Scottish Fold Cats

Well-Known for Its Unusual Ears

Sweet natured and demure, many Scottish fold cats have a feature unlike any other cat: folded ears that give the breed an owl-like appearance.

However, not all Scottish fold cats are guaranteed to have the trademark folded ear. At birth, all Scottish fold cats have straight ears; only those with the fold gene will begin to display a change in appearance within one month of age.

What began years ago as a barn cat's random ear mutation has become one of today's most sought-after distinctions in the Scottish fold cat.

Scottish fold cat

In 1961, a farmer in Scotland discovered a white cat taking up residence in his barn. The cat, which he named "Susie," had unusual looking ears that lay flat against her head. When Susie gave birth to a litter of kittens, two had the same ear mutation.

A neighboring farmer and cat fancier took one such kitten home and started to breed the cat with the help of a geneticist. Throughout the first several years, 76 kittens were born, 42 of which developed the same unusual ears as a result of a genetic mutation which causes the cat's ear cartilage to contain a fold.

It was determined that the folded ear mutation could be present only if one parent carried the gene for folded ears and the other carried the gene for straight ears.

The mutation does not affect the cat's ability to hear; in fact, those born with the mutation still use their ears as a cat typically would — swiveling them to listen to certain sounds, pulling them back when provoked, afraid or angry, and pricked upwards when curious.

In 1966, the cats — all sharing a common ancestry to Susie — were named the Scottish fold cat breed. Within 10 years, the breed was one of the most sought-after breeds throughout Europe and America due to its unusual physical trait and its reputation as an affectionate companion.

Scottish fold cats are known to possess an easy-going nature, and to be very loving and friendly with people and other household pets.

This breed, outgoing and playful, tends to become particularly attached to one family member. The Scottish fold cat is also known for its soft voice and the ability to "speak" in a variety of different-sounding purrs and meows not commonly heard in many other cat breeds.

Fun fact: These cats can often be found sitting in the "Buddha Position," with their hind legs stretched out in front of them and resting their front paws on their belly. They also prefer to sleep on their backs.

Scottish fold cat

In addition to those carrying the genetic ear mutation and possessing a cap-like appearance, Scottish fold cats have an overall rounded look: round eyes, a round face and full cheeks.

This is a medium-sized breed, with weights averaging between 6 to 13 pounds; females are usually in the low to middle weight range, while males tip the scales in the middle to high range.

Scottish fold cats can have short or long hair and any one of a variety of coat colors including white, gray, black, lilac, blue, cream and a combination of those colors. Some cat registries have given the breed additional names depending on its type of coat: the Highland fold, the Scottish fold longhair, the longhair fold and the Coupari.

Scottish fold cat

Listed below are some common medical conditions for Scottish fold cats. As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.

  • Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that often results in congestive heart failure. It is life threatening and can result in blood clots that cause pain and acute paralysis of a cat’s rear legs. The cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown but hereditary factors are thought to play a role in development of the disorder in cats. You can have your cat tested for the heart condition by a veterinary cardiologist.
  • Ear conditions: While there was concern years ago about the breed having ear mite and ear infection issues, good breeding practices have made these conditions a non-issue, although Scottish fold cats may develop more wax buildup in their ears as compared to other cats.
  • Osteochondrodysplasia is a genetic abnormality, in which certain bones are deformed from birth, specifically legs and tail vertebrae. The only way to prevent this severe version of the condition is to practice responsible breeding and never breed one Scottish Fold with another. In fact, the genetic mutation that causes the ears to be folded also results in joint cartilage abnormalities in all Scottish fold cats with folded ears, causing early onset lameness, arthritis and other joint diseases.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a congenital kidney disease where cysts form in the kidneys and gradually increase in size as the cat ages. The disease can be managed by special diets that help reduce the workload of the kidneys; however, progression of the disorder may lead to terminal kidney failure.