Scottish Fold Title

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Taylor Swift made a huge social media splash when she adopted her beautiful Scottish Fold kitten, Olivia. Everyone seems to be falling in love with those adorable folded ears! These unique kitties have a new found fame. Adding one of these cats to your family is a great idea, but it should be done with caution.

A Kitty-Owl? Nope it’s a Scottish Fold!

Scottish Fold kitten - Who are you?

Photo Credit: Oksana Sorochan via Flickr

There’s no mistaking the sweet face of the Scottish Fold cat. Some say they look like an owl, others say they look like a pixie, or a teddy bear. The Scottish Fold has a beautiful rounded face with large, round eyes, topped with their most striking feature – folded ears! Due to a dominant genetic trait, the ears of some Scottish Fold cats are folded forward and down toward their head. There can be no folds in the ears, 1 fold , 2 folds, or even 3 folds (most coveted) in the ears. All kittens are born with straight ears which may begin to fold at about 3 or 4 weeks of age.

Don’t let those folded ears fool you – these cat are still very expressive. Those ears are soft and can still move like any other cat’s ears. A Scottish Fold’s folded ears may be less pronounced whenever the cat is distressed, ill, in heat, or upset.

The body of the Scottish Fold is medium sized, rounded, and well padded. They can have either short or long hair (though short is traditional). The coat is dense, resilient, and can be found in a large variety of colors and patterns. It’s very easy to see that cuddly “teddy bear” image!

History of the Scottish Fold Breed

The Scottish Fold is a fairly new cat breed. In 1961 a Scottish shepherd named William Ross spotted an unusual cat on a neighboring farm. The cat was a white barn cat named Susie which had ears that folded forward and down. Ross spoke to the owners of the farm, the McRaes, and found out that Susie’s mother had normal straight ears and her father was unknown. Susie’s brother had also had folded ears, but he had disappeared from the farm.

When Susie had her own litter of kittens, a few of which had folded ears, Ross asked to have one. The McRaes gave him a white female from Susie’s litter that had folded ears. Ross named her Snooks. With the help of a geneticist, Ross went on to develop the breed, which he called the “lop ear” after the lop-eared variety of rabbits. Later he would rename the breed the Scottish Fold.

By the 1970’s concerns developed about the health of Scottish Fold cats and the GCCF stopped allowing them to be shown. Determined to see the breed continue, Ross sent some of Snooks’ folded ear kittens to Dr. Neil Todd in the United States who was researching spontaneous genetic mutations. Dr. Todd’s research would soon come to an end, but a few of the kittens from his breeding ended up in the hands of Salle Wolfe Peters. Peters is the breeder credited with building the Scottish Fold breed in the United States. The Persian, Burmese, American Shorthair, and Exotic cat breeds were all used in the development of the Scottish Fold breed.

Health Concerns & Ethical Breeding Controversy

Scottish Fold - SFS Hagrid Tapirosh

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There are some health concerns related to the dominant genetic trait that results in those cute folded ears. It is very important that breeders take extreme care when choosing which cats to mate. Not all Scottish Fold cats have folded ears. With a breeding pair that has 1 cat with folded ears and one without, each kitten in the litter has a 50/50 chance of having folded ears. If  both cats in the breeding pair have folded ears, it is likely that more kittens in the litter will have folded ears, but also that they will have some pretty devastating genetic defects.

One of the potential health issues related to the folded ear gene is Congenital Osteodystrophy or Osteochondrodysplasia. That is a huge name with 3 simple meanings inside: “osteo” means bones, “chondro” means cartilage, and “dysplasia” means abnormal growth.  This is a painful and disfiguring skeletal disease that mostly affects the legs and tail. The bones can become thickened and/or shortened leaving them with little mobility. Arthritis commonly develops in affected joints.

Deafness was a concern for the Scottish Fold breed for a while, but it seems that this might not actually be related to the folded ear gene. It is hypothesized that the frequency of occurrence of deafness was due to the fact that the breed originated with white cats (white cats being related to deafness). Other health problems that are related to the Scottish Fold breed include:

  • Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • Ear infections
  • Ear mites
  • Higher levels of wax in ears

Understandably, there are still groups, such as International Cat Care, that are concerned about whether breeding cats for the folded ear is ethical considering the health problems it can cause.

That Teddy Bear Personality

Scottish Fold Cat - Ms. Kitty

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

The Scottish Fold cat is a great addition to any family. These cats love attention and adapt well to unfamiliar people and situations. Typically, a Scottish Fold will choose one human with which they will attach to, but they are still social with others. Children, dogs, and other pets aren’t a problem for these kitties! They stay playful into their adult years and even enjoy an occasional game of fetch.

Not a fan of talkative kitties? The Scottish Fold is purrrfect for  you. They have small, soft voices and don’t usually have a lot to say. These cuddly companions will stick to your side (not so much on your lap) and enjoy your company. Of course, in true cat fashion, they will enjoy your company on their own terms.

Considering adding a Scottish Fold kitty to your family? Check out the PetFinder to find adoptable Scottish Fold cats near you!

Have you ever met a Scottish Fold cat?


Scottish Fold Breed Profile – CFA

Scottish Fold Breed Profile – PetFinder

Scottish Fold Video – Animal Planet

Scottish Fold/Highland Fold – VetStreet

Bone Deformity and Dwarfism in Cats – PetMD

Scottish Fold Disease – Osteochondrodyplasia – International Cat Care