Dilute Calicos: What Causes Their Beautiful Colors?

Posted by Crystal Long
Dilute calico cat on a white background.

Calico cats are a favorite among cat lovers. While calico is a cool color pattern, it can only be outdone by its lighter cousin -- meet the Dilute Calico cat.

Let us be clear: when people say "calico cats", they are often referring to a specific coat pattern and coloration on cats, and not to a particular breed of cats. This color pattern can happen in a lot of different cat breeds and mixed-breeds: some of them include the Manx, the American Shorthair and Longhair cats, Maine Coons, the British Shorthair, Persians, Japanese Bobtails, and the Turkish Angora cat, just to name a few.

This tricolor coat color is perhaps the most distinctive coat pattern around and is the most-commonly wanted among cat lovers. A Calico cat has three different colors: white, orange (or sometimes referred to as red), and black. These pretty cats are typically a mostly white cat with large patches or spots of black and orange coloring against the white fur. They are not to be confused with Tortoiseshell cats (a.k.a. Torties) -- although the two have similar coloring, the major difference that distinguishes torties from calicos is that tortoiseshells have a black-based coat while calicoes have a white-based coat.

While most calicos are female cats, not all of them are. Male calico cats are rare -- with an estimate of 1 in 3,000 calico cats being a male calico. They most likely have Klinefelter's syndrome, a rare genetic condition found in male calicos that's from having an extra X chromosome in males.

What is a Dilute Calico?

There are three types of calico cats: the standard calico mentioned above; a caliby, which is a mix of a calico and a tabby cat and has the colors of a calico along with the tabby stripes of a tabby; and lastly, a dilute calico.

Dilute calico cats are simply what that means: they have the same coloring as calico cats, but "diluted," meaning dilute calicos are calico cats with less intense color hues. While the standard calico cat has distinct patches of white, black, and orange, dilute calico cats have less-distinct lighter coat colors of a smoky-gray or blue-gray, white, and a strawberry-blonde or cream color -- all dilute calicos have lighter coloring than their traditional counterparts. Other than blue, white, and cream, dilute calicos can also come in colors such as white, lilac, and cream or white, fawn, and cream.

Dilute calico kittens get their unique light coloring by inheriting the Dilute gene, as well as a combination of, um, let's just say complex to put it lightly, genetic markers to get that beautiful coat coloring.

Do you live with a Dilute Calico cat? Or just a Calico cat? Share your tri-color kitty on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

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Dilute Calicos: What Causes Their Beautiful Colors?