08 Mar Did You Know: Calico Cats
There’s a good chance that you’ve owned, or known, a calico cat over the years – but did you know that over 99% of calicos are female?
Calico is not a breed of cat, but a colouring. To be classed as a calico, a cat must have three colours: white, orange and black (or white, orange and grey in dilute calicos). This coat colouring comes down to some complicated genetics!
Females have two X chromosomes (XX), while males have an X and a Y (XY). The gene that determines orange or black fur is found on the X chromosome.
As male cats only have one X chromosome, there is no chance that they could have a black and an orange gene – it is one or the other, and this is why almost all calicos are female!
The only exception to this is when a rare faulty cell division in a kitten embryo leaves a male cat with XXY chromosomes – this is called Klinefelter Syndrome. Approximately 0.03% of calicos are males with this condition.
Calico cats have long been thought to bring good luck. Maneki Neko, the Japanese cat figure for wealth and good fortune, is often depicted as a calico. Japanese fishermen also kept calicos on board while at sea, for protection and luck!
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