Vital Stats:Life Span: 11 to 14 years
Often, the creation of a new cat breed hinges on a natural genetic mutation that occurs unexpectedly in an otherwise ordinary cat. Such was the case with the Scottish Fold. Members of the breed today can all trace their heritage back to Susie, a white cat with unusual folded ears who earned her keep as a mouser in a barn in Scotland’s Tayside region. Susie might have lived her life in obscurity had she not been noticed in 1961 by a shepherd named William Ross who had an interest in cats. When Susie had kittens with a local tom, Ross acquired one of them, a female he named Snooks. In the natural way of things, Snooks had kittens, and one, a male was bred to a British Shorthair. Thus began the development of what were first known as “lop-eared cats,” later as Scottish Folds, a nod to their country of origin and their defining characteristic.
Other breeders became involved and it was determined that the gene mutation for the fold was dominant, meaning that if one parent passed on a gene for straight ears and the other a gene for folded ears, the resulting kitten would have folded ears. A gene for long hair was another gift Susie passed on to her descendants. The longhaired variety is known as a Highland Fold in some associations.
Scottish Folds were first imported into the United States in 1971. By the mid-1970s, they had been recognized by most cat associations in North America. They can be outcrossed to American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs. Ironically, they are not recognized as a breed in their country of origin over concerns that the folded ear might lead to ear infections or deafness and because of a related cartilage problem.
After his ears, the first thing you will notice about a Scottish Fold is his habit of posing in odd positions—flat out on the floor like a little frog, sitting up—for all the world as if he were a meerkat on a nature program—or lying on his back, paws up in the air. And although you might assume that his ears are less mobile than those of other cats, such is not the case. He uses them to communicate quite effectively, adding comments in a quiet, chirpy voice when necessary.
This is a smart, moderately active cat. The Scottish Fold enjoys teaser toys that test his agility and puzzle toys that challenge his intelligence. His favorite activity is anything that involves human interaction.
There is nothing a Scottish Fold likes better than to be with his people, participating in whatever they are doing. He is a sweet cat who enjoys attention. The last thing he wants is to be left alone for hours on end, so he’s not the best choice unless someone is home during the day or you can give him the company of another cat. Rest assured, however, that he will expect you to play with him when you get home from work or school or at least sit down so he can get in a little lap time or curl up next to you while you watch television.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. A typical lifespan is 15 years. Problems that may affect the Scottish Fold include the following:
- Degenerative joint disease, especially in the tail but also in the ankle and knee joints, causing pain or poor mobility. It’s important to handle the tail carefully if it has developed stiffness.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease, has been seen in the breed, but it has not yet been proven to be a heritable form of the disease.
Comb the Scottish Fold’s coat weekly to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. A longhaired Fold may need to be groomed a couple of times a week to ensure that tangles don’t develop.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly, especially if they are tightly folded. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the Scottish Fold’s litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene, and a clean litter box will help to keep the coat clean as well.
It’s a good idea to keep a Scottish Fold as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Scottish Folds who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
With the way his small ears fit like a cap over his rounded head, the Scottish Fold is often described as resembling an owl. The ears range in appearance from a single fold, bent forward about halfway up the ear, to a double fold, somewhat tighter, and the triple fold, lying tight to the head, which is desirable for show cats. Kittens are born with straight ears, which may or may not fold when they are about 3 weeks old. Wide open eyes gaze out at the world with a sweet expression. The medium-size body is also rounded, completed by a medium to long tail that sometimes ends in a rounded tip.
A shorthaired Fold has a dense, plush coat with a soft texture. The longhaired variety has medium-long to long fur with britches (longer fur on the upper thighs), toe tufts, a plumed tail, and tufts of fur on the ears. He may also have a ruff around the neck. The Scottish Fold comes in a number of colors and patterns, including solid, tabby, tabby and white, bicolor and particolor. Eye color depends on coat color. For instance, white and bicolor cats can have blue eyes or odd eyes (each eye is a different color).
Children And Other Pets
The friendly, laidback Scottish Fold is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect, and he likes to play and is capable of learning tricks.
He is happy to live with cat-friendly dogs, too, thanks to his amiable disposition. Introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.