scottish fold cat

Scottish Fold Cat Breed Guide: Care, Diet & Personality

The Scottish Fold is a rare breed of cat—but it’s also one that’s enjoying a surge in popularity in recent years. So what do Scottish Folds look like, are they friendly, and should you buy and breed them?

What are Scottish Fold cats like? Scottish Folds are famous for their floppy ears. They have rounded faces, rounded bodies and rounded tails—for an overall very round appearance! They’re friendly and happy cats that get along well with people and other pets, and can be any color or pattern. However, the genetic mutation that makes their ears floppy has other effects too. Their ears flop because their ear cartilage isn’t as strong as it should be, and cartilage elsewhere in their bodies is weaker too. This leads to painful conditions like arthritis later in life, so organizations like the British Veterinary Association say they shouldn’t be bred or bought.

The guide below first offers a brief history and description of the Scottish Fold: where it’s from, what it looks like, how big it gets, how long they live, and whether they’re hypoallergenic. We’ll also look at how easy they are to take care of, whether they get along with other cats and people, and how expensive they are. To round off our guide we’ll explain the health issues they experience and whether these mean you shouldn’t buy or breed them.

Scottish Fold Cat Breed Guide

Scottish Folds are a well-known cat breed famed for their cute, round faces and floppy ears. Their popularity has exploded in recent years due to a few famous owners like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.

The name is descriptive: the breed originated in Scotland, and their distinctive feature are their folded ears. They can be any color or have any pattern, and some have short fur while others have long fur. The ears and rounded face are the key to identifying one. Besides that, they’re also known for their playful and happy natures. Here’s a table listing all of the core details you need to know about them!

OriginScotland, 1961
AppearanceFloppy ears, rounded face
Lifespan15 years
SizeMedium build and weight
TemperamentHappy, friendly and chatty with people and other pets
Grooming NeedsAverage
Veterinary NeedsArthritis throughout life
Dietary NeedsNo special dietary needs

The rest of this guide explores each of these sections in more depth.

Where Are Scottish Fold Cats From?

scottish fold cat
It might surprise you to learn that Scottish Folds are from Scotland.

Scottish Folds, as the name suggests, are from Scotland! The first ever Scottish Fold was a white barn cat named Susie. Unlike other breeds, the Scottish Fold wasn’t bred to look the way it does. Rather, Susie was found by a family near their farm in 1961 (at Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland). They took Susie in because they thought her distinctive ears made her look like an owl!

When Susie had kittens, two of them had folded ears too. One of these was given to a neighbor, who just so happened to be a ‘cat-fancier’. Knowing his stuff, the neighbor—William Ross—registered the new breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (which may be the best name for anything in the world). He went on to establish a successful breeding program with the help of the GCCF and a geneticist named Pat Turner.

As for Susie, the original Scottish Fold, she unfortunately didn’t have a long and happy life. She passed away only a few months after her first reproducing kitten was born. If she hadn’t had kittens, then the breed would have passed with her! All of today’s Scottish Folds come from Susie.

It was only a few years later that they were first introduced to the U.S. Three kittens from one of Susie’s descendants were brought over to the U.S. in 1970, where they were kept at a research center in Massachusetts where their mutation was studied. When researchers lost interest, the cats were rehomed. One was taken in by a Salle Wolfe Peters of Pennsylvania, who is the person who did the most to popularize the breed in the States.

Are Scottish Fold Cats Common?

All cat breeds are uncommon compared to the overall cat population. That’s because most cats in the U.S. and around the world are the cat equivalent of ‘mutts’! As such, you may struggle to find a Scottish Fold breeder near you.

What makes Scottish Folds even rarer is the fact that they aren’t easily bred. To understand why, you have to understand a little about genetics first. The Scottish Fold’s ear shape is determined by its genetics, and is passed from the parent to the kitten. When the kitten is first conceived, it gets a copy of the ‘ears are either folded or not’ gene from both its mother and its father; if one of these genes is the Scottish Fold gene, then the cat will have Scottish Fold ears, because the gene is dominant as opposed to recessive.

What this means is that a breeding pair of Scottish Folds isn’t guaranteed to produce nothing but Scottish Fold offspring. Scottish Folds still have a copy of the normal ear gene and can pass this on the same way as they pass on the Scottish Fold gene. Put simply, through a combination of genetics, luck, pre-existing rarity and supply and demand, Scottish Folds can be hard to find.

What Does a Scottish Fold Cat Look Like?

If you had to pick one word to describe how Scottish Folds look, that word would be ’round’. They have round faces, big, bright round eyes, and with their ears flat against their heads, they look even rounder.

The ears are the one distinguishing feature of a Scottish Fold. That’s because almost every other one of their features can vary, unlike other breeds. Scottish Folds can have a variety of coat colors, including white through off white and cream, silver, blue, red, brown, and black; what’s more, they can have any pattern in their fur that you can imagine from solid color to calico, bicolor, tortoiseshell, tabby, spots, ticking and more. The face really is where you identify this breed, because everything else about them varies.

The reason why Scottish Folds vary so much is that the mutation that gives them their special ears is a simple dominant one. To illustrate how this works, let’s put it into context: say you’re breeding two cats, a silver Scottish Fold and a regular calico cat. If the Scottish Fold passes on its dominant ear gene to the offspring—and there’s a 50% chance that it will—then that gene will be expressed. But the Scottish Fold gene has nothing to do with the color of the cat’s coat, its coat length, and other distinguishing features. As such, the kittens can have the calico cat’s coat color and length with the Scottish Fold’s ears.

As we’ll learn later, though, this genetic mutation also affects your cat’s health in negative ways. It’s for this reason that certain organizations like the British Veterinary Association say that they shouldn’t be bred anymore.

How Long Do Scottish Fold Cats Live? [Lifespan]

Scottish Folds have an average lifespan of 15 years. This means they live around as long as most cat breeds. While they do experience breed-specific health issues, these health issues don’t relate to length of life but rather to quality of life. So, while a Scottish Fold can experience arthritis, this won’t kill it, but it will mean that its later years are painful.

How Big Do Scottish Fold Cats Get?

Scottish Folds have a medium build. Males often weigh more than 12lbs while females weigh between 8-12lbs. It’s easy to misdiagnose a Scottish Fold as being overweight or underweight because it’s of its naturally round appearance.

There are a few ways to keep a cat at a certain weight and size. One is to regulate the amount of food they eat, e.g. by dishing out half a cup of dry food each morning, or by feeding three wet food meals per day. Another is to weigh your cat regularly so that you can spot when it starts to lose or gain weight. If you’re concerned about the size or weight of your Scottish Fold cat, talk to a vet for further advice.

How Much Does a Scottish Fold Cat Cost?

Because Scottish Folds are rare, the price you might pay for one can vary. You can expect to pay somewhere between $250 and $1500 depending on whether there are any other breeders nearby, how many other kittens there are for sale from the same breeder, the health of the kittens, their pattern and color, and so on.

In terms of ongoing costs, Scottish Folds cost more than the average cat. While they eat the same diet and require the same toys and cat furniture, they experience debilitating joint issues later in life. This necessitates vet visits, pain medication and the like, the cost of which adds up.

Are Scottish Fold Cats Hypoallergenic?

Scottish Folds are no more or less hypoallergenic than the average cat. That’s because the Scottish Fold gene has nothing to do with whether the cat sheds a lot or whether it has long fur.

There are lots of factors that combine to make a cat good or bad for allergy sufferers. Some breeds with long fur are good for those with allergies, because the long fur stops the most common cat allergen protein (Fel d 1) from escaping. But some breeds with long fur are bad for allergies because they shed a lot, while shorthair breeds that hardly shed such as the Devon Rex are better. If you’re planning on getting a hypoallergenic cat, get a breed like the Javanese (which produces little of this allergen), the Devon Rex (whose wavy coat stops the allergen spreading), or a Russian Blue (whose thick fur traps the allergen against the skin).

Are Scottish Fold Cats Easy to Take Care Of?

Scottish Folds are no more difficult to care for than your average cat. They are friendly and get along well in families and with other pets.

What Kind of Temperament do Scottish Fold Cats Have?

Besides their rounded ears, Scottish Folds are known for their happy temperaments.

  • Are Scottish Fold cats good with people? Scottish Fold cats are chatty and friendly with people. Like all cats, they get along best with people that they’re introduced to first.
  • Are Scottish Fold cats good with other pets? Unlike other breeds, Scottish Folds are known for getting along very well with other pets. Again, ensure that you introduce your cat to other cats or pets in your house the right way or they might not become friends.

Your cat’s temperament will depend largely on how it is raised. During the early weeks of life, a kitten learns whether people are to be feared or to be trusted. If they are mistreated by people in this time, they will grow up to dislike people. If you treat a Scottish Fold kitten kindly and gently, it will reward you by giving that kindness and gentleness back later in life. The same applies to how well Scottish Folds get along with other pets, i.e. bad experiences with other pets early in life will shape their outlook later in life. This applies to all cat breeds.

Do Scottish Fold Cats Need Lots of Grooming?

scottish fold cat
Aaa! Grooming! Nooo!

Scottish Folds that have long fur will need lots of grooming, like other breeds with long coats. If you don’t groom a cat with a long coat then it’s fur can become greasy, flakey and even matted. Grooming also helps prevent uncontrolled shedding and, therefore, allergies.

You should at least brush your Scottish Fold’s coat. This gets rid of loose shed hairs, stops the fur getting too greasy, gets rid of skin flakes/dandruff, and keeps it looking neat overall. If your cat ever catches fleas, then this can get rid of eggs and fleas before they become a major infestation (although other measures will almost certainly still be necessary). This level of grooming is necessary for all cats.

You could also consider bathing your cat occasionally, although this isn’t strictly needed.

Do Scottish Fold Cats Need to Go To The Vet a Lot?

Unfortunately, Scottish Fold cats have specific health needs that not all cats have. This is a result of the genetic change that makes their ears floppy.

The gene that makes a Scottish Fold’s ears floppy is one that affects its cartilage. Cartilage is like a mix between bone and muscle: more flexible than bone, but stiffer than muscle. Cats don’t just have cartilage in their ears, but in lots of places around their bodies, particularly around the joints. Here, it acts as flexible connective tissue that stops one bone from rubbing against another and cushions impact during movement. Arthritis is when this cartilage becomes weak, is rubbed away, and the bones grind against each other in the joint.

Because the Scottish Fold’s cartilage isn’t as strong as it should be, it predisposes the breed to arthritis. And unlike some kinds of arthritis, this kind affects every joint, because it’s all cartilage that’s affected. That’s why both the GCCF and the British Veterinary Association advise against breeding them. The GCCF for its part stopped registering Scottish Fold cats in the early 1970s for this and other reasons. They aren’t even allowed at GCCF shows, although they can still be registered and shown with other organizations.

This mutation cannot be bred out of the Scottish Fold. That’s because it’s the weak cartilage in the ears that makes them floppy; if the cat was bred to have stronger cartilage, it wouldn’t have its floppy ears. This applies whether the cat is the result of crossbreeding a Scottish Fold with an American Shorthair, a British Shorthair, or any other breed.

Do Scottish Fold Cats Need a Special Diet?

Scottish Folds don’t require a special diet. They can eat and thrive on the same foods that any other domestic cat would. Wet cat foods and raw cat foods are best for any cat, while dry cat foods cause kidney problems later in life, so are best avoided. If your Scottish Fold doesn’t drink much water, consider getting it a cat water fountain.

Should You Get a Scottish Fold Cat?

There are good reasons to say that you shouldn’t buy or breed Scottish Fold cats. The arthritis they experience is a debilitating, lifelong, incurable and painful condition that cannot be bred out. Some people say you shouldn’t breed flat-faced cats (or dogs, for that matter) because of the breathing problems they experience. The issue that Scottish Folds face is just as bad in that it severely limits quality of life particularly in the older years; you just don’t hear about it as much because Scottish Folds aren’t a common breed.

By contrast, the argument in favor of buying and breeding them is that Scottish Folds are cute. They have cute floppy ears and are friendly. This certainly isn’t reason enough to breed cats that have lifelong health issues that cause them pain. We therefore don’t recommend buying or breeding Scottish Folds. If you plan on buying or breeding them anyway, talk to a vet regularly throughout the cats’ lives to counter the issues they experience.