Scottish Fold: The Owls of the Feline World

Scottish Fold kitten sitting in a wooden basket
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

There are plenty of lop-eared dogs, just as well as there are lop-eared rabbits. But what about cats? Is there a kitty representative to this unique and overwhelmingly cute trait in pets? Yes, there is. Enter the Scottish Fold.

The breed got its name from the exceptionally folded ears and its original home in Scotland. Apart from their owl-like appearance which cat fanciers describe as cute, this cat has definitely earned some space in the spotlight. Did you know that Maru—the cat whose videos have been watched for over 300 million times on the internet—is actually a Scottish Fold who lives in Japan? Can you also recognize him on pictures posted by celebrities like Tailor Swift and Ed Sheeran on their Instagram?

scottish fold cat slying down on a table

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Above Average; pay extra attention to their ears

  • Health: Average; potential health issues caused by their uniquely-shaped ears

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired / Semi Long-Haired, Natural Breed
WeightMales: 9 - 13 pounds

Females: 6 - 9 pounds
Lifespan9 - 15 years

Mutations have been happening in cats for quite some time. Whether the process is natural or intentional, breeders have used this to come up with numerous new cat breeds. One such breed is the Scottish Fold.

The Scottish Fold breed is characterized by a distinct, rounded appearance. Their round head, cheeks, whisker pads, and ear tips are further accompanied by a pair of large, round, widely-spaced eyes. Their eyes can be a luminous copper, a sunset orange, or a deep blue depending on their coat color. It is also possible to find one sporting eyes of different colors.

Cute grey Scottish Fold cat sitting in bed

Their ears are folded downwards and towards the face—giving the cat a furry, owl-like look. The folds can range from single, double, to triple but they do not hamper the cat’s auditory faculty. Kittens are born with normal straight ears which begin to fold at the age of 3 to 4 weeks. The cat’s unique looks are completed by a tiny nose that is slightly curled upwards.

These cats can be either long or short-haired, with varieties of coat colors or mixtures of colors. The longhairs have noticeably long and thick fur around the upper thighs, toes, ears, and tail, while the shorthairs have short, dense and soft coats. The former is mostly referred to as the Highland Folds.

Main Highlights

  • Scottish Folds draw their name from their Scottish heritage and their folded ears. The ears fold due to a natural mutation that affects the cartilage through their entire body.

  • Their most distinctive features are the folded ears which range from one to three folds each.

  • British Folds reproduce kittens that can be straight or fold-eared.

  • The gene for the folded ears is dominant—meaning that fold-eared kittens can be born even if only one of the parents carries the gene. In fact, breeding two Folds could lead to severely impaired kittens that would have movement problems.

  • There are short and long-haired varieties of the Scottish Folds.

  • The cats are medium-sized, but males are larger than the females. The former weighs between 9 and 13 pounds while the latter weigh between 6 and 9 pounds

  • The cat is affectionate, playful, and smart. They get along with children and other pets and fit right into any environment.

  • These cats easily grow attached to their family and thrive in the company of their human companions.

  • The cartilage impairment predisposes the cat to degenerative joint diseases in addition to extra dirt buildup and the creation of a bacteria-friendly environment in the ears.

  • Other possible health problems could include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and polycystic kidney disorder, for which tests are available.

  • Their grooming needs depend on their hair length. Short-haired Folds need a weekly brushing while the long-haired ones can do with twice or thrice weekly brushing. They all require routine tooth-brushing, ear cleaning, nail clipping, and the occasional bath.

  • The Folds can come in a variety of color combinations and patterns

  • A Scottish Fold’s diet should mainly consist of meat. Foods containing grain, corn, starch, and fillers can upset your kitty’s stomach.

Breed History

The Scottish Fold traces their origin back to Scotland. Susie, a fold-eared female farm cat, drew the attention of a shepherd called William Ross in 1961. Susie had kittens with a local tom; her kittens had the same distinctively-folded ears.

The shepherd took his interest a step further and used Snooks—a female kitten that he obtained from the farmer—to selectively develop the unique breed. He went further and registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain. This kick-started the breed that was originally referred to as lop-eared cats. It was later renamed Scottish Fold after the country of origin and their distinctive folded ears.

With the help of a geneticist, Pat Turner, Ross was able to breed several kittens within a short time. These litters had kittens with folded ears and others with straight ones. This led to the conclusion that the gene mutation was dominant, and so fold-eared kittens would result even if only one of the parents had folded ears.

Close-up of a Scottish Fold cat sitting

Since then, the Folds are only crossed with straight-eared cats. This is because breeding two folded cats could lead to cats that are too impaired to walk normally. Susie also passed on the gene for long hair, which leads to the long-haired variety. The Scottish Folds are usually crossed with American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs.

By the 1970s, several cat associations in North America had recognized the breed. In 1971, GCCF withdrew registration due to concerns about genetic health issues associated with these cats’ folded ears and the impaired cartilage. The first Folds were exported into the United States in 1971. Several years later, the Cat Fanciers Association granted the breed championship status. No fore-mentioned infections and mite problems have been reported so far.


The Scottish Fold is a medium-sized cat. Their males are noticeably larger than the females. Males weigh between 9 and 13 pounds while females range between 6 and 9 pounds. These are considerably short-legged cats with long bodies. Their tails are long, thick, and may have rounded tips. Their dome-shaped head is joined to the body by a thick, almost non-existent neck.

Personality and Character

The Scottish Fold is very intelligent and full of energy. They enjoy playing with teasers and puzzle toys, but they would rather play with or be in the company of their family members. They reciprocate any affection given with a lifetime of loyalty. They like being involved in all family activities and enjoys outdoor ones even better.

Scottish Fold cat ready to jump on his owner

The Folds become quite attached to their companions. They don’t take boredom very kindly. If they are left alone for too long, they get depressed easily. These cats would not be appropriate for a household where nobody stays at home.

They love any attention showered upon them and relish some regular lap time. These cats quickly adapt to different environments and can get along well even with strangers. They are known to pose in odd and interesting positions just to show off and entertain their companions. They will also follow you around and chat with you softly.

Health and Potential Problems

The cute folded ears of a Scottish Fold come with their fair share of problems:

  • Bacterial Infection: Apart from being quite difficult to keep clean, the ears provide an environment conducive for bacteria to thrive.

  • Degenerative Joint Disease: Although the fact that the ears are hard to clean can be dangerous, it is the genetic mutation which causes the folded ears from the first place that can lead to real problems—such as the degenerative joint disease. It is most pronounced around the tails, ankles, and knees. This disease causes pain and crippling and can lead to impaired movement. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight may help to keep this at bay.

  • Polycystic Kidney Disorder: Although polycystic kidney disorder is not limited to Scottish Folds, they are known to be especially susceptible to them. The disease—which is passed down from parents to the kittens—can lead to kidney failure and death. However, genetic tests are available to detect the disease.

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: These cats are also predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This causes poor health and can lead to heart failure. Kittens should be tested, and a test certificate should be availed to you before you obtain one from a breeder.

Apart from ensuring that you have perused relevant health information concerning the cat before obtaining them, you should also make regular visits to the vet and observe the usual health practices like deworming, grooming, and flea control. Also, ensure that you observe your cat for anything out of the ordinary and consult the vet if need be.

Care Features

Like all other pets, Scottish Folds should be kept away from the traffic, violent animals, and everything else that might cause them harm. This can be done by keeping your cat indoors and only allowing them outdoors with company.

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean, fresh, and accessible at all times will ensure that their bathroom time is comfortable and keep their coat clean as well. Also, ensure some privacy for them. Cats are often sensitive when it comes to litterbox affairs.

close-up of a grey Scottish fold cat

The Scottish Fold is a playful and intelligent cat. Provide toys that will both entertain and tease their brain. Cats love to watch birds, climb, scratch, and perch. Making your home cat-friendly includes taking care of these needs, so we recommend installing things such as cat shelves, cat condos, cat tents, or cat teepees.

Availing yourself to pet, play with, and spend quality time with your cat is paramount. Pets thrive in an environment with people who love and care for them. All these go a long way in improving their quality of life and also in strengthening the bond between the two of you.

Feeding Schedule

A Scottish Fold can feed on either wet or dry food. Combinations of both would be great too. A diet rich in meat-based protein and low in carbohydrates is the best for a Fold.

They can easily become overweight if their diet is not controlled. Therefore, ensure that you buy food from reputable manufacturers and consult the breeder or the vet in case you need any clarifications on portion size and feeding frequency based on your cat’s life stage. Once this has been established, let your cat get used to the routine.

Lovable Scottish Fold Cat lying on the floor

Ensure that you change your cat’s food once in a while so that they can benefit from varieties of other proteins. However, the transition should be done gradually and a little at a time.

In case you want to feed them canned food or homemade food, warming up the food before serving would be a great idea although microwaving isn’t recommended. Along with the food, ensure that fresh water is available at all times.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The Folds can be short or long-haired. Since they are outcrossed with other cats, their coats vary to nearly any combinations of colors. They also come in varieties of patterns. The grooming depends on the length of the coat. Shorthairs can do with a weekly brushing while the long-haired Folds will need it at least twice per week to keep the coat shiny, healthy, and to prevent matting.

Cats tend to shed more during springtime and autumn, especially if they are allowed outdoors. During this time, you should increase the frequency of brushing to get rid of loose hair. A bath once a month will be enough for your kitty, but your judgment should also tell you when to do it sooner and when to wait. Resist the urge to overdo it since this will strip your cat’s coat of its natural oils and cause dryness. Only use a mild shampoo that is cat-recommended to avoid irritating your cat’s skin.

Scottish Fold cat sitting on the grass and looking at the camera

Your cat is meant for a house life and not the wild. This means that they do not need long, unkempt nails to survive. Clip their nails at least twice a month to keep them short and neat. Be careful not to hurt them in the process. Press on the toe to expose the whole nail before you cut, making sure to avoid the quick.

For your cat’s dental hygiene, brush their teeth at least twice a week. Be sure to use a toothbrush recommended for cats and feline toothpaste. This will help keep away dental diseases. Their folded ears may look exceptional, but they also excel at trapping germs and dirt inside. They also tend to produce more wax than normal. This calls for daily inspection and cleaning of the ears to prevent dirt and wax buildup. Their eyes should also be wiped using separate wet cottons for each eye to prevent spreading infection if there’s any.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Scottish Folds are playful and affectionate. This makes them great companions and playmates for children. Their preference for outdoor games and activities fits in with a noisy household with kids. These cats are good-natured. They also easily adapt to different environments and situations, which helps them get along with other pets.

Wrap Up

The Scottish Fold was selectively bred after the original parent, Susie, was found to carry a dominant gene that caused the ears to fold. This occurs due to a natural mutation which leads to cartilage impairment in cats. Susie’s kitten, Snooks, was used to start an entire breeding program of cute cats that have since endeared themselves to many.

The folded ears are the breed’s most noticeable trait, yet Scottish Fold temperament is not to be overlooked. It can be described as sweet, affectionate, and adorable. This can certainly be confirmed by photos posted by celebrities on Instagram and the numerous cat video views on YouTube.

A beautiful grey Scottish Fold cat

Despite their celebrity profile, this popular cat has normal grooming needs, ordinary feeding habits, and the ability to adapt to any environment—making them a low-maintenance cat, except for when it comes to their ears.

Are you interested in adopting one of these charming, lop-eared cats? If, instead of cats with unique ears, you prefer cats with overwhelming body sizes and coat fluffiness, consider this other breed. Do you have any experience with the Scottish Fold? Help us make this even better by leaving us your feedback below.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.