Are Calico Cats Always Female?
It is widely believed that calico cats can only be females, while this may be true; there are exceptions to this rule. The rare and elusive male calico feline can be produced with what is referred to as atypical genetics which is a resultant effect of chimeras or better still, mutations. The mix in the calico coat involves a combo of black, orange, and white spots or patches. However, the underlining genetics of a kitty’s coat color is quite complicated, but it all boils down to genetics which plays the biggest role to give that unique appearance to your feline companion. What’s more, Calico cats can also be identified by other names like torties, tortoiseshell, tricolor cats and also brindle.
What Is a Calico Cat?
When you hear the term ‘calico cat’, you might assume that it refers to a particular breed of cats, but that is not the case. In fact, calico refers to the color pattern. To be qualified as calico, then three colors must be represented that include white, black, orange. And a veritable calico cat must be born with large blocks or patches of the three colors. These colors usually come in variations of cream, grey, as well as ginger and as a result of their multi-colors, they tend to look very beautiful and cuddly.
Gender and Genetics
Theoretically, it is believed that getting a male calico cat is impossible. Under normal circumstances, the male feline comes with XY sex chromosomes, while on the other hand; the female kitty is born with XX. Since it is the X chromosome that bears the gene that is responsible for coat colors, female felines are known to inherit their own coat color from their queens which are XX as well as their toms that are represented with the XY. In order to create a tricolor pattern or calico, one-half of the X chromosomes must come with the orange gene while the other carries the black gene. The resultant effect of cross-breeding is an orange female and a black male that are usually a half-orange, half-black female kitten – this means a calico. The same result will still be realized by using a black female and an orange male.
The norm is that all male kittens are supposed to inherit their coat color from just the queen since the function of the Y chromosome is sex determination and does not have any connection with the eventual coat color of the kittens as they are born. Thus – an orange male kitten will result from mating an orange female cat with a black male cat, while you will get a black male kitten from mating a black female and an orange male cat.
According to findings from genetics, the two X chromosomes found in the female are not both functional, it is only one of them that is active, which is the reason we are usually right in blanket predictions that male kittens will be born with the color of their queen. However, chromosomes are known to malfunction from time to time; in fact, they misdivide, making way for the birth of the rare male calico with an additional chromosome – one Y and two X. If it happens that one half of the X chromosome bears the orange gene, with the other bearing the non-orange gene, the result is a calico.
But then, we need to understand the fact that the calico cannot just be created by the existence of the additional X chromosome. If it happens that the two chromosomes are coded for either black or orange, the kitten will be born with that particular color instead of bearing patches of colors.
There are instances of abnormal chromosome counts, and this has been found to be rare but not unusual. Most of the cells in the feline population come with 19 pairs of chromosomes, but occasionally, gene mutation can produce an additional chromosome, double the normal count or even triple. So the reason most calico cats are born as females all boil down to genetics.
X-inactivation means that there is a random deactivation of one of the X chromosomes in every cell. For calico pattern in cats, the random combination of the color genes that come either activated or deactivated results into the spotty black and orange color pattern.
Since it is the female that carries double chromosomes, their coats can be realized in a couple of colors black and orange, but this is largely dependent on which X chromosome is deactivated and which is active. And then, the white color comes in to create a perfect three-color calico combination.
As the males are known to carry just a single X chromosome, their gene can only create one orange or black color and thus, displays just black or orange(Give or take white which is controlled by a different gene).
The Male Calico Cats
Having established the fact that the male calico cats do exist, we should try to understand that they come with some form of sexual inabilities.
According to findings from Judith Lindley, who is well known as the founder of the Calico Cat Registry International, Calico cats that are realized as males come with a common condition – their sexual organs are always incapacitated, meaning that these cats are often sterile as they are born with malformed sex organs and lack the capacity to breed. This has similarities with XXY syndrome or Klinefelter’s syndrome, which is a human version of the situation.
Statistics say that for every three thousand female calico felines, only one is realized as male and their findings have shown that these male tricolor cats are very healthy and their life expectancies are quite excellent.
Some Cool Facts About the Calico Cats
The calico felines were made the official cat in Maryland United States on the 1st of October 2001. According to the folklore of several cultures, cats with the beautiful tricolor display are believed to be bearers of good tidings, in other words, they bring good fortune to their owners. Sailors of Japanese origin are known to sail with calico cats as a form of protection against any misfortune that might be encountered at sea.