Never heard of a calico maine coon cat before? Or maybe you have and never realized just how special it is? Be prepared for a heap of education about this gorgeous cat’s coat pattern, its variations, limitations, and overall desirability.
You may recognize their iconic patchy patterns from traditional orange, black, and white Japanese Maneki Neko or “Lucky Cat” figurines (Maneki Neko).
Cats with this signature pattern are said to attract good luck and prosperity, not only in Japan but in many cultures around the world.
Now don’t go confusing a tortoiseshell coat (another popular cat color) with a calico — tortoiseshells’ colors are usually mixed or blended, and there’s little to no white fur. As you’ll see, this is pretty different from a calico coat.
Let’s get straight to it.
What is a Calico Maine Coon?
It may sound like a distinct breed, but “calico” simply refers to the colors of your kitty’s coat. So a calico cat can be a Persian, a Manx, or several other cat breeds. Maine Coons just happen to be one of them.
For a cat to be considered a calico, it must meet the following criteria: its coat must contain three colors, namely white, black, and orange. The colors are usually in patches, resembling the multi-colored calico cloth that was once imported from England to India. White is usually the main color, and the distribution patterns of orange and black fur will vary from cat to cat.
Now, you can get fully orange Maine Coons, but the calico pattern is far more rare and must include the black and white colors to qualify.
What Types of Calico Maine Coon Patterns Are There?
Yes, there is more than one type of calico pattern: eight of them, to be precise. And here they are:
1. Dense Calico
The most common type of calico in Maine Coons, the coloration varies from 25%–75% white and 25%–75% orange and black.
2. Dilute Calico
Similar to the dense calico, but the colors are more muted so that the black appears more blue or gray.
Image by Anna Sulencka from Pixabay
3. Dense Shell Calico
The dense shell calico Maine Coon has a white base with patches of orange and black. On their sides, back, face, and legs, the tip of each hair is either black or orange.
4. Dilute Shell Calico
Exactly the same as the dense shell calico, except that the colors are pale by comparison. Black will appear blue, and orange will seem cream.
5. Dense Shaded Calico
These calicoes have a base of white with black and orange unbridled patches. They also have a shading of orange and black on the sides, tail, and face. They tend to appear darker than standard calicoes.
6. Dilute Shaded Calico
Again, the black and orange are diluted to blue and cream in this color variation of the calico. Even so, a dilute shaded calico will still appear darker than a dilute standard calico.
7. Dense Smoke Calico
These calico Maine Coons might appear to be the same as a dense calico at first. But look closer and you’ll see the unbridled patches of orange and black have a white undercoat.
8. Dilute Smoke Calico
You guessed it — the coloration is the same as the dense smoke calico except for the diluted gray and cream colors.
Why Are Most Calico Maine Coons Female?
It seems like a weird fact, but calico Maine Coons are almost always females. The reason comes down to simple genetics. All embryos in the womb, human and cat alike, are inherently female as they each carry a single X chromosome.
The sperm comes along and deposits either another X chromosome or a Y chromosome, which determines whether the little furball will be a male or female. A female will have two X chromosomes, and a male will have an XY chromosome combo.
The pretty orange coloring that makes a calico a calico is carried on the X chromosome — one X chromosome will produce orange fur, and the other will produce black fur. The male Y chromosome doesn’t carry the orange coloring, so male cats that result from the litter will extremely rarely be classic calicoes.
Image by Blaue-Rose from Pixabay
Instead, they’ll probably be a combination of white and black only, as they can also carry the black pigment, and either parent can pass on their white coloring.
There are always outliers, though, and approximately one in 3,000 male kittens will have a genetic abnormality that allows them to have orange fur. But breeders clubs don’t accept them because they are usually frail and far too rare.
There are plenty of British and American pet owners who consider these exceptional males to be very lucky pets, though, due to the massive unlikelihood of their existence.
You might enjoy my article on maine coon cat lifespan.
Is it Difficult to Breed Calico Maine Coons?
In short, yes, it can be a challenge to get calico Maine Coon kittens. This isn’t only because they almost always have to be female and there’s no guarantee how many females you’ll get in a litter, though.
The perfect genetic storm has to come together to ensure a calico pattern. So true calico kittens are a randomized blessing from nature more often than the result of determined breeding. Even with calico-born parents, there is still no guarantee all three colors will be present in the tiny furballs they produce.
As a result, calico cats in general are a rarity, including calico Maine Coons.
Calico Maine Coon Temperament
There’s a rumor amongst calico Maine Coon owners that this particular color variety of Maine Coon is more sassy and vibrant in personality. They even refer to it as “fortitude.” Perhaps they are more feisty and willful than their non-calico counterparts, but this is more than likely due to nurture rather than nature.
How, you might wonder? Well, they are over-the-top beautiful and fairly rare, so their humans tend to fuss over them more and let them get their way more often, leading to a spunky attitude.
Other than that, calico Maine Coons tend to exhibit the characteristics of your typical Maine Coon. Maine Coons are friendly, intelligent, and playful pets with an ability to tolerate poking and prodding, making them great for homes with kids and other pets. Early socialization will encourage this even more.
Image by Jan Barkmann from Pixabay
Unless you happen to have pet rodents, that is: Maine Coons have a seriously high prey drive, so their instinct will be to seek and destroy all mice and their larger kin. So if you have any of these cute critters, you may want to invest in good cages and safety measures.
Grooming a Calico Maine Coon
You may be wondering, do Maine Coons shed? It’s one of the natural considerations when picking a pet, since you’ll want to know if you have to factor in grooming and removing unwanted hair from clothes and furniture.
With such a gorgeous silky coat that remains smooth easily and sheds lightly, Maine Coons will indeed need some maintenance, but not in excessive amounts. A decent brush once a week is good enough for them.
Where Can I Get a Calico Maine Coon?
While calico Maine Coons do sadly find themselves at shelters from time to time, they tend to get picked up at lightning speed due to the popularity of their coats.
You could also get one from a verified breeder, but if you do choose this route instead of trying your luck with the shelters, ensure the breeder is reputable. Good breeders will have vaccinated and genetically tested kittens with health certificates available from 10–14 weeks of age.
Before you get a bit weirded out by genetic testing, it’s solely to identify any potentially problematic genes that may manifest in congenital disease later in life. However, good breeders breed with good healthy stock, so they aim to produce kittens that will be less likely to get sick.
Image by Annalisa Ideler from Pixabay
Bad breeders will breed just about any cat to try and get a calico pattern, even with a cat that isn’t necessarily calico just for the “right” color. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about the parents and insist on seeing them in person.
You might enjoy reading my article on White Maine Coon Cats.
Final Thoughts on Calico Maine Coons
Calico cats might be ubiquitous in folklore and pop culture, but they’re harder to find in real life. It’s not just a popular Maine Coon color combo, after all: it’s one of the rarest and most highly sought-after patterns you can get. If you can get them, that is.
Even legitimate breeders can have difficulty guaranteeing a calico kitty. So if you find yourself the owner of one of these “lucky cats”, consider yourself lucky indeed!