Unlike dogs that can have a wide variety of ear types and shapes, almost all cats feature similar pointed, upright ears. The major exception to this rule is the adorable Scottish Fold cat. If you’ve seen photos of a couple of famous Scottish Fold cats on social media, maybe you’d like to learn more about this breed. Here are 10 incredible Scottish Fold facts you might not know.
The 10 Facts About Scottish Fold Cats
1. Scottish Folds Are the Cats Purring in Taylor Swift’s Lap (Not Just Karma)
Two of the world’s most famous Scottish Fold cats are Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey, beloved pets of global music superstar Taylor Swift. The two cats are staples of Swift’s social media posts, to the point that Olivia Benson has a current estimated net worth of $97 million based on Instagram analytics1.
They’ve also appeared in several of the singer’s popular music videos. The visibility of Swift’s pets and other celebrity Scottish Fold owners is thought to be one reason the breed has soared in popularity in recent years.
2. All Scottish Folds Descend from a Single Cat
The original Scottish Fold was a white barn cat named Susie with folded ears. She passed on this trait to two of her kittens, one of which was acquired by a man named William Ross in 1961. From this kitten, Ross worked to develop the breed that would later be called the Scottish Fold with the help of a geneticist. The Scottish Fold was officially recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) in 1978.
3. The Folded Ears Are a Genetic Mutation
The unique folded ears that Susie and her kittens possessed resulted from a spontaneous genetic mutation. An incomplete dominant gene causes it and is an inherited trait, as demonstrated by Susie’s offspring.
This gene causes a weakness in the cat’s cartilage, which keeps the ears from standing up normally. Unfortunately, it can also impact cartilage in other areas of the Scottish Fold’s body, such as the joints.
4. Scottish Folds May Suffer From a Unique Joint Condition
As we mentioned, the unique look of the Scottish Fold results from a genetic mutation that results in weakened cartilage. The folded ears may be adorable, but that same weak cartilage can result in extremely painful side effects for the cat.
Scottish Fold cats are prone to osteochondrodysplasia, where the bones and joints don’t develop properly. Because of this, many Scottish Folds have stiff legs and tails that don’t bend correctly. They also develop arthritis frequently.
5. Scottish Folds Are Born With Straight Ears
Although the Scottish Fold’s ear shape is pre-determined by genetics, all of them are born with non-folded ears, to begin with. The folded ear typically emerges when the kittens reach 3–4 weeks of age. Not every Scottish Fold will develop folded ears, either.
Straight-eared Scottish Folds play a vital role in the continuation of the breed; breeding two folded-ear cats together is discouraged because of the increased potential for genetic complications. However, straight-eared Scottish Folds are not allowed in the show ring.
6. Scottish Folds Often Pose in Interesting Positions
Scottish Folds are known for sitting and lying in some pretty unique positions compared to other cats. They often sleep flat on their backs instead of curled up or on their sides. Many Scottish Folds keep their legs pointed straight out when sitting, much like a human would.
Sometimes, they even stand up on their hind legs. Unfortunately, while these poses may look cute, they’re typically a sign of stiff joints from the Scottish Fold’s genetic condition.
7. There Are Three Categories of Ear Fold
Scottish Fold cats can have either single, double, or triple folded ears. A single fold means just the top of the ear is bent. Double folds usually have about half of the ear folded down. A full triple fold is when the ears are flat to the head.
The triple fold produces the famous round, owl-like head that the breed is known for and is in demand. Show quality Scottish Fold cats have triple-folded ears only.
8. Breeding Scottish Fold Cats Is Complicated
As we mentioned, two folded-ear Scottish Fold cats shouldn’t be bred together because the kittens will likely be born with severe genetic issues. Folded-ear Scottish Folds can be bred to a straight-eared cat or crossed with one of two other breeds, the American or British Shorthair.
These breeding combinations result in litters that don’t all have folded ears. Because folded-ear kittens are in the highest demand, breeding them as ethically as possible is a slow process.
9. Their Eye Color Is Decided by Their Coat Color
Scottish Folds come in every possible coat color and pattern combination. This rainbow of colors extends to their eyes as well. Each coat color has a designated eye shade to go with it. Many Scottish Fold cats have copper or golden eyes. However, blue eyes are also permitted for certain coat colors, such as white. Some Scottish Folds even have two different colored eyes. Unlike many breed standards, some Scottish Folds are allowed to have different colored eyes, including cats with bi-color coats.
10. Scottish Folds Are Controversial
Because their defining physical feature is the result of a genetic mutation that also causes painful side effects, the continued breeding of Scottish Folds is controversial. In fact, the purebred cat registry in the UK no longer registers Scottish Folds or allows them in the show ring. The ethical concern is that breeders are continuing to produce cats with a genetic mutation that will eventually cause pain simply to create a desired physical appearance.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning these 10 incredible Scottish Fold facts. Remember, behind every adorable Instagram post is a real cat who deserves a loving, stable home. As tempting as it may be, you should never choose a cat only because you like the way they look. This is especially true of the Scottish Fold, whose unique appearance corresponds with potential health problems. If you have your heart set on one of these cats, be prepared to research breeders carefully to ensure they’re producing Scottish Folds as humanely as possible.
Featured Image Credit: Kellee Kovalsky, Shutterstock