Scottish Fold: Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Gray Scottish fold cat with yellow eyes sitting on light blue couch

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

The Scottish fold cat is a sweet-tempered, short-haired breed with an unusual trait for which it is named: folded ears. The cat's small ears fold forward and downward, giving it a unique countenance that almost resembles an owl. The trait can be traced back to a barn cat in Scotland that carried the mutated gene that became the basis for the breed. Unfortunately, the gene for folded ears is also associated with a painful skeletal disorder.

While the ethics of breeding Scottish fold cats is controversial due to the potential for anatomical deformity, the practice continues because people love this attentive, devoted, and interesting-looking feline.

Breed Overview

Other Names: Fold

Personality: Affectionate and sociable but not demanding

Weight: Up to 11 pounds

Length: Up to 30 inches

Coat Length: Short hair; a long-haired variant is less common

Coat Colors: Brown, gray, black, red, cream, white

Coat Patterns: Tabby, tortoiseshell, and calico

Eye Color: Green, blue-green, and gold

Lifespan: Up to 14 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Scotland

Scottish Fold Characteristics

This breed is known for its easygoing temperament and general sociability. It usually gets along great with cat-friendly dogs and other cats and adapts well to multi-pet households. Children who are old enough to respect this cat and not handle it roughly will make fast friends with the Scottish fold, whose affectionate personality is both comforting and endearing to people of all ages.

The Scottish fold doesn't need a lot of active engagement or strenuous exercise to be happy; it will thrive in a household where casual play is balanced with plenty of quiet cuddle time.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding Medium
Gray Scottish fold cat with large yellow eyes laying on ground closeup

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Gray Scottish fold cat laying down on wooden floor

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

History of the Scottish Fold

The first Scottish fold was a barn cat named Susie discovered on a farm in Perthshire, Scotland in 1961. She had a natural mutation for folded ears, which she passed on to half of her kittens. Neighboring farmer William Ross began breeding the kittens and consulted with a geneticist. Sadly, Susie died after getting hit by a car, but her daughter Snooks perpetuated her line.

It soon became known that Scottish fold kittens are not born with folded ears. The ears of the kittens that carry the gene begin folding somewhere around 21 days of age, starting with the outer edge of the ear near the base.

The fold gene is an incomplete autosomal dominant gene that affects the development of cartilage and bone throughout the cat's body.

A cat that has two copies of the gene is said to be homozygous. Cats that have two copies of the gene that produces folded ears can have severe health problems, including a skeletal disorder called osteochondrodysplasia that can cause crippling arthritis at a young age. Homozygous cats are not bred for obvious ethical reasons.

Cats that have one copy of the gene are heterozygous. They should display the folded ear characteristic but be somewhat healthier. They may develop arthritis but usually at an older age. There is controversy about whether these cats have a good quality of life or suffer pain and disability.

Cats with folded ears are bred to cats that do not display the folded ear trait to ensure none of the litter receives two copies of the gene. It is best not to breed a heterozygous Scottish fold with a Scottish fold that had straight ears, but instead to out-breed with a British shorthair. The concern is that Scottish folds that have straight ears may still have the gene but not express it.

Many veterinarians oppose breeding Scottish folds because any cat with the folded ear gene has osteochondrodysplasia, which will affect the cat to some degree and may cause pain or debilitation. Debates are active in countries where breeding continues.

While the breed was registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in the United Kingdom, this was withdrawn in 1971 due to ethical concerns about the health of the cats. However, breeding continued in the United States and elsewhere. They are accepted by the American Cat Fanciers' Association (ACFA), Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), and The International Cat Association (TICA).

Scottish fold clubs include:

  • Scottish Fold Fanciers
  • International Scottish Fold Association (CFA-Affiliated Club)

Scottish Fold Care

Scottish folds have dense fur that may need weekly brushing to help prevent hairballs.

Trim your cat's nails every couple of weeks and provide a scratching post. Maintain good dental hygiene by brushing your cat's teeth at least weekly. Pay attention to your Scottish fold's ears and check them weekly for any signs of irritation, mites, or infection. The fold of the ears can make these cats slightly more prone to ear infections due to decreased airflow.

Scottish folds are moderately active. They like to be around their humans and play interactive toy games. Provide a cat tree for climbing and surveying the room—even Scottish folds want to get "above it all" once in a while.

When petting or playing with a fold, handle its tail gently. These cats commonly have stiff tails that may be painful to bend or pull.

Common Health Problems

The biggest health concern for Scottish folds is a genetic skeletal disease called osteochondrodysplasia that affects cartilage and bone development. If you are checking a cat for possible purchase or adoption, look for a stiff tail, stiff leg joints, or any movement problem in the legs or feet which may be a sign that the cat is affected by osteochondrodysplasia. The condition is likely to worsen over time.

Even with the prevalence of osteochondrodysplasia, Scottish folds have a normal feline lifespan. Unfortunately, they may experience more discomfort in their lives than other breeds.

Aside from osteochondrodysplasia, the main health problems that affect Scottish fold cats include:

Appearance

Folded ears are the most unusual feature of a Scottish fold cat, but its general appearance is also notably round. Both its head and its body tend to be rather orb-shaped, with stocky legs and a somewhat stubby tail that accentuate the cat's overall roundness. Their large eyes are also close to circular.

Scottish folds are medium-sized cats that are more likely to have short, dense hair than long, and their coats come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Diet and Nutrition

A Scottish fold should receive the same type of feeding as any domestic cat with an emphasis on weight control since obesity puts extra strain on the skeleton and can lead to diseases like diabetes. You can choose wet or dry food or a combination.

Your cat's needs will change throughout its life, and you should consult your veterinarian for nutritional recommendations. Be sure to monitor your pet for obesity as that can shorten a cat's lifespan.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Scottish Fold

You may be able to find a pure-breed Scottish fold cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

Scottish Fold Overview

There is no question as to the charm and friendliness of the Scottish fold cat. It is calm, affectionate, and adaptable to most households. The trouble with this breed is the likelihood of pain and debilitation—either lifelong or as a senior cat—that comes as the "price" of having those cute folded ears.

Pros
  • Unique appearance

  • Calm and easygoing

  • Affectionate and friendly with adults, kids, and other pets

Cons
  • High risk for a debilitating cartilage and bone disease

  • May be stiff or uncomfortable throughout life

  • Breeding is controversial

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

FAQ
  • Do Scottish fold cats like to be held?

    These affectionate cats love being held unless they experience pain due to skeletal abnormalities associated with osteochondrodysplasia.

  • What is osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish fold cats?

    Osteochondrodysplasia is a degenerative disorder of skeletal cartilage and bone that affects Scottish fold cats. The gene for this condition is the same gene that creates the breed's folded ears.

  • Why should you not get a Scottish fold cat?

    Even though Scottish folds are cute and friendly cats, they all carry a gene associated with painful skeletal abnormalities that may cause them to become sore or even crippled at some point in their lives.

Watch Now: How Long Do Cats Live?

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Scottish Fold Disease – Osteochondrodysplasia. International Cat Care.