Tabby Vs Calico Cat: Key Differences

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

tabby vs calico cat

Felines come with various fur colors and patterns – and we use these factors to determine which type of cat breed our feline friend is!

Two of the most distinctive fur coat patterns we know are tabby and calico. Not only do these two cat breeds have stunning coat patterns, they also have different personalities that make them unique.

In this article, we will delve into, tabby vs calico cat, and offer some tips on how to better distinguish the two from each other and their required care to keep them happy.

Tabby vs. Calico Cats: a Detailed Comparison

Tabby cat Calico cat
Weight Up to 18 lbs Up to 12 lbs
Length 40 inches 18 inches
Personality Friendly, independent, social Independent, sassy, affectionate
Shedding Average Minimal
Care requirements Depends on the cat breed
Health risks Healthy More prone to risks
Lifespan Up to 18 years Up to 15 years
Hypoallergenic No

1. Tabby Cat


Separate from most cat owners’ ideas about tabby cats, this type of cat is not a cat breed. The coat patterns of this “mini-me” of wild tigers with stunning stripes could be seen as well with other cat breeds.

The tabby cat pattern is one of the most common patterns among cat breeds. It is also said that Tabbies might have come from the Middle East or France due to their known silk.

One amazing trivia about Tabbies is that they are male-dominated, and female Tabbies are rare!

2. Calico Cat


Like Tabbies, Calico cats comprise a vast array of cat breeds in a way that has many variations. And the amazing thing about these variations is that they are never the same! Like a snowflake, each pattern will have a unique distinction.

This domestic cat is rather friendly and independent, thus an ideal pet choice for families.

One thing interesting about Calicos is their population, which females dominate. The smaller portion of male calico cats is usually sterile.

Differences Between Tabby and Calico Cats

1. Physical Appearance


Although Tabbies have various coat patterns, most Tabbies have striped-design coat patterns. The following are the most common fur patterns Tabbies have:

  1. Classic
  2. Mackerel (striped)
  3. Spotted
  4. Agouti (ticked)

Tabbies can also be identified by the “M” marking on their forehead, dark eyeliner around their eyes, and slimmer belly than the rest of their body.

Calicos, on the other hand, are known for their patches with a wide range of colors: orange, black, and white.

Same with Tabbies, their patterns can be seen from various cat breeds – being up to 75% white with orange and black patches as part of their patterns.

The most common pattern you may see with Calicos are their necks and belly will be covered with a white coat. The rest could be splattered with different color spots – most likely orange or black.

Below is an image of a calico cat brown:


2. Cat Personality

tabby-vs-calico-cat-personalityGenerally, it is difficult to say the specific personality of Tabbies since it can differ from their cat breed. However, cat owners mostly know Tabbies as independent, adventurous, and fun to be with.

Calico cats are the same with Tabbies and are known for being independent. They are more playful and intelligent than Tabbies and seem sassy and bold.

Regardless, both cats are friendly and affectionate. You will not have any difficulty bringing either of them home because they are both pet- and kid-friendly!

3. Behavior


Tabbies love being social, so you may see your Tabby cat to be around your family gathering or sitting on your lap during a family event.

They are also attention-seekers sometimes, especially when you don’t notice them or not pay attention to them as they enter the room. They will likely make sure you notice them!

Tabby cats are known for being active as well, so if you have a lot of energy to play with your pets, Tabby might just be for you.

However, despite the good, there is also some downside with Tabbies. Usually, Tabbies are labeled as stubborn. When they do not get what they want, they may behave a bit stubbornly to push through what they want.

4. Cost


Purebred tabbies usually cost around $700 to $1500, while designer tabbies like Bengals could cost around $2000 and more.

Same with Tabbies, Calico cats vary depending on the cat breed. But generally, they can cost as low as $200 up to $2000.

Related: Tabby cat vs Bengal cat: A Comparison of Two Popular Cat Breeds.

5. About their Health


Tabbies can be expected to live up to 15 years onwards. Even though it varies from cat breed to cat breed, these are some common health risks of Tabbies:

  1. Hyperthyroidism
  2. Urinary issues
  3. Stomach problems
  4. Weight loss

Calicos, on the other hand, are more prone to health risks, especially the male population. Usually, male Calico cats are prone to Klinefelter’s Syndrome, which makes them sterile. Aside from this, the syndrome also gives them cognitive, behavioral, and developmental issues and a tendency to obesity.

6. Care Requirements

Cat care for Tabbies and Calicos varies on the cat breed you have. For example, Maine Coon tabby might require more cat care than others. And long-haired Calico breeds might require more coat brushing than short-haired ones.

Regardless, it is still essential to give them the basic necessary cat care they need, such as regular fur brushing, nail trimming, and proper diet.

Which Cat is Right For You?


Here are some factors you might consider before adopting either a Calico or Tabby cat:

  1. Cat Pattern: Comparing the two cats, the only thing that separates them is some minimal personality traits but big on their physical appearance.
  2. Availability and Pricing: Calicos are rarer than Tabbies and have a smaller male population, which makes them more expensive than Tabbies.
  3. Gender: If you prefer male cats over females, consider Tabbies!
  4. Breed: If neither Calicos nor Tabby’s pattern does not appear to be the cat breed you prefer, you might reconsider adopting either.

Pros and Cons

We have crafted a table better to illustrate the pros and cons of each cat.

  • Tabby Cats
  • Friendly, social, and extroverted
  • Available anywhere and anytime
  • Lots of coat variations and patterns
  • Affordable price
  • May be stubborn and loud sometimes
  • Can have different cat care requirements and health risks depending on cat breed
  • Might have a tendency to be fat
  • Calico Cats
  • Playful, active, and affectionate
  • Independent and smart
  • Have beautiful color patches
  • Known for being a good luck cat
  • Minimal shedding
  • Might have tendency to be too active and sassy
  • Less number of male cats and usually sterile
  • Prone to health risks
  • Might not be accessible easily

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cat breed is more active, a tabby or a calico?

Calico cats are deemed more active than Tabby, although Tabbies love to play around with their owners, too. With more energy of playfulness than Tabbies, Calico cats are definitely good pets if you want some extra active cats.

What are the common health problems that tabby and calico cats may experience?

Some common health issues that both these cats may experience are urinary, obesity, and throat issues.

How do I know if my cat is a calico?

One factor you should look out for if you’re unsure if your cat is Calico is its appearance. Calico cats usually have tri-color spots or patches on the upper part of their body and have 25% to 75% white fur with black and orange patches.

If you are still not convinced, you may use a CatScanner.

Can a cat be calico and tabby?

Yes, the Calico Tabby mix exists and can be called, Calico tiger cat.

This mixed color cat consists of black, red, and any other color depending on the cat breed. But definitely, the genes of Calico are evident through its main white fur coat.

Aside from this pattern, this mix also displays the physical features of Tabbies, which includes the “M” marking on the cat’s forehead.

How does a diluted tabby cat differ from a regular calico-tabby mix?

Compared to a regular Calico pattern, you will most likely see the color patches of this mix as cream and blue instead of orange and black.

Is there a marble calico cat?

Yes, there might be a cat mix like this – a mix of Calico and Tortie cats. Torties are known for their black and orange spots as well and kinda looks like Calico. So, the mix of them might be a little hard to distinguish.

Is there a brindle calico cat?

It could be! In general, Tortoiseshell cats have a higher chance to be brindle having small portions of black and red patches.

However, having more white patches in a Tortie cat could result in classifying it as a Calico cat!


We hope this article, tabby vs calico cat, has helped you better to distinguish a tabby cat from a calico cat.

Both cats have distinct traits and features that might have a huge effect on you. Whichever you choose between these two breeds, consider other important factors as well, such as your own preference, the cat’s personality, and the availability.

No matter which cat you choose, make sure to take care of it by providing the necessary basic needs and care.

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