Tricolored Cats are Always Females: True or False?

Are Calico Cats Always Female? True or False?

Tricolored Cats

Have you recently discovered or heard of the Calico or "tortoiseshell" cat? These famous cats with the tricolor coat which are known to always be females. But what is it really?

In reality, if it is true that tricolor cats are genetically predisposed to be females, it can exceptionally happen that some males exhibit this characteristic. Here is the basics of what you need to know about Calico cats, their tricolor coat training, and their behavior.

True: Tricolor cats are always females! (Or almost)

The claim that tricolor cats are always female is quite true. However, this truth is put into perspective by the exceptional existence of male tricolor cats which are in fact the product of a genetic anomaly.

Almost all tricolor cats are indeed females

The principle is that cats wearing a tricolor, Calico or "tortoiseshell" coat are exclusively cats. This is indeed always the case, at least when the genetic process linked to the assignment of the genes responsible for the expression of the colors of the cat's coat takes place without effect.

Thus, studies and statistics show that 99.9% of cats whose fur has a combination of 3 colors are females.

The exception of males with a tricolor coat

The principle is not absolute. Knowing that the genetic process is not immune to unfortunate accidents, it happens exceptionally that male cats end up with the attribute of tricolor coat. This situation is due to a genetic defect. Known as Klinefelter syndrome, it results in the allocation of 3 sex chromosomes (XXY) instead of two (XY).

According to studies and statistics, about 0.1% of cats are victims, with an average of 1 male for 3000 cats with the tricolor coat. Which is very rare, without forgetting that the males inheriting this coat are always sterile.

Why are tricolor cats always female?

Tricolor cats are always meant to be females simply for genetic reasons. Indeed, the genes responsible for the coloring of the hairs are carried by the female chromosomes (XX). Remember that cats have 3 basic colors: black and orange (at the origin of the patterns) encoded on the X chromosomes, and white which is expressed independently of sex.

It is then all a question of combinations of genes. Female kittens receive 2 XX chromosomes from their parents. They are therefore most likely to have combinations of orange color and black color expressing simultaneously on the 2 chromosomes. Hence the tricolor composition and the degraded patterns visible on their coat each time this is the case.

On the other hand, male kittens which obtain only one X chromosome cannot therefore have 2 red and black colors which are expressed at the same time. With a pair of XY sex chromosomes, depending on the prevalence of the gene, they can have either a black or an orange coat. Never both simultaneously, except in the case of an anomaly in the genetic process as noted above.

What determines the color of a cat's coat?

Note that a cat's coat color is determined in part by its gender. In fact, most of the information related to hair coloring is encoded in the X sex chromosomes. The red and black colors they bear are assigned randomly during the developmental phases of fetal cells.

Thus, the color of a cat will be conditioned by the number of X chromosome it receives and the dominant color gene on its surface. As for the white color, which is the3rd base color in cats, it is not encoded on the X sex chromosome and can be expressed regardless of the sex of your cat.

Isabelle cat: Color combinations

Depending on the number of chromosomes received by the cat and depending on whether the orange and black color genes are active or inactive, several color combinations are possible for the coat. Here are a few:

  • A female receiving 2 XoXO chromosomes (the 2 active black and orange color genes) will have a tricolor coat.
  • A female receiving 2 XOXO chromosomes (only the orange gene active on both chromosomes) will have an orange coat.
  • A female receiving 2 XoXo chromosomes (only the black gene active on both chromosomes) will have a black coat.

As for the males who receive only one X chromosome, only 2 combinations are possible. Let XOY, for an orange coat when the orange gene is dominant. Let XoY for a black coat, when the black gene is active. Considering that the color white can be expressed, they can at best be two-tone: either black and white or orange and white.

3 types of tricolor pussies

Note that there are several types of tricolor pussies. The Calico, Carey and Tricolor Tabby are the 3 main types of cats with tricolor coats most often seen. The distinction between these is mainly marked by the proportion of white or the appearance of the patterns / marks on their coat.

The Calico cat or Spanish cat The Calico cat

is distinguished by a predominance of white color on the belly, chest, legs and chin. As for the orange and black (or grayish) patterns, they are scattered over the rest of the body.

The carey cat or "tortoiseshell"

cat The carey cat (tortoiseshell) presents a coat with an asymmetrical mixture of colors. Indeed, one notices here a predominance of the expression of black over white which is less accentuated. And the colors appear diluted in lighter tones.

The three-colored tabby cat The three-colored tabby

cat combines the color characteristics seen in Calico and Carey cats. But it is especially distinguished by the appearance of its striped patterns, each of which includes the 3 basic colors orange, black and white.

Cat with 3 colors: What are their behavior?

Commonly held ideas hold that cats with a tricolor coat have a strong character. If they know how to show great affection and loyalty, they are known to be not very tolerant and stubborn. In short, they would be somewhat difficult cats to live with.


However, these observations remain mixed and should be taken with great caution. It being understood that the behavior of a cat depends less on the color of its coat than on the level of socialization and the environment in which it evolves. Not to mention the predeterminations that may come into play depending on the breed to which the cat with the tricolor fur might belong.

Basically the temperament and the personality of your tricolor cat will depend mainly on the education and the living environment that you will be able to offer him.

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