Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch
Prescriptions delivered free to you
Fast access to Licensed Vets over video
Unlimited video visits and follow-ups
Looking for an easygoing, playful, and adorable cat? The Scottish Fold might be just right for you. These snuggle-loving felines are best known for their uniquely folded ears and plump body, making them very popular pets. They are sometimes described as teddy bear cats or as having an owl-like appearance due to their large eyes and round faces. They’re sweet and generally easygoing, so they’re perfectly suited to living in a family with children or other pets. Scottish Folds come in both a short and long-haired variety, but the short-haired is more common.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a cat, this article is a great place to start. Let’s explore the ins and outs of this cute and cuddly breed.
- History & Origin of Scottish Fold Cats
- Physical Attributes of Scottish Fold Cats
- Behavioral Characteristics of Scottish Fold Cats
- Common Scottish Fold Health Issues
- Caring for Scottish Folds
- Final Notes
History & Origin Of Scottish Fold Cats
Amazingly, Scottish Folds can trace their ancestry back to one specific cat, whose name was Susie. She was a folded-ear barn cat living on the McRae farm in the Tayside region of Scotland. Although there are earlier references to cats with similar folded ears in China in the 18th century (these were more commonly called “drop-eared cats”), their resemblance to Scottish Folds is thought to be purely coincidental.
The lineage of Scottish Fold cats began in the 1960s, when two breeders of British Shorthairs, named Mary and William Ross, met Susie. In 1963, they were given a white female kitten from Susie, whom they named Snooks. Eventually, they bred Snooks with a red male tabby cat. Snooks and the red tabby produced a litter with one male (Snowball), who was later bred with a white British Shorthair (Lady May). And so began the lineage of Scottish Folds.1
In 1966, Scottish Folds became an officially recognized cat breed. People began breeding them in Europe for the sole purpose of creating more cats with the specific folded-ear mutation. However, there was also a growing concern over these cats’ increased risk of ear-related health problems, like deafness and mites. In 1971, the English Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) officially banned further registration of Scottish Folds.
Since they were no longer an accepted breed on English soil, geneticist Dr. Neil Todd from New England brought three of Snook’s kittens across the ocean to the United States. Todd had been in the process of collecting cats with various unique mutations to present to the GCCF as a scientific inspection. Once Scottish Folds were banned in England, however, he was forced to shut down his project and the cats were adopted into good homes.1
In 1970, Dr. Oliphant Jackson, an English geneticist, released a report stating that Scottish Folds were genetically predisposed to bone problems. This insight made it clear to both breeders and geneticists that they would have to introduce outcrossing—the mating together of cats of different varieties, different breeds or of a pedigree cat to a 'foundation cat' of unrecorded ancestry—in order to improve the general health of Scottish Folds.2 Outcrossing remains an important part of Scottish Fold breeding today.1
Physical Attributes Of Scottish Fold Cats
With their round head and neatly folded ears, Scottish Folds are pleasing to the eye. Many people love how their ears enhance the roundness of their face, because it makes them look even cuter. At birth, the ears are usually unfolded and upright, but start to bend forward at about 4 weeks old.3
The folded ears are a result of a genetic mutation of the Fd gene, which causes the ear cartilage to become exceptionally flexible. Since it’s a dominant trait, only one copy of the gene is needed for offspring to inherit folded ears. A Scottish Fold should never mate with another Scottish Fold, because that would give the Fd gene double strength, causing highly problematic bone problems. These cats are often bred with British or American Shorthairs to maintain the breed’s overall health.3
This breed comes in a wide variety of colors and coat patterns, including:
- Solid color
Eye color is usually determined by the color of the coat. White and bicolor varieties typically have blue eyes, but heterochromia—eyes that are each a different color— is also common. Those with a darker coat color, like blue-gray or black, normally have yellow eyes.
This breed has a short, thick coat that is easy to manage and very soft. There is also a long-haired variety, but they are less common. This variety has longer coats of various textures and require more thorough grooming.4
Behavioral Characteristics Of Scottish Fold Cats
Scottish Folds are not only popular for their unique physical characteristics, but also for their sweet and gentle nature. Loud households or busy environments aren’t a problem for them, but they also thrive just as well in quieter, single-person homes. They tend to have tiny, quiet voices but will let you know if they want something.5
A Scottish Fold loves affection and spending time with their owner. They will eagerly hang out during family activities or for a cuddle session on the couch. They are fairly intelligent and therefore need significant playtime and stimulation. Overall, these cats are affectionate, calm, playful, and quiet.5
Common Scottish Fold Health Issues
Although Scottish Folds are beloved for their folded ears, the gene mutation responsible for it can cause more serious health problems. Their folded ears are an inherited cartilage defect known as osteochondrodysplasia, which can also cause deformities in other parts of the body. Since it’s a dominant gene mutation, all kittens in a litter are affected. It can cause significant skeletal and joint problems, leading to painful arthritis, abnormally thick tails, stiff legs, and spinal abnormalities. Affected cats may eventually become hesitant or unable to do normal things, like walking, jumping, or playing.6
Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteochondrodysplasia, as it’s a progressive disease. Scottish Folds with arthritis will likely need consistent, long-term care and pain relief. Sometimes, dietary supplements can help slow the progression of the condition. In rare cases, surgery or radiotherapy might help. If the condition is severe enough, the cat may become completely crippled, and will need to be put down. With Scottish Folds this has a higher chance of happening early in their lives, but ultimately all Scottish Folds will suffer from some degree of painful degenerative joint disease in their lifetime. The only way to prevent osteochondrodysplasia is to never breed them with other Scottish Folds.6
Scottish Folds are also at risk of developing inherited polycystic kidney disease. It’s characterized by small, liquid-filled cysts in kidney tissue. These cysts multiply and grow, which can eventually lead to kidney failure. The cause remains unknown and the only consistent element seems to be the genetic abnormality found in Scottish Folds and some other cat breeds.7
This breed also has a higher than average risk of developing feline diabetes (Type I or Type II). Just like with human diabetes, a cat with this disease is unable to produce or respond enough to the hormone, insulin. This results in elevated blood glucose levels. Cats typically suffer from Type II diabetes, wherein blood sugar is high because cells in the body don’t respond properly to insulin.8
Risk factors include:
- Old age
- Lack of physical activity
- Male gender
- Certain steroids that are sometimes used to treat feline asthma and other illnesses8
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is also a common illness in cats and Scottish Folds, in particular. HCM causes thickening in the walls of the heart, which decreases the heart’s overall function. This can also start to cause problems in other parts of the body. Like with polycystic kidney disease, the cause of feline HCM is unknown.9
Caring For Scottish Folds
Diet & Nutrition
In terms of cat nutrition, all cats are different and have unique dietary needs based on age, activity level, and underlying health conditions. Consult with a vet to determine the most appropriate diet and routine for your cat. Cats are obligate carnivores and should get most of their nutrition from meat and other animal proteins.
Scottish Folds have a naturally rounder body shape, so it’s important to monitor their body condition to make sure they don’t become overweight. Good-quality, commercial cat food is a perfectly fine option to feed your Scottish Fold.10
Exercise & Enrichment
All cats need some degree of exercise and enrichment through play to hone their natural instincts. Cat wands, interactive puzzle feeders, and string toys are all great ways to make sure your feline pal gets both mental and physical stimulation.
Scottish Folds particularly enjoy climbing on cat trees and spending time outdoors, because they have a high hunting drive. Always make sure to supervise any outdoor playtime. Or, bring the great outdoors to your cat with some cat grass.
Grooming is important to keep your cat’s coat clean and healthy, as well as free from tangles, matting, and debris. Fortunately, Scottish Folds have a short, easily manageable coat that only requires light brushing now and again. Brushing removes excess hair, which can help reduce the likelihood of hairballs. Their folded ears make it difficult for them to clean their ears on their own, so if you own a Scottish Fold you should make sure to clean the ears regularly and remove any build-up of wax or dirt. Try to keep their ears dry as much as possible.5
Routine Veterinary Care
Your Scottish Fold will need a routine vet exam at least once a year. Older or chronically ill cats should be examined twice a year. You should also give your feline friend flea medication every month. Here at Dutch, we can help you bridge the gap between your in-person vet visits and help answer any questions that may come up in the meantime.
Are Scottish Folds born with folded ears?
No. They are born with straight ears, but their ears start to bend and fold inward at around 4 weeks of age.
Can Scottish Fold cats hear well?
Yes. Even with their folded ears, Scottish Fold cats have no problems with their hearing.
How much is a Scottish Fold cat?
It depends. You can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1500 from a breeder. Make sure the breeder is responsible. The best way to prevent health problems in Scottish Folds is to simply opt for another breed, so as not to increase breeding demand. It is important to note that there are several organizations that argue against breeding Scottish Folds due to their likelihood of developing arthritis.
Scottish Fold cats make wonderful companions and are highly popular. They are predisposed to a few genetic health conditions, due to their signature folded ears. While they don’t require a lot of specialized care, you should be aware of the health risks of this breed and always get your pets from responsible breeders. These cats do well in both busy and quiet households and enjoy some outdoor time. However, they also love to snuggle up on their owners lap and will show a lot of affection towards people they trust.
Considering adopting one of these lovable kitties? What an exciting first step towards pet ownership! Read our blog to find out more about caring for a Scottish Fold. You can learn about other interesting breeds like Lykoi cats and Highlander cats as well.
We also offer telemedicine services that allow you to speak with a licensed vet from the comfort of your own home. Our vets will be happy to answer any of your questions and concerns. Try Dutch today to make caring for your pets stress-free.
Sutton, Grace. “Scottish Folds.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc. (CFA), https://cfa.org/scottish-fold/scottish-fold-article/.
Lyons, Leslie A. “GCCF Policy on the Use of Outcrossing in Cat Breeding Programmes.” Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, 2017, www.gccfcats.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Outcrossing-Policy-2017.pdf.
“Scottish Fold.” Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California Davis, https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/scottish-fold.
Mitten, Mandi. “Scottish Fold Cat Breed Facts & Info.” Animal Corner, 10 June 2022, https://animalcorner.org/cat-breeds/scottish-fold/.
Calum Macrae. “Scottish Fold Cat Breed Information.” Purina, www.purina.co.uk/find-a-pet/cat-breeds/scottish-fold.
“What Are the Animal Welfare Problems Associated with Scottish Fold Cats?” RSPCA Knowledgebase, 9 Nov. 2018, https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-problems-associated-with-scottish-fold-cats/.
“Polycystic Kidney Disease.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 22 May 2018, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/polycystic-kidney-disease.
“Feline Diabetes.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 29 Nov. 2021, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-diabetes.
“Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 23 July 2018, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/hypertrophic-cardiomyopathy.
Pets. “Scottish Fold.” Mascotarios Pets, www.mascotarios.org/en/scottish-fold/.