Calico vs Tortoiseshell Cats: How Are They Different?

Both calico and tortoiseshell cats have stunning looks as a result of their gorgeous color combinations and distinctive patterns. Though many individuals are unaware of the distinction between the two. Some individuals might not even be aware that tortoiseshell is a distinct breed of cat and may instead believe that any cat with orange spots is a calico.

It’s also uncommon to find that these two cat hues have different personalities. Tortoiseshell cat owners will tell you all about “tortitude,” and calico cats are also known to be temperamental. These two coat colors differ from one another in terms of both look and attitude.

Calico Cat Overview

Calico Cat Overview


A calico cat’s look is defined by the hues of its coat, not by its breed. Calicos are a possibility in almost all cat breeds. The three hues that make up the calico coat are often white with accents of black and orange. The main color of muted calicos is white, with cream and blue accents. Calico cats are always tricolored, however, their coats can also be red, brown, or tan. Typically, 25–75% of Calicos’ coats are white.


Because they can come from any breed, calico cats can have any disposition. However, they are typically seen as being devoted, affectionate cats who exhibit remarkable devotion, particularly to a single selected person. Although most people think of them as eccentric and vivacious, these qualities can occasionally manifest as neurotic habits.

Video Credit: CatCrazy Channel

The Calico Gene

You may have heard that calico cats are exclusively female, yet this isn’t always the case. Calico males are quite uncommon. This is so because the gene responsible for calico coats is connected to the X chromosome, yet calico only occurs when this gene is present in two copies.

Males only have one X chromosome, therefore even though they can possess this gene, they often aren’t impacted by it. This indicates that male calico cats have a chromosome extra, making them XXY rather than XY. This genetic anomaly is known as Klinefelter’s Syndrome in people. This may not affect all cats, but some may exhibit signs including behavioral issues, obesity, and an elevated risk of developing diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Suitable for:

While every cat is different, calicos are frequently suitable for households with kids and other animals. Although they may also be quite independent cats, they are often nice and friendly cats that are kind toward their owners. Make sure your calico has lots of areas to hide away from kids and other animals so they can rest.

Tortoiseshell Cat Overview

Tortoiseshell Cat Overview


Tortoiseshell cats are sometimes mistaken for calicos, although they seem very different. Typically, these cats have two hues that are black and brown, tan, or orange. There is a chance that the black will manifest in a diluted form, looking blue or tabby.

A cat may occasionally be mostly tortoiseshell with a few white spots. It is frequently referred known as portico since this white is typically too sparse to classify the cat as calico. Tortoiseshell cats may come from almost any breed, just like the calico cat.


Tortoiseshells share the same loving personality traits as calicos. Tortoiseshell cats are, according to their owners, hot-tempered and more prone to aggressive behavior than many other cat breeds. They mention “tortitude” as well, which is a term used to describe the distinct personalities and attitudes that tortoiseshell cats frequently exhibit.

These cats can be a little bit spicier than others, and they frequently don’t tolerate antics from anyone other than themselves. This occasionally includes kids and other domestic animals. It’s crucial to note that, unless the coat color is directly linked to the cat’s breed, scientific studies have not shown a correlation between a cat’s disposition and coat color. The evidence for fortitude is largely anecdotal yet pervasive.

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The Tortoiseshell Gene

The tortoiseshell gene is X-linked, just like the calico gene, and two copies of the gene are needed to generate a tortoiseshell cat. Despite the fact that male tortoiseshell cats do occur, the majority of tortoiseshell cats are female. This often indicates that they have Klinefelter’s Syndrome and an extra X chromosome.

Suitable for:

A tortoiseshell cat may not be suitable for households with young children or other pets if you think there is such a thing as fortitude. To establish and uphold harmony, as well as to keep the cat content and stress-free, correct introductions and respect for the cat’s limits are essential.

Sterility and X-Linked Traits

The majority of male cats with an additional X chromosome are infertile and incapable of procreating. However, you should never take your cat’s sterility for granted. Even if your veterinarian thinks your cat is infertile, it’s still vital to neuter him. This is due to the increased risk of testicular cancer and behavioral issues when your cat’s testicles are left intact.

Which Cat Is Right For You?

According to anecdotal evidence, calico and tortoiseshell cats have extremely distinct personalities. There is no conclusive proof that these characteristics are related to the color of your cat’s coat. Some calico owners claim their cats have a fortitude-like attitude, while other tortoiseshell owners claim their cats are affectionate and extroverted.

Try to find a cat that looks to have the disposition that will match your home the best while making your selection. But figuring out how young your cat is is sometimes challenging. Regardless of the coat color you decide to bring home, the greatest thing you can do is make sure your house is set up in a way that will lessen stress for your cat, make them feel protected, and provide them lots of opportunities to burn off energy.


Finally, knowing the distinctions between calico and tortoiseshell cats will help you appreciate these special feline friends even more. Both coat designs have a stunning mosaic of hues, but they differ in certain ways that make them stand out.

The tri-color coats of calico cats, which have patches of white, black, and orange, make them easy to identify. On the other side, tortoiseshell cats have little to no white markings and a mixture of black and orange hues. The genetic expression of coat color alleles results in these patterns.


Q: Can male cats be calico or tortoiseshell?

Calico or tortoiseshell male cats are quite uncommon. This is so because male cats only have one X chromosome, which is connected to the coat color patterns. Two X chromosomes, which are generally present in female cats, are required for the existence of both the black and orange coat colors.

Q: Are calico and tortoiseshell cats different breeds?

No single breed is known to have the calico or tortoiseshell pattern. Numerous breeds of cats, including mixed-breed cats, exhibit these coat color patterns. The expression of coat color alleles genetically determines the patterns.

Q: Are calico and tortoiseshell cats more prone to specific health issues?

Calico or tortoiseshell cats don’t often have any unique health problems. It’s crucial to remember that in some instances, the genes responsible for coat color may also be connected to specific hereditary disorders. Regardless of the color of their coat, your cat’s general health depends on regular veterinarian exams and correct maintenance.

Q: Can the personality of calico and tortoiseshell cats differ?

Individual cats can have distinct personalities regardless of their coat color, even if coat color patterns are not directly connected to personality qualities. Like all cats, calico and tortoiseshell cats can display a variety of temperaments and behaviors. To ensure their success, it’s critical to show them affection, pay attention to them, and provide a loving environment.

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