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What is a Scottish Fold Cat?

By Angie Bates
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A Scottish fold cat is a domestic breed of cat which was first discovered in Scotland in 1961. The Scottish fold is famous for the unique shape of its ears, which fold over against its head. Originally called a "lop-eared cat," the Scottish fold has been recognized as a distinct breed in most of the world except Scotland.

William Ross, a Scottish farmer, found the first Scottish fold cat accidentally. The cat was a white barn cat with distinctive folded ears, named Susie, who lived on a neighbor's farm. Once Susie had kittens, Ross intentionally began breeding more of the strangely eared cats. Soon other breeders and geneticists discovered the breed. Although the Scottish fold cat started in Scotland, Scottish cat officials were resistant to accept the breed into the Scottish registry because they believed the ears were evidence the cats were susceptible to ear-related diseases.

Scottish folds are rounded, medium-sized cats. Males weigh 9–13 pounds (4–6 kg), females 6–9 pounds (2.7–4 kg). They have short necks and large eyes. These cats can be any color and pattern, except Siamese or Himalayan, and can be short- or long-haired. Long haired cats are sometimes called highland folds. They live for about 15 years.

Affectionate and non-active, the Scottish fold cat is good with both adults and children. They are, however, attention-seekers and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. These cats have quiet voices and are not particularly vocal, but they are known to sit up or lay in odd positions, such as flat on their tummy with their legs splayed, mimicking animal-skin rugs.

Although Scottish folds are named for their ears, not all of these cats have folded ears. Straight-eared Scottish folds cannot be shown, but they make good house pets and are necessary in breeding programs. In Australia, straight-eared Scottish folds are considered a separate breed, called the Scottish short hair. Scottish fold kittens are all born with ears that are straight, which begin to fold about three to four weeks after birth.

The folded-eared cats come in three different types: single, double, and triple folds. Single folds have loosely folded ears, triples are tightly formed to the head, and doubles are somewhere in between. Only triple-folded cats are show quality.

When bred responsibly, the Scottish fold cat is a generally healthy breed. It is, however, prone to a degenerative joint disease, which causes hardening of the cartilage, particularly in the tail. This disease is caused by breeding folded-eared cats to folded-eared cats. Ethical breeders will only breed a folded-eared cat to a straight-eared cat, which seems to eliminate the problem. The disease usually appears when the cat is four to six months old and is not life threatening.

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