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This cat breed is another instance of a natural genetic mutation affecting a part of the cat’s body that has been seen by people as different and attractive. The dominant genetic mutation affects the cartilage of the ear flaps (pinnae) causing the ears to fold down against the head. Cat of this breed were (still are?) called lop-eared cats. With the folded ears and large eyes this cat has the appearance of an owl.
In terms of body shape it is considered to be in between the British and American Shorthair cats1. All Scottish Folds are born with straight ears and not all kittens in a litter will have folded ears. At about 13 to 23 days old the ears start to fold1 (the CFA say 21 days). The ear flap is called the pinna. Selective breeding has created several folds whereas the initial mutation produced one4.
The greatest obstacle to making a success out of this breed of cat is the health issues associated with the genetic mutation that produces the folded ears. Some breeders say that Fold can be breed to Fold while others disagree1.
“We have a 19 year-old indoor Scottish Fold named K.C. He doesn’t have folded ears but is the BEST cat ever. We couldn’t ask for a nicer temperament. He has “raised” 2 children and followed us to 6 different states for the Army without complaining a bit!” …..Susie (Fort Leonard Wood, MO)
|Photos of Scottish Fold copyright Helmi Flick – click on the thumbnails to see some great large format pictures|
The origin of this breed is similar to that of the American Curl and indeed follows the route of other individual cats that have become breeds due to a mutated gene. In 1961, Susie, a white cat with a “fold” in her ears (due to the ear cartilage being affected by the mutated gene), was a barn cat living near Coupar Angus, Scotland (UK). She was born on the McRae farm.
Apparently this cat breed is called the Coupari by some Canadian breeders; I see why. It is said that the long haired Scottish Fold are also called Coupari cats2.
The American Wirehair breed commenced under similar circumstances. The neighbor of the owner of the barn, a shepherd named William Ross noticed Susie and became interested in Susie’s litter, which contained 2 kittens with folded ears. McRae has promised that he would notify Ross when the kittens were born.
One of the kittens with folded ears was a white female who was named, “Snooks” and she was given to Mr Ross and his wife Mary. She was bred by Mr & Mrs Ross to a domestic tabby cat. The other offspring was a white male with folded ears who as aptly named, “Snowball”. The Rosses later acquired a white British Shorthair cat by the name of “Lady May” and thus began the Scottish Fold cat breed1. Susie was killed by a car three months after the birth of Snooks2.
Update Sept 21, 2021: I think this needs to be said at the beginning. A study published in 1999 found that even when selective breeding was restricted to Scottish Fold x non-Scottish Fold the resultant offspring had cartilage problems in varying degrees. Whatever breeders do, they create cats that are unhealthy. The study concluded:
“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.”
That means to stop breeding the Scottish Fold as I interpret it. The study: Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold cats on National Library of Medicine. Please read what follows in the light of these facts. This cat breed is too problematic to carry on breeding.
The breeding indicated that the gene causing the folded ears was dominant (it’s action can be described as “dominant with incomplete penetrance”, meaning I presume, in layman’s terms, that the effect of the gene is not always present). The book “Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats” (edited by Dr Clark) says that the gene is autosomal dominant. A dominant gene results in at least half the litter having the mutated gene’s characteristic. The gene is labeled as “Fd”. As there are different degrees of ear fold there may be other genes involved that modify the action of the Fd gene.
The initial breeding program produced 76 kittens in the first three years—42 with folded ears and 34 with straight ears3 indicating the presence of the dominant mutated gene.
The Scottish gentleman (local shepherd William Ross) cat fancier and cat breeder who started the breed (with the help of geneticist Pat Turner3) tried to register the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF – the UK cat fancy registry). They agreed in 1966 but withdrew registration in 19712 and that is still the case (neither does Europe as a whole register this breed). This is for health reasons. Ears that are folded over offer the potential for ear infection and mites, potential deafness plus there are the associated health issues mentioned below.
Some gene mutations confine their influence on the formation of the cat’s body to a particular area (e.g the folded ear). However, this mutated gene is not only associated with the folded ears but a thickening tail and swollen (thickened) feet. The thickened tail results in less flexibility.
Please note this though (and don’t be put off or think that I am being too negative about this breed):- Good breeders will do all they can to minimize this and breeding Fold to non-Fold rarely produces a cat with the accompanying tail and feet deficiencies (but see below). See more on health issues below.
If the cat has both the mutated genes (homozygous form – genes come in pairs) then the kitten will die in the womb. There is a similarity here with the dwarf cat as the dwarf gene also has a potential for causing “secondary” defects (in the dwarf cat this can be, for example, a “tight chest”). You can read more about dwarf cats on this website. The dwarf gene also affects cartilage growth. However, Dr Clark says that fold to fold mating results in 1 in 3 Scottish Fold kittens that develop mild to severe skeletal lesions. These are prognathia, vertebral deformities and severe joint disease. The deformed vertebrae affect the coccygeal vertebrae causing a shortened tail. The tail becomes very inflexible. The bones in the rear legs may be shortened causing curved hocks.
Accordingly, this breed has to be developed by breeding heterozygotes to American and British Shorthair cats. The results in many purebred Scottish Fold cats with normal ears.
Dr Clark’s book also mentions that red blood cell destruction happens more commonly in the Scottish Fold newborn kittens than in other breeds. This condition is called Neonatal erythrolysis. The disease is a major cause of fading kitten syndrome.
There may be a problem with treating ear mites due to the folded ears.
In a talk given by Richard Malik, BVSc, DipVetAn, MVetClinStud, PhD, FACVSc, MASM at the 28th Congress of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association on genetic disorders of cats, he referred to the condition Osteochondrodysplasia in this cat.
Even when cats of this breed are mated with normal eared cats resulting in heterozygous cats a progressive arthritic condition takes hold. He says that this is to be expected as the folded ears are due to cartilage that is insufficiently resilient to maintain the shape of the ear flap (pinna). As a result, it is not surprising that articular cartilage (cartilage where bone meets bone) is not fit for purpose.
See a post below. It is a real story about this condition and I have attempted to answer the person’s request for advice: Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold Cats [link]
This breed was exported to the USA (1971) and breeding continued by crossing with British and American Shorthair cats2. As might be expected the defining feature of the Scottish Fold, the ears, has been “enhanced” through selective breeding so that the ear now folds more smoothly (i.e. the fold is in three places as opposed to a single place).
The breeding program has resulted in this breed having long and short hair of various colors and patterns except Siamese and Himalayan style pointing (this may be for health reasons). However, the Cat Fanciers Association allow the pointed pattern.
Update 6th Dec. 2008: Scottish Fold Kittens [link] is a post reflecting on the dilemma of whether we should adopt a cat of this breed.
I have not distinguished thus far between long haired and short haired Scottish Folds. The cat heading this page is a long-haired cat, for example.
The two types, long and short haired, differ only in respect of hair length. In the UK, specifically England, the British Shorthair cat had frequently been used as an outcross for the Fold. And the Persian had been an outcross for the Brit SH, so it is no surprise some long hair crept into the Scottish Fold.
The long-haired Fold achieved TICA championship status in 1987. When breeding long haired Folds two genes are involved. The dominant gene causing the folded ears and the long-haired gene, which is recessive to the gene for short hair. To enhance the prospect of achieving a long-haired cat, two Scottish Folds need to be bred (e.g. two long haired cats of this breed). That is bad practice vis-à-vis the defective, mutated gene that causes the folded ears, as there is a risk that the kittens could develop into crippled cats due to cartilage defects in the leg joins.
Perhaps the Scottish Fold long haired cat is more easy going than the short haired cat. They are undemanding and gentle. Longhaired Scottish Folds are called Scottish Fold Longhair, Highland Fold, Longhair Fold and Coupari depending on the cat association2.
Appearance – Character – show requirements
They are quiet cats with small voices and a nice yet hardy1 character. They like companionship and attention. The combination makes them suitable for apartment of full-time indoor living if that is acceptable to the person generally. The ears are small and tightly folded. The Scottish Fold is not cobby or massive but of medium size. In cat fancy parlance the body shape is semi-cobby.
The Scottish Fold has a short nose and a round, broad head. The coat is dense, plush and medium short. The coat stands out from the body. The eyes, which should conform to coat color1 are round and large and there is a slight “stop” between the forehead and the nose. The length of the muzzle although short but not as short as that of the Persian (non-existent almost) and longer than the muzzle of the British Shorthair1.
In the show hall cats with tails that lack flexibility, kinked or short are disqualified. All colors of all divisions of the pointed and traditional categories are accepted by the associations1.
Important: As a result of the potential for secondary problems caused by the mutation, when adopting a Scottish Fold it is sensible to gently check tail flexibility and thickness. The cat should have no lack of mobility due to short coarse legs or splayed toes. The hardening of the cartilage of the tail (and sometimes the ears) can develop later.
When adopting it would be wise to discuss this. Helmi made a good point about this. Once you have adopted a Scottish Fold you will bond with him/her and you will not want to return your cat. Clarify this issue at the beginning for you and your new companion.
“This is my first fold Finlay and he won’t be my last! He is 7 months old and follows me everywhere. I have had 5 other cats but, there is just something about this baby that is extra special!”….Cindy Z (Chula Vista, CA)
When a cat is being defensive she flattens her ears completely to protect her ears from claws during a fight.
This cat breed displays the defensive ear position all the time giving her a continuously defensive appearance. This may have an effect on how she is perceived by other cats that may live with her.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…
Mating a Scottish Fold with a Himalayan – Advice Please
Dexter is a two-year-old Scottish Fold. He has not been neutered. I am wanting to breed him with a Himalayan. He has no interest in her. This …
Stray Scottish Fold?
I moved in with my son and his family about a year and six months ago. They have a neutered male cat, named Li’l Boy, who is a small grey/black striped …
My Fold Was Called Ginger
When I moved to my present home, on the very first day I noticed a large cat with funny ears sitting in the front garden.
I didn’t know at the time …
My Scottish Fold Manz
I have had this cat from a wild litter since he was 4 weeks old. He has no tail and has the flat ears. He has recently developed Osteochondrodysplasia …
My Fold’s Name is May
We rescued May from the RSPCA where nobody wanted her because they thought she had cancer because of her ears. She turned out to be a loving cat and we …
My Scottish Fold Named Pete
I adopted 2 cats 5 months ago, brother and sister, he has the deformity and she doesn’t, but I love him to death. He is so funny he is always sitting like …
My Lovely Scottish Folds and Scottish Straights Cats from Dunvegan Cattery
Cats are my greatest hobby and I am committed and passionate about them. Initially, I did not set out to create a commercial enterprise. I like to be engaged …
Blue Scottish Fold Named Gibson
I have a blue Scottish fold named Gibson. He is two years old. When I first got him, it was immediately apparent that he had some problems. His tail was …
Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold Cats
I went through a rescue site 2 yrs ago and got my male fold. I was taken advantage of as the man that had this cat originally had purchased him when he …
A friend just had me look at U-Tube videos of the “famous” Maru. The one in the Fresh-Step commercial. They claim he is a Sottish Fold. I took in the stray …
Petey and Pearl Not rated yet
Petey and Pearl are my husband’s grandma’s cats. They are litter mates, Petey has the folded ears while Pearl doesn’t. I went with my husband (then …
I have a Scottish Fold that has one ear up and the other folded Not rated yet
Hi, I love your site! I have a question. I have a Scottish Fold that has one ear up and the other folded. Is this ear pattern unusual for a Scottish …
My Scottish Fold Symphony Not rated yet
This is my kitty Symphony. She was the best cat I ever had with the cutiest routine every night that we called “the symphony shuffle”.
When it was …
Sources other than stated elsewhere:
- As stated in the text
- this source link is broken and has been removed (Oct 2012)
- Breeder sites
- Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu
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