Scottish Fold Cat: Cute but Controversial since 1961
Written by: Caitlin
Published: 3rd November 2021, last updated: 3rd October 2022
The Scottish fold cat is known for its strikingly adorable appearance and its unusual-shaped ears. They make lovely household pets, but an increasing concern for their health means that the ethics of breeding them has been called into question. We hope you enjoy reading the information we have gathered about them and we would love to hear your opinion on the future of the breed too.
Did you know?
Singing sensation Taylor Swift has two pet Scottish fold cats, named Detective Olivia Benson and Doctor Meredith Grey, whom she regularly shares pictures and info about on social media.
You can read more about Taylor Swift’s adorable pet cats HERE.
- The average life expectancy of a Scottish fold cat is between 12 and 14 years
- The average weight of a Scottish fold cat is between 6 and 13 pounds
- The average length of a Scottish fold cat is between 10 and 12 inches (not including their tail)
- The average height of a Scottish fold cat is 8.5 to 10 inches
- The Scottish fold cat might just be the cutest cat in the world! (Ok that’s just our opinion and not exactly a fact, but go on, we dare you to try and prove us otherwise!)
History of the Scottish fold cat
Scottish fold cats originated in – you guessed it – Scotland, and to be more specific, they were discovered in the Tayside region, on a farm near Coupar Angus. They are a breed of cat with a relatively short history as this discovery only occurred as recently as 1961.
A shepherd called William Ross spotted the white farm cat, known as Susie, distinctive from all the other cats due to her unique folded ears. Incredibly all known Scottish fold cats today can be traced back to this single female cat! When Ross heard Susie was with kittens, he asked the farmers if he could have one of her babies, and set about establishing the breed, with his new pet Snooks, who was white just like her mother.
Susie carried a unique set of mutated genes which caused the folded appearance of her ears, and amazingly passed this on visibly to two of her kittens. Although not all of the litter presented with the folded ears, we know now that they still would have carried the gene.
William Ross registered the Scottish fold breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1966 in the UK and began breeding them. He enlisted the help of geneticist Pat Turner, and they concluded that the presentation of the ear mutation was due to a simple dominant gene. His breeding program produced an incredible 76 kittens in the first three years, of whom 42 had folded ears and 34 had straight ears.
Unfortunately, the matriarch of the breed, Susie, was hit by a car and killed just 3 months after she produced her first and only litter. But she will forever be revered by fans of the breed, as all Scottish fold cats can trace their common ancestry back to this beautiful white barn cat.
Susie, the original Scottish fold cat.
There has been speculation over the years that these unusually gorgeous cats actually have ancestry from the Orient. This is because a 1796 issue of the Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure described wild folded-ear cats in China.
But whether the Scottish fold is related to these cats or whether they are the result of a new spontaneous mutation is unknown, so Susie is widely regarded as the starting point of the breed.
Did you know?
For a short period, these cats were known as “lop-eared cats,” but their name was later changed to the name we know today—Scottish Fold.
Recognising a Scottish fold cat
The Scottish fold is a rare breed of cat which came about due to a genetic mutation in the 1960s. They are known for their rounded faces and bodies and unique folds on their ears, which give them what is often referred to as an ‘owl-like’ appearance. Their coats can range in colour from white to black or anything in-between, and can be with markings or solid colours. The long-haired version of the Scottish fold cat is known as a Highland Fold.
Did you know?
Scottish Folds are actually born with straight ears and it’s not until they are between 18 and 24 days old that the fold begins to develop- and even then it is only if the kitten has the right gene. Usually only half the kittens in a litter will have the gene and the resulting folded ears.
The Scottish Fold’s ears can fold three ways: a single fold, a double fold, or a triple fold. A single for is where just the tip of the ear folds downwards, a double fold is where half of the ear folds down, and a triple fold is where the entire ear is lying downwards on the head. In places where the breed is accepted for showing, a triple folded ear is generally regarded as the show quality standard.
Despite the folded appearance of a Scottish fold’s ears, these cats still use them to express themselves. The ears can still swivel to listen, lie back in anger and prick up in interest- especially if you are shaking a bag of treats in front of your pet!
These felines are regarded as medium sized cats, but what is distinctive about their bodies is the roundness. The Scottish fold cat’s entire body is rounded, especially their head and face, and their eyes are large and round and broadly spaced too. They have short necks, a short nose and appear almost padded around the middle, which my be why we instantly have the urge to cuddle one!
Scottish fold cats come in both short and long haired varieties. Those with a short coat still have an impressive amount of hair, which is full and plush, and virtually so dense that it stands on end. Those Scottish folds with a long coat are known as Highland folds. Their hair is full and feathered on the tail, feet, and ears, and especially so around the collar, but may be shorted around the face area.
Due to the increased risk to the health of Scottish folds if they are interbred with others carrying the same mutated gene, they have been crossed with British and American shorthair cats for several generations now. This means that pretty much any colour of coat can be expected! However, any Fold that displays Siamese-type points, chocolate or lilac fur is not eligible for showing in the U.S.
Are Scottish fold cats hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, these cute kitties aren’t hypoallergenic, so if you’re allergic or sensitive to cats, you might not want to choose a Scottish Fold kitten – no matter how adorable they look, they will make your eyes water!
Scottish Fold vs British Shorthair
Although they look quite similar, there are a few key differences between the Scottish Fold cat and the British Shorthair.
Other than the key Scottish Fold characteristics listed above, you can usually spot the difference between these two breeds of cat as British Shorthairs tend to be larger and heavier than Scottish Folds. And, of course – they don’t have that cute Scottish Fold cat trait, folded back ears!
The British Shorthair also has thick, short hair which needs brushed regularly (around once a week) while Scottish Fold cats can have different coat lengths, which may need to be brushed more or less often depending on the type of hair.
Neither cat is a particularly active breed, and they prefer snoozing to running around. The Scottish Fold tends to be more affectionate towards humans, while British Shorthairs have a more independent streak.
These cats are very friendly and loving towards humans. They love attention and will often follow you around if given enough time. If left alone too much though, they tend to get bored and could become destructive around the house. The Scottish fold cat is a breed which knows its own mind and will be sure to let you know how they are feeling too!
They are usually quiet and calm unless they want something from you or are in distress. When they want something, they will let out a meow. They may not be as loud as other breeds of cat, but they are known for producing a wide range of vocal sounds. They are excellent climbers and enjoy being up high. They are also quite independent so they need plenty of exercise, even if their natural inclination is actually to be pretty lazy. Most of all, they just love having fun!
It has been noticed that the Scottish fold cat will usually become bonded to one specific person in the household. This doesn’t mean that they won’t allow the rest of the household to pet and cuddle them, but it will usually become very clear who their primary attachment is to- similarly to having a pet dog!
How to read emotions on a Scottish fold cat?
Scottish Fold cats often show their affection and appreciation by kneading – that is, when it paws you with their claws retracted, so you only feel the soft part of their paw pressing into you.
Otherwise, you can read their emotions much in the same way as any other cat. If your cat’s eyes are half-closed, it’s a sure sign they’re content! But if their eyes are wide open with dilated pupils, they may pounce at any second, and if their eyes are narrowed, it’s best not to try to lure them in for cuddles as you may get scratched!
A wagging tail on a cat, unlike on a dog, is a signal that they’re unhappy, and if they arch their back, they’re not in a good mood, either. Learn the subtle changes in cat’s body language and what it signifies, and you’ll be in a better position to read the emotions of your Scottish Fold cat.
Did you know?
Maru, a Scottish Fold in Japan, achieved a Guinness world record as the animal viewed most on YouTube – a total of 325,704,506 times!
You can read more about the fame and life of the Scottish Fold superstar Maru HERE.
Scottish fold cats generally like to be outdoors and enjoy outdoor games and stimulating activities very much.
They are known for being stubborn, and loneliness is something they heavily dislike and they have even been seen to show genuine signs of depression when isolated.
Scottish folds are also known for the strange positions they contort their bodies into, and even their odd body positions when sleeping, like sleeping on their backs. They are also known for sitting in what is referred to as ‘the Buddha position’- with their legs stretched out and their paws on their belly as in the picture below.
Grooming a Scottish fold cat
- A shorthaired Scottish fold cat should be groomed weekly to keep his coat clean and shiny.
- A Highland fold on the other hand will need to be combed at least twice per week to prevent mats and tangles.
- As well as this grooming, the Scottish Fold needs regular nail trimming, usually weekly, although this will depend on whether they are living purely indoors or if they have access to the outside
- Due to their folded ears, it is necessary for the owners of Scottish fold cats to check their cat’s ears on a weekly basis and to clean the ears as needed.
- Many Scottish fold cat owners will also brush their pets teeth frequently with vet-approved pet tooth paste for good overall health and fresher breath.
- It would be a good idea to start the nail trimming and tooth brushing routine early so that your kitten will become accustomed to these activities. Suddenly approaching an older cat with a toothbrush when they have never encountered one before is highly likely to get you scratched!
Scottish Fold Cats’ health and nutrition
These lovable cats with folded-back ears have some very specific health concerns, due to the very same gene mutation that makes them so adorable. The weakened cartilage in the Scottish Fold cats’ ears, which allows them to fold over, also causes weaknesses in their leg joints.
That means you should feed them lots of protein, and few carbs. This will help to keep their joints healthy – and also ensures they don’t put on too much weight, which is a particular risk with this cat’s love of a sedentary lifestyle!
What digestive system does the Scottish fold cat have?
Although Scottish Fold cats look a bit different to their wildcat ancestors, their digestive system is virtually the same. They have sensitive stomachs and can react badly to carbs, so should mostly be fed meat, cartilage and bones.
Should Scottish fold cats be banned?
The genetic mutations that make Scottish Folds so cute can also lead to the animal’s suffering, and this has triggered calls from animal welfare campaigners for the breeding of Scottish Fold cats to be outlawed.
Gudrun Ravetz, the president of the British Veterinary Association said that “People are wanting to have these cats because of how popular they have become with celebrities and on social media, but unfortunately it is another example of us prioritising how a pet looks rather than their quality of life.
The cartilage is deformed and it is not supporting the ears, which also leads to problems with other parts of the cat’s body. These genetic mutations, which all the Scottish fold cats will have, develop into lifelong incurable and painful diseases such as a type of arthritis.”
The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, which is the UK’s pedigree cat registry, stopped registering Scottish folds in the early 1970’s because of the concerns about ear disorders and hearing problems associated with them. The breeds popularity in the UK started to fall after this, but they continued to increase in numbers across the U.S.
Those that are speaking out for the continuation of the breed say that responsible breeders will never mate one Scottish fold to another, instead mixing them with a different breed such as an American Shorthair or British Shorthair, which they claim leads to less possibility of congenital health problems.
But Ms Ravetz from the British Veterinary Association says this is not the case.
She said “All cats with this folded ear appearance will have the genetic mutation. The rate at which they get the disease and the severity of the disease can be different but they will all to some degree have an incurable, painful and lifelong disease. We should not be breeding pets that can have these problems.”
There is currently no breeding ban on the Scottish fold cat or restrictions on cat breeding in the UK but the Scottish government said it was considering introducing a ban on the breed. Veterinary industry journal Vet Record has recently said they will be reviewing the use of the Scottish fold cat in their advertisements.
If you are still interested in Scottish felines, why not make your next read our article about the legendary Cat Sìth.
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