Years ago, when I was trying to find a home for the cat I wound up accidentally fostering, I asked one cat-loving friend if he was interested. When told she was a calico, he flat-out said no. “No tri-color cats!” he insisted. He thought calicos (white cats with big splotches of red and black) and tortoiseshell cats (mainly black, with red, cream and sometimes white woven in) were temperamental troublemakers. And since I’ve lived with both calicos cats and a tortoiseshell, I honestly couldn’t dispute this, because from my own experience, he was right.
The reputation that tortoiseshell cats and calicos have is mainly anecdotal, and there is not enough research to prove it. In fact, most of the research out there, such as the one done at the University of California, Berkley from a couple of years ago, looks at people’s attitudes, not cat attitudes. And tortoiseshells in particular have gotten a bad rap. People believe them to be bossy, intolerant, and to have too much attitude. I would love to say this is a myth … but my tortoiseshell, Binga, would probably whap me.
I will say that I know of torties that are quiet and shy, calicos that don’t promptly take over the house, tri-colored cats that never get into mischief. I’ve just never met any personally. Mine (including the foster) have all been strong personalities, with fiery tempers: assertive and a little easy to overstimulate. They have not always been easy cats to live with. But they have also been the best cats I’ve ever had. And yes, once again, that includes the foster. My fiancé and I had her for maybe a month and we were miserable when we gave her up. But she and Binga could never have co-existed together. It would have been a nonstop battle royal for top billing in the house.
The thing with tri-colored kitties, though, is if you agree that you are not the boss of them and accept them on their terms, they are the most loyal, affectionate and fun cats ever. They’re highly intelligent, love you to death, and when they misbehave or cop that infamous “attitude,” it is usually because they are not getting enough attention – or they are getting the wrong attention at the wrong time. This is really not that difficult to figure out because they wear their opinions on their furry, multi-colored sleeves. If you don’t want your tortie jumping on the counter, show her that she will be rewarded with treats or play if she sits somewhere else. She will learn (usually). If you are petting Callie the calico and she starts flipping her tail, it’s a no-brainer to back off. In fact, she will probably give you some clear-cut clues long before her tail goes into action. Just use common sense and stop petting them before it gets to that point, and don’t tease them at all. That way you’ll get the best of what they have to offer.
Hear why calico cats are always female >>
My tri-colored cats have always been friendly, sociable, and delightfully mischievous. If they were human, they would be the friends I’d go out with when I needed my spirits lifted and wanted an evening full of fun, surprises and lots of female bonding. Living with a tortie or a calico means you can have that right at home, and who wouldn’t want that?