You've probably heard the terms calico or tortoiseshell, but may not know exactly what they mean. Calico tortoiseshell refers only to the color of Kitty's coat, and not what breed she is. If your lovely kitty is mostly white with orange and black patches of color, she's a tortoiseshell calico.
What is Calico?
White spotting is a genetic mutation that causes patches of white fur to cover up the tabby or other coloring of Kitty's coat. These can be small spots, such as white toes or a white chest, to a mostly white coat. If Kitty has large areas of white fur mixed with patches of orange tabby and black fur, she's considered a calico. If instead of orange and black, she has gray and pale orange tabby, she's called a dilute calico.
What is a Tortie?
Kitties with the tortoiseshell pattern are often called torties for short. Tortoiseshell is a mix of red and cream tabby markings and black fur. These patches can be small and evenly mixed all over her coat, or large, distinct patches.While the orange patches may look like they're solid, especially if they're small, they actually have tabby markings.There is no solid red color; all red or cream colors contain tabby marking, and she'll probably have the tabby “M” on her forehead.
If a kitty is a calico tortie, it's almost certain to be a female. The gene for orange tabby is carried on the X chromosome. Since males have just one X chromosome, if he has one red gene he'll be some variation of orange tabby. A female has two X chromosomes, so she would have to have the red gene on both chromosomes to be a solid red tabby. If she has a red gene on one chromosome and black on the other, she'll be a tortie. Torties who appear to be males occur, but it requires a genetic abnormality in which he has two X chromosomes, XXY, instead of one, XY. This is very rare, and these kitties are usually sterile.
Tortie Calico Breeds
Calico tortoiseshell refers to a coat color and not a breed. A number of breeds have the coloration. Many domestic shorthairs, which are mix-breed cats, have this coloration. If you're looking for a pedigree cat, Persians come in the calico color variety. Persians have a extremely fluffy coat and a distinctive “smooshed” face appearance, and are known for being laid-back lap cats. The Turkish Van is a fluffy cat who has a mostly white body and can have tabby or calico coloration on the tail and forehead. These cats are great if you like to take a dip in the pool. Turkish Vans are called “swimming cats,” because unlike most cats, many love to go for a swim.