There are many Maine Coon patterns and colors, and some are so similar that it can be hard to tell them apart. All are equally beautiful but one is particularly rare and striking: the calico. What makes a Maine Coon a calico?
A calico Maine Coon has a tri-color coat. Though typically white with random red and black patches, calico Maine Coons also come in other colors. Calico Maine Coons are nearly always girls and we explain why you can consider yourself lucky if you ever come across a male Calico Maine Coon.
It is widely believed that the name calico was taken from a printed cotton fabric that originated in Calicut in India. Though there are no official records to verify this, it is thought the calico Maine Coon was so-called because its random blotches of color resembled some of the colors used on this cloth.
The calico Maine Coon is often confused with tortoiseshell and tabby Maine Coons because of the similar colorings. We’ll show you how to distinguish between the three.
Of course, red in the cat world isn’t the primary red of the color spectrum but instead is a vibrant orange, often referred to as ginger.
There are 8 official Maine Coon calico patterns:
- Dense Calico (the standard calico)
- Dilute Calico
- Dense Shell Calico
- Dilute Shell Calico
- Dense Shaded Calico
- Dilute Shaded Calico
- Smoke Calico
- Dilute Smoke calico
You’ll find more details of these variations further down.
The 8 calico Maine Coon types are all recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and are all eligible to enter into the organization’s cat shows – as long as they are female!
The CFA does NOT currently officially recognize any cats with genetic anomalies and as the male calico Maine Coon falls into this category (see Calico Genetics below), he is currently refused entry into official competitions.
Why cats are called Calico
Calico was originally an unbleached cotton fabric, with a light cream color. When it first appeared in the United States from India in the 18th Century, it was printed with patterns and often used to make patchwork quilts.
The printed fabric became referred to as calico, a shortened version of the name of the Indian town of Calicut where it was first developed.
Cats with tri-colored coats of red, black, and white were thought to resemble patchwork and so they became known as calico cats. This lead to the belief that the calico cat was a breed, one that’s still held by some people today.
Of course, we know it’s a coat pattern found on Maine Coon cats and many other breeds.
Comparison of Calico and Tortoiseshell Maine Coons
As it happens, there is a direct relationship between the calico and the tortoiseshell (tortie) Maine Coon.
A calico Maine Coon is actually a tortoiseshell cat expressing an additional genetic condition known as piebalding. A piebald cat is simply one with patches of white fur.
A tortoiseshell Maine Coon is black with brindled patches of red or red shaded fur intermingled. There is also a tortie and white coat which is similar to calico because of the colors being the same.
On a tortoiseshell, the colors are much more mixed up as opposed to being in the distinct patches of the calico.
The Dense Maine Coon Calico Pattern
The dense calico Maine Coon pattern is the most common. It consists of patches of white with dense patches of solid red and black.
Some calicos have as much as 75% white fur with the other 25% split between red and black. Others have just 25% white fur and 75% red and black.
This coat is dense in color with no dilution of the red and black. The white fur is, more often than not, predominantly on the cat’s belly, bib and legs.
Every Calico Maine Coon is unique – no two coats ever the same. You might hear this pattern referred to as tricolor, parti-color and white, or piebald.
You will also hear calico referred to as unbrindled which means the color patches are each a single color with no other color interspersed.
The Dilute Maine Coon Calico Pattern
A dilute calico Maine Coon has muted versions of the dense coat colors because of the presence of the dilution gene (see more about this a bit later on).
The vibrant red is replaced with cream fur and the dense coal black is replaced with blue (grey).
Other than having muted colors, the dilute calico has the same unbrindled patches distributed in the same manner as the dense calico.
The Shell Maine Coon Calico pattern
The shell calico Maine Coon has dense and dilute forms.
Dense Shell Calico
A Maine Coon with a dense shell calico pattern is white with unbrindled patches of black and various shades of red.
Each hair shaft on the cat’s back, sides, and tail, is lightly tipped with black and shades of red. Its face and legs can also have shaded tips. Finally, the underparts of the cat are mainly white.
Dilute Shell Calico
The dilute shell calico Maine Coon is very similar to the dense shell calico but where the dense version is black with shades of red, the dilute version has patches of blue (grey) and shades of cream.
The Shaded Maine Coon Calico Pattern
There are two shaded calico patterns, one with dense colors and one with dilute colors.
Dense Shaded Calico
A dense shaded calico Maine Coon is white with unbrindled patches of black and shades of red. It has a mantle of black and red shading along its sides, face, and tail.
Its face and legs sometimes have deeper shading than the rest of the body. White fur is predominantly seen on the underparts of this particular coat.
The overall look of the shaded calico is much darker than the shell calico.
Dilute Shaded Calico
The dilute shaded calico Maine Coon has the same patterns as the dense shaded cat but in place of black fur it has blue (grey) and in place of shades of red it has shades of cream.
Again the overall appearance of this coat is darker than the dilute shell calico.
The Calico Smoke Maine Coon Pattern
There are two calico smoke Maine Coon coats:
Dense Calico Smoke
A Maine Coon with a dense calico smoke coat is white with unbrindled patches of black and shades of red. The black and red patches have a white undercoat.
Pure white fur is also found on the underparts of the cat. When it sits still, this cat looks similar to a dense calico but as it moves the white beneath the red and black fur is obvious.
Dilute Calico Smoke
The dilute calico smoke Maine Coon is similar to the dense calico smoke but has blue (grey) fur in place of black and shades of cream in place of shaded of red.
Calico Maine Coon Male vs Female
Calico Maine Coons are usually female at a ratio of about 2999:1 What this means is that for every 3,000 Maine Coon kittens born with a calico coat, 2,999 are females and just one is male.
This makes Calico Maine Coon males super rare. They can probably be classed as the rarest Maine Coons in existence.
The average weight of a calico Maine Coon Maine is between 8 and 18 pounds, with females more likely to max out at 13 pounds and males weighing towards the 18 pounds end of the range.
Of course, there will always be a few cats that exceed the highest weight.
The following table shows a comparison of male and female calico Maine Coons with respect to their height, weight, length, and lifespan.
|Calico Maine Coons||Female||Male|
|Weight range (lbs)||8 to 13||10 to 18|
|Body length (inches)||19 – 30||19 – 30|
|Tail length (inches)||12 – 18||12 – 18|
|Height to shoulder (inches)||10 – 14||10 – 16|
|Lifespan (years)||9 to 20||9 to 20|
How Calico Maine Coons Are Made
A breeder cannot specialize in producing calico Maine Coons. The genetics behind this coloring are complicated as you will see in a moment. A litter producing any calico kittens is really just down to pure chance.
Calico Cat Genetics
It all boils down to chromosomes of which a cat has 19 pairs in every single cell of its body.
Just one pair of these chromosomes determines if a cat will be male or female. In a female they are XX and in a male they are XY.
Genes found on this pair of chromosomes are known as sex-linked genes and genes on the other 18 pairs of chromosomes are autosomal.
A female needs just one X chromosome and so within every cell, one of the X chromosomes is deactivated early in life.
In calico cats, the gene that dictates fur color happens to be located on the X chromosomes. One of the pair is coded for orange fur (XB), and the other for black fur (Xb).
Depending on which X chromosome is left active the fur produced will be orange or black resulting in random patches of color, and patterns unique in each cat.
Whether the color is diluted or not depends on the presence of the dilution gene and another gene is responsible for white spotting.
This also explains why calicos are generally female.
The occasional male calico results from a genetic anomaly where a cat has XXY chromosomes resulting in a male cat.
This has about a 1 in 3,0000 chance of occurring and when it does the males are virtually guaranteed to be sterile. Only about 1 in every 10,000 male calico cats are fertile.
Maine Coon Calico Mixes
A Maine Coon calico tabby mix is affectionately referred to as a calibby. This cat can have any of the calico patterns described earlier but also has stripey mackerel tabby markings.
Calico cats are considered lucky!
Male calicos are considered lucky in various countries because they are so rare.
Calico cats were made the official state cat of Maryland October 1st, 2001 because of their similarity in coloring to the state’s bird, the Baltimore Oriole, and the state’s insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.
Japanese sailors used to take calico cats on their ships to protect them from storms and any angry spirits.
The traditional calico color combination is considered to be the luckiest and is the one most seen on Maneki Neko, the Japanese Lucky Cat.
Calico cats were once thought to banish warts if you rubbed them with the cat’s tail during the month of May – according to Irish folklore!
Calico cat breeds
- American Shorthair
- American Curl
- British Shorthair
- Domestic Longhair
- Domestic Shorthair
- Exotic Shorthair
- Maine Coon
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Japanese Bobtail
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van
Of course, these are just the recognized breeds. Mixed breed cats can be calico too, and are just as gorgeous.
Calico Maine Coon Cats – Conclusion
Although Calico Maine Coon females are fairly common, the male is one of the rarest Maine Coons to walk the Earth.
People have a fascination with this tri-colored cat and consider it to bring good fortune. If you ever come to own a male calico Maine Coon you can consider yourself incredibly lucky.