Breeds

Are Calico Cats Hypoallergenic?

Calico cats are known for their gorgeous brindle coats. These kitties are highly desired, and popular among purr parents. Are calico cats hypoallergenic? We discuss this and more in our quick guide.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: October 24, 2022 | 12 min read

Female Manx Cat with Calico Colored Fur Yawns While Resting in Sun

Calico cats are magnificent. Their lovely tri-colored coats are beautiful to behold. Though they often get called a unique breed, calico cats are not any one specific breed. Calico refers to their coat color. Prospective owners often wonder if calico cats are hypoallergenic.

There is more to the calico than one might think. These kitties can belong to several breeds, and though they share coat coloration, they are not alike. These gorgeous kitties can be found worldwide and are highly valued in some areas.

Despite the beauty of a cat, it can be a big challenge if an owner is allergic to cats. In this quick guide, we look into whether or not calico cats are hypoallergenic. We also discuss what causes feline allergies and what owners can do to manage them. Let’s jump in and get some answers to this often-asked question.

Calico Cats

Calico is not one specific feline breed. These brindle kitties can belong to many breeds. The coloring comes from the X chromosome. This means the majority of calico cats are female. They must have an X chromosome from each parent. Males can occasionally inherit an extra chromosome, XXY, which results in a rare male tricolored kitty. These cats have what is called Klinefelter syndrome and are sterile. It is impossible to breed a male calico. The same goes for tortoiseshell. They are mostly female due to the double XX required to produce their unique coloring.

The specific history of the brindle-coated feline is murky, and little is known about where the coloration originated. It is primarily believed they originated in Egypt. It is thought these brindle kitties accompanied ships on their trading voyages to the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, Greece, France, and Italy. The felines were working crew members and controlled the rodent populations on the seafaring vessels. As they traveled, these kitties intermingled with other breeds in different port cities, spreading their genetics and coloring. Today, calicos are the official cat of Maryland.

In Japan, a calico is considered lucky. They have also been called “money cats.” This nickname originated in the United States, as it was believed they would turn a significant profit due to their coat coloration. This proved not to be the case, but the nickname stuck. The word calico comes from an unbleached cotton fabric used in the 1600s.

Calico cats have signature-looking tri-colored coats. They have three colors in their fur. These include shades of white, orange, and black. There are many variations of these colors, including cream, reddish-brown, and bluish-black. Some have brown in their coats as well. These brindle kitties are between 25% and 75% white with orange and black toes. All three colors, white, black, and orange, are required for a cat to be considered a true calico.

Because this is not a specific breed, and most are mixed-breed felines, they are not considered hypoallergenic. Some may be low allergen if they are related to a breed that is regarded as hypoallergenic. However, a cat being calico is no indication of them being hypoallergenic. Calico cats are not hypoallergenic, as coat coloration does not influence the level of allergens they produce or shed.

Breeds that are known to display calico coats include the following:

  1. American Shorthair
  2. American Wirehair
  3. British Shorthair
  4. Cornish Rex
  5. Devon Rex
  6. Exotic Shorthair
  7. Japanese Bobtail
  8. LaPerm
  9. Maine Coon
  10. Norwegian Forest Cat
  11. Persian
  12. Scottish Fold
  13. Turkish Van
  14. Selkirk Rex

Types Of Calico

Calico Maine Coon on green background fabric
There are several different patterns that these brindle kitties can come in.

Types of Calico cats include:

The traditional has a tricolor coat with white, orange, and black patches. Traditional coats often have white base coats and face with black or orange on their ears, foreheads, backs, and legs. Color patches can come in both black and orange.

A patched tabby calico, also called the caliby, has both tabby features and signature colorings of orange and black. Tabby cats have a capital M-shaped marking on their foreheads, and these cats may also have stripes along their bodies. Patched tabbies usually have white paws.

A dilute looks like a signature calico, but the colors appear to be clouded or muted. They have faded coats of white with orange and black patches. The black may appear gray, blue, or even smoke tone. Oranges can be very light, almost a cream-like color. This is a fairly rare coloration caused by a recessive gene. These kitties are also called “clouded tigers.”

The dense shell calico has a white code with patches of black and shades of orange to red. They have all three standard colors present. There can also be a dilute shell calico.

A densely shaded calico will have darker colorings on a white base coat. They will have red and black patches over their faces and bodies and shading on their sides, faces, and tails.

These kitties can come in both long and short-haired varieties. The short-haired ones are often classified as Domestic Shorthairs. Most are mixed breeds, and short-haired felines of an unknown mixed breed are referred to as Domestic Shorthairs. Short-haired breeds, including the British and American Shorthair, often have these tricolor coats.

Long-haired brindle kitties include many popular long-haired breeds like the Norwegian Forest Cat, Persians, Ragdolls, and Maine Coon.

Cat Allergies

Feline allergies are often thought to be caused by cat hair, but this is not the case. Allergies are caused by proteins felines naturally produce. These proteins are shed through skin, dander, saliva, and urine. The main protein that causes allergies is called Fel d 1, though it is not the only allergen cats produce. These proteins are left on cat hair when they groom themselves and spread around as they shed dander.

Allergy symptoms in humans can range from very mild to very severe. A person’s sensitivity depends on their own genetics and those of a cat. Cats can produce different reactions in humans. The same cat could be sitting next to two people, who both have allergies, and they will not have the same response. Because of this, it is hard to know if a person will have a reaction unless they spend time with a specific kitty.

Calico’s temperaments and personalities are often unpredictable. This also goes for the level of allergens they produce. These are not felines referred to or considered hypoallergenic.

Hypoallergenic Cats

Some feline breeds are considered to be hypoallergenic. This is because they produce lower amounts of Fel d 1 and other allergy-provoking proteins. Some breeds also shed less than others, spreading fewer allergens through their hair. These breeds are referred to as hypoallergenic. It is important to point out that no 100% true hypoallergenic feline breed exists. All felines produce allergy-inducing proteins, so a truly hypoallergenic cat is a myth. Even breeds thought to be hypoallergenic can provoke allergic reactions in some humans.

Hypoallergenic Breeds

Several feline breeds are considered low allergy or hypoallergenic. Even hypoallergenic breeds produce allergy-inducing proteins, and all breeds except true hairless will shed. Keeping in mind that no breed is 100% allergen free, those that are considered hypoallergenic include:

  1. Balinese
  2. Bengal
  3. Cornish Rex
  4. Devon Rex
  5. Javanese
  6. Korat
  7. LePerm
  8. Oriental Shorthair
  9. Russian Blue
  10. Siamese
  11. Siberian
  12. Sphynx

Calico Cat Allergies

All cats produce allergy-inducing proteins like Fel d 1, and because calico is not a breed, owners can expect their brindle cats to have normal levels of these allergens. They will also shed regularly, as do all cat breeds. Allergy symptoms affect everyone differently. They can range in severity and longevity. Humans can have different reactions to different cats. Some people with feline allergies report very mild symptoms, while others cannot be in a room where a cat has been. Owners should remember that it is important never to put their own health or a cat’s well-being at risk by bringing a kitty home where someone has allergies without being prepared.

Female cats produce fewer allergens than males. Intact males will produce the most. Kittens do not produce allergens when they are born and start to make more as they mature. The more pets in a home, the more allergens there will be.

Some allergy symptoms will be mildly bothersome, while others can potentially be dangerous. Allergy sufferers may experience sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, watery eyes, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightening of the chest, coughing, facial pain, swelling, skin rash, hives, and more severe reactions like asthma attacks.

People who suffer from feline allergies can also have long-term effects like skin rash, eczema, swollen red eyes, and insomnia. Reactions may be sparked by being in the same room as a feline, their dander, and hair, or by immediate contact. Because every person is unique and every kitty is different, a broad scope of reactions can occur. The intensity of allergy reactions will depend on the person, their sensitivity, and the quantity of allergen they have encountered.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms may be very unpleasant and might include the following:

  1. Itchy, red eyes
  2. Swollen eyes
  3. Watery eyes
  4. Nasal congestion
  5. Sinus pain
  6. Stuffy or runny nose
  7. Coughing
  8. Sneezing
  9. Skin itching
  10. Raised itchy rash, hives
  11. Facial swelling and pain
  12. Trouble sleeping
  13. Irritability
  14. Eczema or hives
  15. Wheezing
  16. Tightness in chest
  17. Asthma attacks

Proteins like Fel d 1 largely cause feline allergies, but they are also triggered by environmental things like dust and pollen, which cats can pick up and spread along with their hair and dander. Outdoor cats will pick up more of these irritants, which is why some people have a stronger reaction to them.

Calico Shedding & Grooming

Calicos will regularly shed, just like any other feline, and some may shed more than others. This will all depend on the kitty’s genetics. Having the brindle coat pattern will not have any impact on if a cat is hypoallergenic or not. It will also not have a lot of impact on how much a cat sheds. The amount any kitty sheds depends on a few different things. The most significant factor is genetics. Because these brindle kitties are mixed breed, it is often hard to pinpoint their exact genetics.

Shedding can be managed through regular grooming and brushing. Longer-haired cats have more hair and need more brushing, but every breed should be brushed at least once or twice a week. Grooming is the most significant tool owners have to manage feline shedding. Regular brushing removes excess hair, dead skin, and dander. This prevents them and allergens from being spread around the house. Do not overlook dental cleaning and nail clipping. These do not impact allergies but are especially important for a cat’s comfort and long-term health.

Feline owners should invest in quality grooming tools like brushes, combs, and grooming gloves. Brushes are not all the same. They include bristle, slicker, rubber, and bathing brushes. Shampoo, conditioner, and detangler are also good to have on hand. Always choose products made specifically for feline use.

Regular grooming is a massive help in managing and preventing major allergy issues. It is also a perfect time to bond with your pet. Make this time memorable. Give your cat lots of praise, cuddles, and treats while grooming. They will start to look forward to this time, and it will be enjoyable, not a struggle. Start grooming kittens when they are young to train kitties to tolerate and enjoy it when they are older. Grooming is also a perfect time to inspect your pet for any injury, skin irritation, tangles, or other physical issues.

Factors That Influence Shedding

While there is no way to truly reduce or control shedding, owners should know that certain factors will affect how much a kitty sheds. This goes for any breed and coloration. Purr parents should monitor their cats regularly to see how much they shed. Excess shedding might be a sign of an underlying issue or medical condition.

Genetics

Genetics is one of the leading factors in how much a cat sheds. With calicos, this is tricky as it is often hard to know what parent breeds they have. Purebred kitties often shed less than mixed breeds. If purchasing a cat from a breeder, owners can ask about shedding, but this is a wait-and-see situation in many cases.

Nutrition

Nutrition is crucial to a kitty’s long-term health and is often reflected in coat quality. Felines who lack a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet may have dull coats and loose skin. Cats must eat protein. They are obligate carnivores and require animal proteins to survive. A kitty’s diet should contain high-quality cat food with an assortment of flavors. Foods that use natural meat proteins are much healthier than those that use only meat meals. They also need healthy fats and Omega fatty acids. Dietary shortcomings can cause bald patches, cuts, scaly skin, sores, itchiness, and more.

Health & Age

The overall health of a cat impacts shedding. Felines battling a skin infection, parasite, or disease can shed more. Older kitties may have looser skin, which can lead to increased shedding. A feline in poor physical health will not have a healthy coat. Purr babies suffering from separation anxiety or other behavior issues are often stressed and shed more as a reaction.

Season & Location

Felines shed more in warmer, drier climates. They also shed more at certain times of the year, usually triggered by seasonal temperature changes. Indoor pets often shed year-round depending on the warmth and climate. Keeping windows shut and placing a humidifier in the home may help lessen shedding and prevent dry skin.

Environment

The environment a kitty is living in is part of how much she sheds. Shedding is a natural reaction to fright, stress, and illness, so keeping a pet in a calmer, healthy environment will help keep shedding lower. Keeping a kitty’s home at a moderate and consistent temperature is helpful, as temperature shifts can trigger shedding. Felines need to feel safe and sound. They also need their personal and special space. A kitty who is shedding more than usual may have an underlying medical problem. Disease, emotional distress, physical stress, and anxiety are some environmental factors that can cause a kitty to shed more.

Tips To Reduce Allergies

Woman sneezes in her handkerchief, runny nose while holding a cat Maine Coon
Though there is no way around these things, feline owners can take steps to manage their allergies.

Owners cannot control how allergic they are, and felines cannot control how many allergy-inducing proteins they produce. One thing to do first is to confirm that feline allergies cause the symptoms. It may be easy and convenient to blame a cat, but they are not always the cause of the allergy. Owners can ask their doctors for a simple test, usually a skin prick test, to diagnose the cat allergy. There are even allergy tests that are able to be done at home.

Medication

If a feline allergy is what is triggering symptoms, many owners choose to take medication like antihistamines. There are several over-the-counter options as well as prescriptions. The medication works differently for everyone. Just like allergies, it all depends on the specific person and the severity of their allergen sensitivity.

Grooming

Managing shedding through consistent grooming is a huge factor in controlling allergy symptoms. Regular grooming and brushing will lessen the number of allergens kitties spread throughout the home. This may not be a job for an allergy sufferer. Kitties can be taken to the groomers if this is something that is a problem for owners to do.

Cleaning

Along with managing shedding, cleaning is another impactful factor that helps manage allergies. Regular cleaning, vacuuming, and cleaning furniture to remove hair and dander are key. Vacuuming should happen as much as needed. For some high-shedding purr babies, this may need to be done every day. Purr parents should consider investing in a high-quality vacuum. Preferably one made specifically to handle pet hair and dander.

Another fantastic cleaning tool is lint rollers. These are inexpensive but work amazingly well to remove hair and dander from clothing and furniture. Cat owners often keep these in the car to remove hair after they leave home.

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are wonderful tools that can make an enormous impact on reducing allergens in a home. They can be placed in multiple rooms to help keep the allergen load as low as possible and work to clean the air constantly. Owners should look for a HEPA filtration system. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filtration, and these systems are a worthy and highly effective choice. They are designed to remove 99.97% of airborne particulates. They remove mold, dust, bacteria, and allergy-inducing proteins like Fel d 1. These are highly recommended for feline owners, especially those that suffer from allergies.

Clean Litter Box

The litter box is no one’s favorite chore but is a daily task for purr parents. This is an area that many do not associate with allergies, but felines shed allergens in the litter box. Keeping it exceptionally clean is beneficial to them in many ways and is also a way to reduce allergen spread significantly. Any owner who suffers from allergies may want to assign this task to a non-allergic family member. Wearing gloves and a facemask when cleaning out the litter will help.

The litter area is a perfect and highly effective place to use a HEPA air filter and air purifier. Keeping this area clean will benefit allergy sufferers and keep kitties healthier. Kitties can be extremely picky about the litter box, so this should constantly be an area that is kept extraordinarily clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Calico cats cause fewer allergies?

Calicos are not considered lower-allergen. Individual kitties may cause less of a reaction in some people, but this is due to the specific kitty’s genetics and breed, not coat coloration.

Are there any cats that are 100% hypoallergenic?

No. This is not something that exists. All feline breeds produce some level of allergy-inducing proteins. All felines shed, except true hairless, and will spread dander, hair, and allergens where they live and play.

Are there any hypoallergenic calicos?

Some can be breeds that are considered hypoallergenic. This is not related to their coat coloring or pattern. There is no way to determine if a kitty is low shedding or low allergen based on coat color and pattern.

Final Thoughts

Calico kitties are beautiful, and many people hope to own one. They are not one breed. Calico is a coat coloring and pattern, not a breed. There is no connection between coat colors or patterns and the number of allergens a kitty will produce. Because these kitties can be many breeds and are often mixed, the only way to learn more about them is to get information about their parent breeds. Because calico is not a breed, it is possible for some to be lower-allergen, but that will depend on the individual animal. Prospective purr parents who have allergies and want a calico purr baby may need to spend some time searching and interacting with different kitties to see how they react before bringing one home.

Kitten on back in bed being tickled

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