The Scottish Ear Fold Cat is, on the surface, one of the cutest cats out there! With their distinctive folded forward ears that give them owl-like features, these cats are undeniably loveable. You will no doubt recognise this adorable breed as they have been popularised in recent years. Celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, frequently share pictures of their beloved folds with their millions of followers on social media.

But did you know that the unique features of the Scottish Fold come at a cost? Below we are going to look at how the breed came about and the truth behind their famous features.

How did the Scottish Fold come about?

As the name suggests the first known Scottish Ear Fold was discovered in Perthshire in Scotland. Susie, a white barn cat, had a naturally occurring genetic mutation that meant the cartilage in her ears was not strong enough to hold her ears upright like other normal cats. This abnormality led to the forward folding ear that we have come to recognise as the distinguishing feature of the breed.

When Susie had kittens, they also displayed these same features. Subsequently, Susie’s owner saw an opportunity to recreate this ‘cute’ look on a much larger scale. Susie was consequently bred with British Short Hairs and other local farm cats and soon the Scottish Fold was one of the most sought after breeds in the UK and the US.

What is the problem with a bit of defective cartilage?

While the folded over ears of the Scottish Fold don’t themselves cause any notable issues for the cats, the genetic mutation that causes the defective ear cartilage isn’t exclusive to the ears alone. The inherited cartilage defect causes other, more problematic deformities throughout the body, resulting in a condition called Osteochondrodysplasia. This is an incurable disease that causes painful, swollen joints for the Scottish Folds from as young as 7 weeks old and for the duration of their often short lives.

Common features of the Scottish Fold include malformations in the forelimbs, hindlimbs, spine and tail. This ultimately leads to painful, stiff, or even fused joints. And we are not just talking about a small unfortunate selection of these cats. ALL Sottish Folds will develop these lifelong, incurable problems at some point over their lifetime. 

The welfare implications of this inherited cartilage defect are numerous. The pain caused by the joints will affect the cat’s mobility often causing lameness and an abnormal gait but also affecting the cat’s abilities to display natural behaviours such as walking, running, jumping and cleaning itself.

Should cute ever really come before comfort?

Anyone who has met one of these delightful cats will know that the positive features of the Scottish fold, ignoring cosmetics, are plentiful. They generally have a lovely gentle temperament and quirky characteristics. But many veterinary professionals, including International Cat Care and The British Veterinary Association, agree that it really is not acceptable to breed a cat that will knowingly suffer from ill-health. Especially when the only reason for doing so is for human gratification!

So, while it is tempting to choose your pets based on the cuteness factor, please don’t forget to also consider what will make them the healthiest and therefore the happiest in the long term.

Here are a few tips that are always worth considering when looking around for your next feline friend: 

  • Always avoid breeds with ‘designer’ or extreme features. Choose a healthier breed or a non-pedigree cat instead.
  • Speak to your vet about breeds you may be considering as they will be very knowledgeable about the health considerations of the breed and any specific things you should be aware of
  • If you do own a cat with inherited health issues, ensure you take them to the vets regularly to get them fully health checked and stay on top of any potential or existing issues.

You may also be interested in;

Further Reading:

Scottish Fold – Osteochondrodysplasia – UFAW