How do you know if a Scottish Fold kitten that you are buying had a Scottish Fold father and mother? You absolutely need to know because if he/she did, then at four to six months of age the kitten may suffer from severely painful defects of bones and cartilage.
It is called the breeding of homozygote cats. When both parents have the folded ear gene the offspring will usually begin to show symptoms of congenital osteodystrophy. This is a very severe condition with many symptoms such as a thick and short tail and thickened bones which are tender to the touch.
The kitten may avoid jumping, be limp, walk stiffly when adult, be inactive to avoid pain, lack coordination and move slowly.
Even Scottish Folds bred from one parent with folded ears and the other parent being a American Shorthair can suffer from osteochondrodysplasia (disorder in the development of bone and cartilage) to some degree. This means that they should be checked for damage to bone and cartilage even if the cat does not have folded ears.
A research study in Australia in 1999 concerned Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold Cats. The researchers studied cases seen in veterinary clinics and cats in a cattery. Six Scottish Folds had signs of skeletal disease and symptoms as described above. The researchers state:
“As all Scottish Fold cats suffered from osteochondrodysplasia of some degree, the best solution would be to avoid using fold-eared cats for breeding and instead use Scottish shorthairs.”
Andreas Steiger in The Welfare of Cats lists the symptoms and associated welfare problems of cats with folded ears:
- severely painful defects in bones and cartilage
- chondrodystrophy – cartilage development goes wrong
- osteodystrophy – defective bone development
- dysplasia of epiphysis – disorder of cartilage and bone development (even sometimes in heterzygote cats meaning cats parented by one Scot Fold and one non-Scot Fold)
- tail and vertebrae defects
- short legs
He does not elucidate as to whether these symptoms and defects are present in well bred Scot Folds but clearly hints that sometimes this cat is not properly bred and in which case these health problems will exist. How often are they bred incorrectly? There are strict breeding guidelines. I hope they are rigorously followed.
Andreas also claims that Scot Folds may have impaired behavior due to the impact of flat ears on social communication.
All the above having been said, good breeders should create a relatively hardy cat with a 15 year life expectancy.