6 min read

All About Scottish Fold Cats


Written by Wag! Staff

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 08/16/2023, edited: 08/29/2023


The history of the Scottish Fold cat

There may have been cats with folded ears since the dawn of time, and there are certainly reports of such animals in Asia from the 18th century. But the story of the Scottish Fold all begins with a cat called Susie

As you may or may not know, there would be no Scottish Fold cats if it weren’t for the original Scottish Fold: a humble longhaired barn cat who lived in Perthshire, Scotland. Susie and her charmingly unusual ears were unearthed in 1961 and it wasn’t long before a nearby cat fancier was made aware of her existence (you can imagine him sprinting over to the farm and falling in love with her folded ears, aware that he was looking at history in the making.)

That man’s name was William Ross, and he was ready and waiting when Susie gave birth to two kittens. Did they have the same folded ears? Yes, they did. Ross bought one of them (history doesn’t seem to record why he didn’t go for both) and, with the help of a geneticist, began to actively try to produce more Scottish Fold cats. The pair were successful and the Scottish Fold went from strength to strength, being exported to America the following decade and bred with British and American Shorthairs. While the breed - briefly called the lop-eared - is now infamous, and one of the most highly prized breeds around, it has also proved controversial, and even been banned in some countries other than the States.

And here’s something that might surprise you, unless you really know your cats: every Scottish Fold kitten is in fact born with straight ears but the mutation that causes the fold only begins to become apparent in the first month of its life. If a kitten has a Scottish Fold parent, it has a 50-50 chance of developing folded ears. 

Why are Scottish Folds controversial?

The Scottish Fold is one of the more controversial breeds of cat. A number of countries, including Scotland – the country in which the Scottish Fold originated – do not recognize it as an official breed. 

In no part of the world are Scottish Folds allowed to breed with each other. Why? Because there is a chance that the mutation responsible for the cat’s folded ears can also deform the animal’s limbs, and for decades there have been concerns that the distinctive ear shape makes the breed more likely to be deaf and have other ear-related problems. 

The common cartilage defect in Scottish Folds is called osteochondrodysplasia and the cats can develop arthritis in their tail, knees and ankles. This can lead to pain that requires relieving in the long term, and the medication can sometimes have unwelcome side effects. 

That said, if you have any specific health concerns about your cat, you should discuss these with your pet insurance provider. If you’re looking for new cover or simply want to compare your plan with leading providers, use our comparison website to get quotes on plans in seconds.

What do Scottish Fold cats look like?

Scottish Fold cats are immediately recognizable thanks to their folded, almost invisible ears, tucked into the top of their head and not sticking upright as with most other cats. 

These are divided into three categories in order of extremity: single, double, and, yep, you guessed it, triple. (Incidentally, it is only the triple-folded variety of Scottish Fold that is eligible for cat shows.) Away from their ears, Scottish Folds are padded and round, giving off an impression of warm cuddliness. They have short necks, round faces and large eyes - all the better for seeing you with.

Scottish Folds tend to weigh between 6 and 13 pounds; this is a breed that isn’t perhaps as active as many other cats, lacking the lean, athletic build of some breeds. Their hair can be either long and dense or short and soft, and they can come in pretty much any color and hue. 

White Scottish Fold, black Scottish Fold, gray Scottish Fold, orange Scottish Fold - they’re all possible and they’re all beautiful. Their eye color will be governed by their fur color: a white cat will be far more likely to have blue eyes, for example. 

Cute Scottish Fold Cat

What are Scottish Fold cats like?

If we had to settle on a typical Scottish Fold personality it would probably be affectionate. The Scottish Fold loves to be played and engaged with and doesn’t relish the idea of being home alone for hours and hours and hours on end. You’ll know your cat is fond of you if it paws at you with its claws withdrawn - this stroke is a sign of great affection. If you are thinking of buying a Scottish Fold kitten, brace yourself: you need to make sure you’re ready for all the cuddles that will ensue. 

Some other Scottish Fold traits include being excellent with young children and having a penchant for sitting in amusing, often human-like positions. Look over at a Scottish Fold on any given afternoon and you may see it reclining in a chair much like a middle-aged man, its back against a cushion and its paws in the air, even while it is awake. 

They also like to sleep while lying on their backs, so they have a good deal in common with humans. Don’t be afraid to buy one if you have a dog; this is a breed that will happily rub along with canines if the pair are introduced carefully and considerately. 

How much do Scottish Folds cost?

One of the reasons that Scottish Folds are rare is that only 50% of a Scottish Fold litter will have the folded ears that define the breed. So, because they are unusual, Scottish Folds will definitely set you back a fair few dollars more than the average breed. They’re a rare treat and they regularly crop up on ‘most expensive cats’ lists. It’s perfectly common to spend thousands of dollars on a Scottish Fold, though of course it will vary from breeder to breeder and kittens will be more expensive than adults. 

How do you look after a Scottish Fold?

In many ways, a Scottish Fold cat is no different to any other breed: it needs to be fed, groomed, cuddled and entertained. Folds do have to be handled with special care though: their tails can sometimes cause them pain, so avoid holding the tail too firmly and be on the look-out for any sensitivities. 

No one wants their cat to fall ill but it may be helpful to know that five of the most common problems that occur in Scottish Folds are upset stomachs, hepatopathy (liver congestion), feline upper respiratory disease, conjunctivitis, and diabetes mellitus. 

Scottish Folds are fairly low-maintenance when it comes to fur so you don’t need to worry too much about removing unwanted hair more than about once a week or fortnight. If you’ve got any questions or worries about grooming your cats, here is a very handy guide. 

Top tip though – because they are so rare, Scottish Folds are vulnerable to being stolen; you may want to consider keeping yours indoors to minimize the risk. (Fortunately, this is a breed that loves the company of its indoor human pet parents.)

As you would with any other breed, keep its litter tray clean, check its teeth, trim its nails if you need to, and give it plenty of stimulating exercise. Because of the Scottish Fold’s unique ears, do check them regularly to ensure nothing worrying is happening, and clean them out if you discover that they’re dirty.

Be careful that you’re not overfeeding, especially if you have an indoor pet and it may not be getting quite as much exercise as it would outdoors. If you’re wondering what food to buy, our friends at Cat Food Advisor have plenty of good advice about healthy and protein-rich food in their recommendations for best cat food.

If you’re looking for more advice you could always try to get Taylor Swift’s number; since 2014 she has had two Scottish Folds in her life, Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey, who accompany her everywhere and regularly pop up on her Instagram, boosting the sales of Scottish Folds all over the world. 

While you’re talking to her, why not see if she has Ed Sheeran’s number? Ed too has a Scottish Fold, whom he named Calippo and who shares an Instagram account with the singer’s other cat. Scottish Folds are among the most famous cats on Earth, in fact: Maru, a 16-year-old Scottish Fold who likes playing with cardboard boxes, went into the Guinness Book of Records as the most watched cat on the whole of YouTube. Considering that cat videos are massively popular on YouTube, this is an impressive achievement.

How long do Scottish Folds live?

Because of their unusual genetics the Scottish Fold is more prone to health problems than some other breeds but a typical Scottish Fold lifespan might be around 15 years. In very rare cases they can reach their early 20s. Love and look after them while they’re here!

A wellness plan is the perfect way of looking after your cat. It includes routine vet appointments and boosters, and you can build your plan by adding extra cover too. Peace of mind at a great price.

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