One of Scootz’s web friends, Kate from South Africa, wrote to ask why Scootz is called a "Calico" cat. This question came as a total shock to Scootz she thought everyone knew exactly what it meant to be a Calico Cat.
"Enough excitement for one day - I need my rest. Besides, none of this is news to ME"
Calico Cats originally got their name from calico, the cloth (which, by the way gets its name from Calcutta - from where the cloth was supposed to originate.) Just to make sure, we looked up calico in the dictionary. First we checked Oxford (an English dictionary) , and discovered it defined calico as an uncoloured, unprinted cloth. This came as a surprise, because that does not describe Scootz’s colours at all. So then we checked Webster's (an American dictionary) where calico is defined as a printed multicolor cloth - and multicolour is what best describes Scootz - and other Calico Cats. (And calico is one of those funny words that have a slightly different meaning depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on - it makes it a little difficult to communicate at times when you "think" you're speaking the same language - and really you are not.)
So when you see a cat which has a lot of white with patches of orange and black ( like Scootz - though she probably has more white than most calicos,) that is a Calico Cat.
"Can’t I have some privacy around here? Lose the camera, please!"
But some people call cats with colouration like Scootz “Tortoiseshells” (or torties for short.) Is there a difference?
Not really. The gene that causes a cat to be a tortoiseshell is the same one that causes the orange and black of a calico. But, for those who want to make a distinction between the two terms, a calico has an additional gene for white. A tortoiseshell cat is predominantly a mixture of orange and black hair.
But it doesn't really matter. Many people use one term - either calico or tortoiseshell - for both types of colouring.
Are all Calicos female?
Almost all. About 1 in 3000 calico kittens are male - which makes male calicos pretty rare. The reason is the two genes required to make a calico are both carried on the x chromosome, and they must be separate x chromosomes. And it is two x chromosomes that make a cat female. Normally males have only one x chromosome and a y chromosome. Very rarely, a male will have two x and one y, but this is abnormal. So, while it will mean a male calico, it will also mean sterility. (Though female calicos can certainly reproduce as well as any other female cat - which is why Scootz recommends spaying to avoid unwanted kittens.)