Effective October 1, 2001, the calico cat became the official cat of Maryland (Chapter 194, Acts of 2001; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-302). Its colors of orange, black, and white are shared with the Baltimore oriole (State bird) and the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly (State insect).
Calico is not a breed of cat, but an unusual coloring occurring across many breeds, including Domestic Short-hair, Persian, and Manx. Virtually all calico cats are female; a male calico is a genetic anomaly and usually sterile. Producing calico kittens through selective breeding also is nearly impossible due to unpredictable actions of genes and chromosomes when cells multiply in a feline fetus.
Calico cat, Annapolis, Maryland, September 2001. Photo by Ann J. Baker.
A calico cat must be a tri-color, with its three colors in distinct patches, not mixed as in a tortoiseshell cat. Some breed standards specify what percentage of the body must be white; others allow tabby striping in the color patches.
"Buddy", calico cat with Maryland flag, Silver Spring, Maryland, 2015. Photo courtesy of Jess Bravin.
To be a true tri-color, a calico cat's colors must be: white; red or cream; and black, blue, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, or fawn. The variations in color from red and black are caused by a gene which dilutes, or lightens up the basic color, and produces a dilute calico cat, most commonly with a coat of white, cream, and blue. Brown colors such as cinnamon and fawn are recessive to black, and consequently more unusual.
Sleeping calico cat, Canton, Baltimore, Maryland, May 2002. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
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