Calico cats are certainly captivating, but are they really all that different from other cats? More importantly, does their life span differ from the average cat? The answer to that question is yes and no, and it all depends on whether a calico is male or female.
Average Life Span of Females Calicos
Web MD and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals both essentially agree that the average cat can live about 15 years, and maybe 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 really 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 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 XY chromosomes, so in order for a male to be calico, he has to have an extra X chromosome (XXY).
Effects of Klinefelter's Syndrome
Unfortunately, the extra X chromosome can affect a male calico's health and vitality. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information's (NCBI) Pub Med website, a condition called Klinefelter's Syndrome is associated with males that have an additional X chromosome. Another study published in the Oxford Journal backs up the NCBI 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 just how much shorter their life spans might be.
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
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.