Coat Length: Short Hair and Long Hair

Coat Colors: Black and red, blue and cream, or lilac and cream

Coat Patterns: Tri-color (calico)

Eye Color: Yellow, green, or blue

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Possibly Egypt and the Mediterranean Coast

The Spruce / Jordan Holcomb

Calico Cat Characteristics

The calico is a medium-sized domestic cat renowned for its spunky, assertive personality. While it’s a generally independent cat that doesn’t require constant attention, the calico is also sweet, loving, and loyal. It will readily bond with a single owner but enjoy the company of an entire family, too.

Calicoes differ from tortoiseshell cats, whose colors (red and black) are interwoven throughout the coat instead of appearing in distinct patches of solid color.

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  High
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Vocalize  Medium
Amount of Shedding  Medium

History of the Calico Cat

No one is sure where the calico originated, though it is speculated that it emerged from Egypt and was traded along the Mediterranean

Researchers began seriously studying calico cats in the 1940s. Murray Barr and his graduate student E.G. Bertram noticed dark, drumstick-shaped masses inside the nuclei of nerve cells of female cats, but not in male cats. These dark masses eventually were called Barr bodies. In 1959, Japanese cell biologist Susumu Ohno determined the Barr bodies were X chromosomes. In 1961, Mary Lyon proposed the concept of X-inactivation: one of the two X chromosomes inside a female mammal shuts off. She observed this in the coat color patterns in mice, similar to the patterns of calico cats.

Calico cats are believed to bring good luck in the folklore of many cultures. In the United States, these are sometimes referred to as “money cats.” In Japan, Maneki-Neko are good luck figures that depict calico cats.

The Spruce / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

Calico Cat Care

The care of a calico cat will largely depend on its breed rather than its coat pattern. Shorthaired calicoes’ coats, for example, will require less brushing than those of longhaired breeds.

Common Health Problems

Regardless of the breed, a male calico cat is prone to a genetic health condition called Klinefelter’s Syndrome. In addition to being sterile, these cats experience cognitive and developmental issues, behavioral problems, reduced bone mineral content, and obesity.

Female calico cats do not have health problems that correlate with their color patterns, but they may have issues specific to their respective breeds.


Calico cats are some of the most strikingly patterned cats, wearing bold patches of colors that include red, black, white, blue, and cream. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) show standards for Calico Persians, the cat should be a tri-color cat of black, red, and white with white feet, legs, belly, chest, and muzzle. The cat should also have a colored tail and one or more colored patches on the head and/or body.

Calicoes’ eye colors include copper, blue, green, or odd-eyed. (In show-quality Persians, odd-eyed bi-colors should have one blue and one copper eye with equal color depth.)

Diet and Nutrition

A complete and balanced cat food, dried and/or canned, is generally a great option for feeding calicoes of any breed. However, research your specific breed of cat to find out if it has any unique dietary requirements.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Calico Cat

Calico cats are not rare but finding one at a local shelter can be hit-or-miss. Check with breeders of cats that tend to have calico coloration in your areas to see if any specialize in calico patterns, or search online adoption sites to locate a kitten or cat in your area.

Types of Calico Cats

It would be easier to give a list of those breeds which do not accept calicoes than those that do. Calicoes are not allowed in pointed breeds, such as the Siamese or Himalayan, nor those which allow only solid colors, such as the Bombay, Russian blue, and the British shorthair. While the calico pattern may pop up in many breeds of cat, the following are the most likely to display it:

  • American shorthair
  • British shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Exotic shorthair
  • Japanese bobtail (calico is the most popular color pattern in this breed)
  • Maine coon
  • Norwegian forest cat
  • Persian
  • Scottish fold
  • Turkish Angora
  • Turkish Van

Breed Overview

The calico is not a breed and has no technically identifiable personality traits, but owners and enthusiasts often insist that the calico pattern seems to impart a particular pep and sass in female felines that carry the colorful genes. These friendly, outgoing cats have a flair for independence but also enjoy socializing with their human families and other pets.


  • Striking color pattern
  • Friendly and outgoing
  • Considered “good luck” cats


  • Can not be bred because males are sterile
  • Males are rare but prone to health problems
  • Might be hard to find a calico locally

Cute Pictures & Facts About Calico Cats & Kittens

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

  • Maine Coon Breed Profile
  • Scottish Fold Breed Profile
  • Turkish Van Breed Profile

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.


    • How much is a calico cat?Calicos are generally not breed-specific. You may find one at your local shelter or pet rescue for under $100. Calico-patterned breeds are more expensive.

    • How long does a calico cat live?Like most cats that are not breed-specific, calicoes live to be about 15 years old.

    • How big do calico cats get?Since they are not breed-specific, this varies. As a general rule, calicoes range from 7 to 12 pounds.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Calico Cat Facts. ASPCA Pet Insurance.
  2. Persian Breed Standard. Cat Fanciers’ Association.
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