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Are Calico Cats Hypoallergenic?

by Lucy

Many believe that there is nothing more beautiful in the world of felines than a calico cat. The array of beautiful colors and unique patterns make calico cats a very popular choice amongst cat lovers. There are a wide variety of calico cats to be seen with many having a very similar appearance to a tabby cat.

Calico cats however are not quite what they seem which is why we will discuss this in more detail throughout the article.

When looking at cat breeds, especially to find a new member of the family, allergies are always a big concern. If you’re looking at calico beauties, you may wonder how allergy sufferers may fare around them.

So, are calico cats hypoallergenic? No, calico cats are not hypoallergenic. As long as a cat sheds fur and produces dander they can pose an issue for allergy sufferers. Some calico cats are less allergenic than others, but this varies widely by breed and hair type (as calicos are not a single cat breed).

Although no calico cat will be hypoallergenic, it can be difficult to gauge the severity of problem they are likely to pose to allergy suffers, since ‘calico’ is not a breed, but a type of coat pattern and coloring. Many breeds can be considered calico.

Levels of shedding and dander can play a huge part in determining how allergenic a cat can be for individual allergy sufferers.

Some breeds shed far more than others, even when they are all calicos. It is fair to assume that as long as a cat has fur or dander (which even a cat with the baldest of appearance will do) then they are not considered to be hypoallergenic.

So let’s look at calico cats and allergy concerns more closely, shall we?

Not a Breed – All About Calico Cats

As we’ve started to touch on already, the term ‘calico’ does not refer to one precise breed, although many believe that to be the case.

There are a wide variety of breeds that can be referred to as “calico.” This distinction is solely dependent on the combination of colors and unique patterns and markings on their fur.

But here is an interesting fact about all calicos: They are (nearly) always females!

Only around 1 in 3000 calicos are born male thanks to genetics.

This is due to the fact that the calico coloring is related to the X chromosome. It typically takes two X chromosomes to produce a cat that expresses the calico coloring.

Unfortunately, the rare male calicos often suffer from health issues. They also tend to be sterile and therefore cannot be used for breeding.

Calico Colors – What Designates a Calico?

Calico cats can often be identified by their unique set and combinations of colors.

One of the key factors in identifying a calico cat is their primary bulk color. You will notice that calicos look predominately white and this shade can cover between 25% – 75% of their overall coloring.

In addition to white, you will find that calicos have large patches of orange and black. These are the primary colors for calicos however it is also possible to see calicos with a plain white base with sometimes cream and grey patches.

Any three of these colors combined (tri-colored) will usually suggest you have a calico on your hand’s dependent on the patterns displayed.

Patterns and Markings of Calico Cats

One of the most noticeable markings of a calico cat are the (usually) orange and black patches that are displayed over a white backdrop. By patches, we mean irregularly shaped blobs – as opposed to something like stripes or spots.

When comparing these markings with a tabby you will notice that these markings are much larger, clearer, and more definite.

Calico coat patterns can be most likened to that of tortoiseshells. The two are very similar. However, the patches are much larger on a calico and express a white spotting gene that the tortoiseshell does not have.

You will notice calico markings on a variety of cat breeds both long and short-haired.

Why Aren’t Calico Cats Hypoallergenic?

Unfortunately, calico cats are not hypoallergenic. No matter what breed of calico you look at, they will always have fur and dander to some degree.

Long-haired calicos are usually the worst for allergy sufferers since there is more shedding fur to deal with and in larger quantities – depositing more dander around the house. But there are also some short-haired breeds (such as the Russian Blue) which may surprise you with how much they shed.

Many believe there is such a thing as a true hypoallergenic cat which is simply not true.

For a cat to be hypoallergenic, they must not have any hair at all that sheds. When we look at breeds such as the Devon Rex and Sphynx it may appear that they are completely bald. But in reality, there are still small amounts of fur present.

Although these breeds are often a preferred option for more minor allergy-sufferers they still are not 100% hypoallergenic.

To recap, simply being a calico does not determine how much a cat will shed. Only the true breed will be able to determine that. Some calicos of breeds could pose fewer problems for allergy-sufferers than others, but no breed will truly be hypoallergenic.

Common Calico Cat Breeds and Their Shedding Levels

Since calico is not an actual breed there is a wide variety of cat breeds displaying the calico coloring and markings to choose from.

Some of these breeds will shed far more than others. Therefore when choosing a calico cat, it is important to look at the breeding details to determine their approximate levels of shedding, and whether it will be manageable for those in your home.

Although you will not find all breeds embracing the calico appearance, there are a wide variety of popular cat breeds that can be seen frequently with the traditional calico colors and markings (both long and short-haired).

Let’s take a closer look at some of these common breeds of calicos and their shedding behaviors to give you a better idea of what to expect:

BreedShedding Levels
Calico Manx
The Manx is a medium to large cat breed that originated from the Isle of Man, UK. It comes in both long and short-haired varieties and you should expect medium to high levels of shedding.
Calico American Shorthair
The American Shorthair is a smart, moderately active breed that likes to hunt. They are medium to large in size with short coats. This breed does shed; however you should only expect this in more moderate amounts and primarily around spring and fall.
Calico Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is a larger cat breed with long hair, particularly around the stomach and tail area. The smooth, fluffy hair sheds moderately and is more pronounced during seasonal shedding (spring and fall).
Calico British Shorthair
The British Shorthair as the name suggests is a favorite amongst Brits. This medium to large cat has short, plush, and dense fur that requires very little brushing. You should expect seasonal sheds, but relatively little day to day.
Calico Persian
The Persian is a large cat with a long, thick, and glossy coat. As may be expected, this breed sheds a lot, both day to day and seasonally. Unfortunately, these beauties are not a safe bet for allergy sufferers.
Calico Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese Bobtail is a small to a medium-sized cat that can be seen with both long and short hair. They have a coat that is easy to groom and tend to shed mostly in the spring and fall, with relatively little shedding in between.
Calico Exotic Shorthair
The Exotic Short Hair is a medium-sized cat with very neat short fur. Unlike their Persian cat cousins, this breed only displays a medium level of shedding with a coat that is unlikely to get tangled or matted very easily.
Calico Siberian
The Siberian is a medium to large size cat breed with semi-long fur. Although they have a water-resistant triple coat this breed only tends to shed at a moderate level throughout spring and fall. You should not expect too much shedding year round.
Calico Turkish Van
The Turkish Van is another medium to large cat with a semi long, fine, cashmere like coat. Despite having a reasonably long coat, this breed does not shed very much. A weekly brush to keep everything in order will often be sufficient for this breed.
Calico Turkish Angora
The Turkish Angora is a popular medium size breed with a semi-long coat. They are known to shed a moderate amount and their coats do not get matted and tangled often unlike some longer-haired breeds.
Calico Norwegian Forest
The Norwegian Forest cat is a fairly large and sturdy breed with a long, thick coat (especially in the winter) and notably bushy tail. They are known to shed a moderate amount (especially when getting or losing that lush winter coat) and benefit from a brushing once or twice a week.

Up Next: Do Devon Rex Cats Shed?

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