Meet Phenomenon, The Male Tricolor Cat

PhinnyHe may look like a standard stray cat, but Phinny, short for Phenomenon, is quite different.

Employees at the Escondido Humane Society say that he is a rare specimen and an “once in a lifetime” cat that they have never seen before.

Not until employees were about to spay Phinny did they realize that he needed to be neutered instead. That was when he got his name Phinny.

What makes six-month-old Phinny so different? He is a male tortoiseshell, a tricolor cat. And this is quite rare. Because in the terms of genetics, Phinny is an anomaly.

“In my 15 years of working with animals, this is the first live male tortoiseshell that I’ve ever seen,” said Staci Fitzgerald, the society’s director of animal care. “He’s absolutely striking, a real genetic anomaly.

A local veterinarian agreed and said that he has only seen one male tortoiseshell cat in his 23 years of practice.

Tortoiseshell cats, also called torties, have coats with a patchy color combination of black, orange and white. They are mostly always females.

A tortie’s coat is the result of a combination of two forms of one gene carried only on the X chromosome, one of two that determine sex. The coloration expresses itself when one X carrying one form of the gene and another carrying the second form combine. Two X chromosomes equal a female.

Since normal male cats are XY chromosome, a male tortie cat is impossible.

But, a few tortie cats are born with a genetic deformity. They have an extra sex chromosome, an X-X-Y combination. If both Xs carry the gene for tricolor, a male tortie will be produced. Experts say that about one in 3,000 tortoiseshells are males.

The extra chromosome, called Klinefelter’s Syndrome, can also be associated with many deformities. Many cats with the extra chromosome do not have the coloration or develop abnormalities.

Also only one in about 10,000 male torties are fertile. The ones that are fertile cannot produce more male torties.

But, Phinny is reported to be healthy and is developing well. He is looking for a new home and is up for adoption at the Escondido Humane Society.


12 Responses to “Meet Phenomenon, The Male Tricolor Cat”

  1. Eric says:

    I have a male calico (”tri-color”) at home. His name is Gidget. We thought he was ’she’ until his first vet exam.

  2. 2CatMom says:

    I read somewhere that male calicos/torties are always sterile. Eric (or anyone else) - do you know if this is true?

  3. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    They should do some DNA tests on him. He could be a chimera, with a mosaic coat pattern. They are also as rare as a male tortie, maybe even more so. I hope they neutered him anyway because if he is a chimera he could still be fertile.

  4. Scratch says:

    I once saw a male dilute calico. White with cream and gray markings.

  5. Gina says:

    About 1 in every 3,000 calico/tortoiseshell cats are male, but not “nomal males.” They’re “Klinefelter Syndrome” males, because they have not the XY chromosomal configuration of a normal male, but an XXY — and extra X!

    They’re usually sterile.

    More on this in one of my old newspaper columns:


    (Read down to the first QandA)

  6. mittens says:

    male calicos/tricolors are usually sterile.if he is a chimera as stated above he is fertile- he can only pass on the gene for either red tabbies or black cats.he can’t father more male torties if anyone was wondering.

    this is the best site about cats with an extensive work up of the genetics of the calico cat. i have 4 calico/torties. i just love them.

  7. mittens says:

    oh, and they think the chimera is more common than the male tortie. this is because of more interestin and better understanding of dna.

  8. nic says:

    i was just reading about tricolor cats. not only did i not realize they were so rare if male but usually sterile. well Mr. Steve my tricolor must be truly unique. not only is he a tricolor but the nite before i got him fixed he knocked up my one of my other cats. also several cats in the neighborhood look very much like him. : )

  9. are red tabbies always male says:

    […] pass on the gene for either red tabbies or black cats.he can’t father more male torties if … Article: Tabby PersianMost red tabbies are out of solid color breedings … Gary Powell, from […]

  10. Wendy says:

    We have a male tortoiseshell!!! He is beautiful with medium hair. He was found as a stray in Medina, Ohio and brought to our shelter - Kitten Krazy - by a volunteer for basic medical care.

  11. Amy Huster says:

    I have a dark male tortoishell named Bandy. I had to change his name from Brandy one day when he jumped onto the cabinet, and I got a good look at his behind.

  12. Rick Moss says:

    I have a litter of three kittens, one is a long hair gray, cream and white female. One is a black and orange torti female and the other one is a gray and cream torti with a white underbelly and is male!! I was very excited when I saw it was a boy!

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