How Long Do Calico Cats Live?

Updated April 7, 2022
Reviewed by Saleema Lookman, RVT
Saleema Lookman, RVT Saleema Lookman, RVT

Saleema is a Registered Veterinary Technician with more than 10 years of clinical experience working with pets. Her special interests include feline medicine, small animal care, emergency and critical care, and oncology.

Portrait of senior calico cat lying down

Calico cats are certainly captivating, but are they really all that different from other cats? Find out how long calico cats live and whether their lifespan differs from the average cat. Hint: It depends on their gender.

Average Life Span of Females Calicos

WebMD and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) both agree that the average cat can live about 15 years and maybe even a bit longer if the animal receives proper nutrition and routine veterinary care.

It's important to note that calicos aren't an actual breed. Calico is just a color pattern, albeit a complicated one, and many cat breeds may have a calico color variety. Generally speaking, female calicos are just like any other cat, and they can enjoy the same general life span of about 15 years as long as they receive proper care throughout their lives. Male calicos aren't quite so lucky.

Why Male Calicos Have Shorter Lives

To understand why calico males have a shortened lifespan, it's important to take a look at their unique chromosomal makeup.

Why Calico Males Are Rare

Male calicos are very rare because the genetics that create the calico color pattern are carried on a cat's X chromosome. According to Dr. Marty Becker, in an article published on Vetstreet, a cat must have two X chromosomes (XX) to have the calico color pattern. Females naturally have XX chromosomes, so it's not a surprise that the majority of calico cats are females. On the other hand, males cats naturally have an XY chromosome combination, so in order for a male to be calico, he has to have an extra X chromosome (XXY).

Senior calico cat lying down on wood deck patio

Effects of Klinefelter's Syndrome

Unfortunately, the extra X chromosome can affect a male calico's health and vitality. According to a study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research, a condition called Klinefelter's syndrome is associated with male cats that have an additional X chromosome. Another study published in the Molecular Human Reproduction Journal backs up the AJVR study, stating male calicos tend to have a shorter life span due to Klinefelter's syndrome. However, there are currently no statistics available that show exactly how much shorter their life spans might be.

Male Calico Cat Health Problems

Health threats associated with the syndrome include:

  • Cognitive impairments, which can lead to disorientation and behavior problems
  • Insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes
  • Dyslipidemia, a disorder that interferes with metabolism of lipoprotein
  • Increased body fat mass, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions
  • Reduced bone mineral content, which can lead to a higher risk for bone fractures
  • Inability to reproduce, as male calicos are born sterile
  • Possible increased risk of testicular tumors

Helping Calicos, and All Cats, Live Longer

Regardless of whether a calico is male or female, all cats can live longer, healthier lives if their owners provide them with proper care. This includes providing good shelter, feeding a high-quality diet, and providing routine veterinary care, as well as specialized care for particular conditions and diseases. Think of your investment in your cat's care as an investment in the relationship the two of you share.

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How Long Do Calico Cats Live?