Breed-related disease: Scottish Fold

John K. Rosembert

The Scottish Fold is a medium-size cat with a rounded head and big round eyes, although he is known for his standout feature: ears that fold forward, giving him the appearance of a furry owl. His coat, which comes in many colors and patterns, can be short or long. The long-haired variety is known as the Highland Fold. Drop-eared cats such as the Scottish Fold are not as unusual as they might seem. Spontaneous genetic mutations, such as curly coats or folded ears, occur in cats on a fairly regular basis, and the Scottish Fold is the result of such a mutation. All of today’s Folds descend from a Scottish fold-eared cat named Susie who was found by a shepherd in 1961.

Scottish Fold kittens are born with what look like normal ears. The ears soon begin to bend forward, usually two to four weeks after birth. By the time he is three months old, the typical Scottish Fold has a distinctly owlish look, the tightly folded ears do not appear to be any more prone to infections than those of cats with upright ears. However, this unique ear shape is caused by an underlying defect in the formation of cartilage, which would normally retain the ears in a normal shape.

This inherited cartilage defect (also known as Scottish Fold disease, or Osteochondrodysplasia) causes other deformities throughout the body and is a dominant trait, meaning all kittens in the litter will be affected. The disease is evident on x-rays of cats from as young as 7 weeks of age. Serious abnormalities in joints and bone growth lead to arthritis (painful, swollen joints), short, abnormally thick and inflexible tails, spinal abnormalities and short, stiff legs. The welfare impacts are severe in terms of pain and inability to perform natural behaviors, as these cats can be lame, walk with an abnormal gait, can be reluctant to engage in normal movements such as walking or jumping, and can even become completely crippled. That’s why breeding the Scottish Fold is banned in some country.
The Scottish Fold is a great family pet. They are very loyal to their family. They are not a shy breed that would hide around the house; they prefer always being around and following owners from room to room. Scottish Folds are very intelligent and inquisitive. They learn to open cabinets, play fetch, sit up, and some like to eat & drink with their paws. Most love to drink from running water! Most Scottish Folds also “sit up” like a prairie dog when they hear something to get a look around.

Below we summarized some of the most common health issues of Scottish Fold cat in order to help you prevent some predictable risks in your pet.


  1. Dental disease is one of the most common chronic problems in pets who don’t have their teeth brushed regularly. Unfortunately, most cats don’t take very good care of their own teeth, and this probably includes your Fold.
  2. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is caused by a defective gene. The disease was first recognized in Persians, and is seen occasionally in other breeds, including Shorthaired Scottish Folds. Affected kittens are born with miniscule cysts inside the kidneys and sometimes the liver that slowly enlarge over time, eventually destroying the affected organ.


  1. FLUTD Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is not a specific disease, but rather is the term used to describe conditions that can affect the urinary bladder and/or urethra (the lower urinary tract) of cats. This situation is very common in Scottish Fold.


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