The Scottish Fold is a breed of cat with a natural mutation to its ears. The ear cartilage contains a fold so the ears bend forward and down towards the front of their head.
The original Scottish Fold was a long-haired white-haired barn cat named Susie, who was found at a farm near Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland in 1961. Susie's ears had an unusual fold in their middle, making her resemble an owl. When Susie had kittens, two of them were born with folded ears, and one of the siblings was acquired by William Ross, a neighbouring farmer and cat-fancier. Ross registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in Great Britain and started to breed Scottish Fold kittens with the help of geneticist Pat Turner. The breeding program produced 76 kittens in the first three years - 42 with folded ears and 34 with straight ears. The conclusion from this was that the ear mutation is due to a simple dominant gene. If one parent provides the gene for straight ears, and one parent provides the gene for folded ears, the kittens will be Folds.
The breed was not accepted for showing in Great Britain and Europe as it was felt that they would be extremely prone to ear problems such as infection, mites and deafness, but the folds were exported to America and the breed continued to be established there using crosses with British Shorthair and the American Shorthair.
Scottish Folds can be either long or short-haired, and they may have any coat colour combination except for Siamese-style points. Pointed Folds have been bred but they are not eligible for showing. The original cats only had one fold in their ears, but due to selective breeding they have increased the fold to a double or triple crease that lies the ear totally flat against the head.
There is one medical problem that has been found to be related to Scottish Fold breeding. If both parents have folded ears, their kittens will be extremely prone to developing a painful degenerative joint disease that fuses the tail, ankles and knees. The disease is not fatal, but as it is easily avoidable, reputable breeders will only breed fold to non-fold.
The Scottish Fold is best known for its distinctive ears, which are folded forward and down, and by its large rounded eyes, which give it a sweet, wide-eyed expression. They are mellow and affectionate cats.
Scottish Folds are found in both longhaired and shorthaired varieties, in a great number of colours and pattern combinations. The longhaired variety is sometimes referred to as a "Highland Fold".
All of today's Scottish Folds can trace their ancestry to Susie, a white folded-ear cat discovered in 1961 in Scotland. Although the breed was developed in Scotland and England and the first cats were registered in GCCF, using primarily British cats in its development, the breed has yet to be accepted in its home country. The first Scottish Fold cats, originally called "Lop-eared cats", arrived in the United States in 1971. They were accepted for registration in several United States associations in the early 1970s, and the late 1970s had achieved championship status in most North American registries. Longhaired Scottish Folds followed suit in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Many Scottish Folds have the curious habit of sitting or lying in very strange postures -- on their backs, sitting up in a "Buddha" position, flattening themselves out like little bearskin rugs. Their small, folded ears are unusually expressive, more so than an average cat's "normal" ears. They have soft, chirpy voices they do not use often.
Buyers of these wonderful cats should be aware that some Scottish Folds are prone to problems of hardening cartilige. Show Scottish Folds are taught to accept handling of their tails as judges check for one of the clearer signs of this hardening -- stiffening of the tail. As this problem does not generally show up in young kittens, be sure to discuss this issue with the breeder and what guarantees the breeder will make against this condition in the future. Reputable breeders will breed only fold-ear to straight-ear to guard against this problem. Be concerned about any breeders who are breeding fold-ear to fold-ear. Scottish Folds may still use British Shorthairs and American Shorthairs as allowable outcrosses.
Interesting fact: Not all Scottish Fold kittens will have folded ears. All Scottish Fold kittens are born with straight ears. It isn't until the kitten is about three weeks old that a breeder will begin to know which kittens will have folded ears and which will not. There are degrees of folding, too -- usually described as a single, double, or triple fold. A single fold is generally a "loose" fold and isn't show quality. The most desirable fold is a triple fold, which is tight to the head. Owners of tightly-folded Scottish Folds need to check their insides of their cats' ears frequently, as they can become dirty over time.However, straight-eared Scottish Folds are sought after in breeding programs and still make wonderful pets.
After two decades of outcrossing to the American and British Shorthairs, the Scottish Fold has developed a look all its own. It is a medium sized cat, 9 to 13 pounds in the male and 6 to 9 pounds in the female. A Fold should have a well rounded, padded look to the entire body with a round headed appearance from all angles, domed at the top with a very short neck. The eyes should be large, round, broadly spaced and giving a sweet expression. A Fold can have straight medium-sized ears to small tightly folded ears with wide range in the degree of the fold. The ear tips will be rounded on the tip. A Fold will have well-rounded whisker pads with whiskers which often curve forward. The jaw is firm and well rounded. The nose is gently curved, short and wide due to the wide set of the eyes. Sometimes the curve of the mouth around their prominent whisker pads gives the appearance of a "smiling" cat. As you can see from the description, the Scottish Fold's head should look round in all ways.
The Scottish Fold can be found in both the shorthair and longhaired version. The longhaired Scottish Fold has a semi-long coat of variable length which should sport a nice ruff on the males, leg britches and a huge fluffy tail.
Scottish Folds can be found in almost every color and combination of colors and white except for the pointed colors. This means that generally you will not be able to find a Scottish Fold who has the coloring of a Siamese or Himalayan. (The exception is Folds bred by members of the Cat Fanciers Federation, which allows the pointed pattern. All other registries consider pointed Folds to be AOV (Any Other Variety), and will not accept them for competition.) The brown tabby & white Scottish Fold is probably the most well known color but they can be found in everyone's favorite colors.