Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Scottish Fold

Scottish Fold

Ancestry: Random-bred domestic barn cats
Place of Origin: Scotland
Date of Origin: 1961
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)


The Scottish Fold’s unique ears are produced by a dominant gene that affects their cartilage, causing the ears to fold forward and downward, giving the head a rounded appearance. The ears are small with rounded tips; smaller, tightly folded ears are preferred over loose folds and large ears. They should be set in a caplike fashion to expose a rounded cranium, and are not set high on the head.

Despite being folded, the ears are still expressive. They swivel to listen, lay back in anger, and perk up when something interesting is happening. The fold in the ear will become less pronounced when the cat is ill, in heat or in distress. The folded ears do not make the breed susceptible to ear infections, mites or hearing problems. The ears are not more difficult to clean or medicate than those of other breeds, although they should be handled carefully.

The Fold’s overall appearance is well rounded with medium bone structure. The cat should stand firm with a well-padded body. There is no hint of thickness or lack of mobility in the cat due to short, coarse legs. The toes are neat and well rounded. Overall appearance is that of a well-rounded cat with medium bone structure. The tail is medium to long but in proportion to the body. The tail is flexible and tapering and may end in a round tip. A longer, tapering tail is preferred. Males weigh 9 to 13 pounds; females weigh 6 to 9 pounds. Outcrossing is allowed to the British Shorthair and the American Shorthair (CCA and TICA also allows the British Longhair). Since the Fold cannot breed true, outcrosses will always be necessary. Scottish Straights are also used in Fold breeding programs.

The head is well rounded with a firm chin and jaw, which blends into a short neck. The face has prominent cheeks and the muzzle has well-rounded whisker pads. The nose is short with a gentle curve; a brief stop is permitted. In profile the nose is moderate in appearance. The large, well-rounded eyes are wide open with a sweet expression, and are separated by a broad nose. Eye color corresponds with the coat color. Blue eyes and odd-eyes and are allowed in solid whites, bicolors, and van patterns. Odd-eyed cats have one blue and one gold eye of equal color depth.

The Scottish Fold comes in both longhair and shorthair. The longhair coat is medium-long to long in length. A full coat on the face and body is desirable but short hair is permissible on the face and legs. A ruff is desirable. A tail plume, britches, toe tufts and ear furnishings should be clearly visible. A cottony coat is seriously penalized or disqualified in many associations.

The shorthair coat is short to medium-short and dense, plush and even. It’s soft in texture and full of life, standing away from the body due to the coat density. Coat texture may vary due to color and regional and seasonal changes.

In most associations, the Fold is accepted in all colors and patterns with the exception of those showing evidence of hybridization resulting in the colors chocolate, lavender, the pointed pattern, or these combinations with white. In TICA and CFF, all colors and patterns are accepted, including pointed.


The foundation of today’s Scottish Fold is a barn cat named Susie, a unique folded-ear white feline found in 1961 on the McRae farm near Coupar Angus in the Tayside region of Scotland. All Scottish Folds can trace their pedigrees back to Susie. British Shorthair breeder William Ross noticed the unique cat, and he and his wife, Mary, fell in love with her. They also recognized her potential as a new breed. Ross asked the McRaes about the cat, and was promised a kitten from Susie’s first litter. Susie’s mother was a straight-eared white cat and her father was unknown, so it’s unclear whether this litter was the first of its kind or whether the folded ears had simply never been noticed before. One of Susie’s brothers was also a Fold, but he wandered away, never to be seen again.

In 1963, the Rosses were given one of Suzie’s folded-ear kittens, a white female like her mother, whom they named Snooks. With the help of British geneticist Peter Dyte, the Rosses started a breeding program using British Shorthairs and random-bred domestic cats as outcrosses. They quickly found that the Fold gene was dominant. Originally, they called the breed Lops after the lop-ear type of rabbit. In 1966, they changed the name to Scottish Fold.. The same year, the Rosses registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).

At first, a number of breeders and fanciers were fascinated by this new breed, but soon GCCF became concerned about potential health problems. Initially they worried about ear mite infestations and deafness, but these concerns were unfounded. However, GCCF soon became worried about genetic problems, which were very real concerns. By 1971, GCCF closed registration to Scottish Folds and banned further registration in the United Kingdom.

Folds had to move to North America to continue as a breed. They were first introduced to the United States in 1970 when three of Snooks’ daughters were sent to New England geneticist Neil Todd, who was researching spontaneous mutations in cats at the Carnivore Genetics Research Center in Newtownville, Massachusetts. Manx breeder Salle Wolf Peters of Pennsylvania acquired one of the cats, a daughter of Snooks named Hester. Peters was the first of many breeders to fall in love with the Fold, and she was instrumental in recruiting other breeders and advancing and developing the breed.

Since the gene governing the Scottish Fold’s ears is dominant, all Scottish Folds must have at least one folded-ear parent to have folded ears themselves. It was quickly discovered that breeding two Folds increased the number of Fold kittens, but also greatly increased the chances of serious skeletal problems related to the Fold gene. Homozygous Folds (Folds who inherit the dominant folded-ear gene from both parents) are much more likely to develop a genetic condition that causes crippling distortion and enlargement of the bones. Breeding straight-ear to folded-ear cats reduces the problem, but doesn’t eliminate it. Responsible breeders became very careful not to breed Fold to Fold and to use outcrosses to widen the gene pool. However, controversy arose because of the defect. Some fanciers questioned the wisdom of recognizing a breed whose primary trait is connected to a serious health problem. In addition, many straight-eared Folds are born because the breed can’t breed true, and homes must be found for these cats.

Despite the controversy, the Scottish Fold was accepted for registration by ACA and CFA in 1973. In 1977, the breed was granted CFA provisional status, and in 1978 the breed achieved CFA championship status. Soon all other associations accepted the breed as well. In this amazingly short period (for a new breed), the Fold earned itself a place in the North American cat fancy. Today, the Fold ranks 13th out of the 40 breeds accepted for championship, according to CFA’s 2013 registration totals.

The longhaired version of the breed was not officially recognized until the mid-1980s, although longhair kittens have been appearing in Scottish Fold litters since the breed’s beginning. Suzie may have carried the recessive longhair gene. The use of Persians in early breeding programs also spread the gene for long hair. In 1993, the longhaired Scottish Fold was recognized for CFA championship. Today, all North American cat associations accept both lengths for championship. However, the longhair’s name varies depending upon the association. Like some breeds with two hair lengths, the Scottish Fold is considered a single breed in CFA and TICA. In CFA the Fold Longhair is a division of the Scottish Fold breed; in TICA both hair lengths are part of the Scottish Fold Breed Group. Other associations consider them separate breeds; AACE, ACA, ACFA, and UFO call the longhair the Highland Fold, while CFF calls it the Longhair Fold. In CCA, the Scottish Fold Longhair, Scottish Fold Shorthair, Scottish Straight Longhair, and Scottish Straight Shorthair are separate breeds that are covered under a single standard called the Scottish.


As mentioned in the history section, some Scottish Folds are prone to an inherited skeletal abnormality osteochondrodystrophy, which causes progressive stiffening, swelling, and fusing of the joints particularly in the tail and legs, which can result in lameness, crippling, and great pain. Careful breeding and outcrossing has reduced the frequency of this abnormality, and not all Folds develop problems, even in their older years. However, since this genetic condition is connected to the folded ear gene, it can’t be completely eliminated. It’s vital to buy from a breeder who doesn’t breed Fold to Fold. Be sure to discuss this issue with your chosen breeder and to examine the tail of your prospective Fold very gently; if the tail or legs are stiff, inflexible, or lack mobility, the cat probably has the abnormality. Scottish Folds with short thickened tails are likely affected. If the breeder is not willing to give you a written health guarantee, you may want to look elsewhere for the Fold of your dreams to avoid this crippling condition.

Dr. Leslie Lyons of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, as part of the Feline Genome Project, is studying the Scottish Fold, Manx, and Munchkin to determine why some bloodlines have health problems associated with their unique autosomal dominant traits and others do not. In the future, this research may help breeders keep their lines healthy and free of defects.

Because Persians were used as an outcross, some Fold lines have inherited the gene for polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a serious disease that can cause death by renal failure. Also, since symptoms are mild until later in life, untested breeding cats have often already passed on the dominant gene to their offspring, making the disease hard to eradicate. Fortunately, a PKD test for Scottish Folds and Persians is available from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, which can help breeders screen out affected stock before they are used for breeding. A sample is taken at home with a simple cheek swab, and mailed back to the laboratory for testing. No visit to a veterinarian is necessary, since the lab will send a kit and instructions for taking the sample.

When you buy a pet quality Scottish Fold, you may be offered a straight-eared Fold (called the Scottish Straight), or a Fold with loosely folded or mismatched ears. Show quality Folds are generally kept or sold to other experienced Fold breeders, particularly those Folds who possess the coveted tightly folded ears. Still, pet quality Folds make wonderful companions since they have the sweet Fold personality, and are considerably less expensive. Scottish Straights don’t possess the Fold gene, and therefore won't have inherited the skeletal abnormality.

If you’re lucky enough to own a tightly folded ear Scottish Fold, check the insides of the ears often because they become dirty quite quickly; this should be done as part of your routine once-weekly grooming for shorthairs, and twice-weekly grooming for longhairs.

Did you know?

The Scottish Fold may not be the first example of cats with folded ears. Drop-eared cats apparently existed in the 1700s, according to a 1796 issue of the Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, which mentioned wild folded-ear cats in China. Whether the Scottish Fold is related to these cats or the result of a new spontaneous mutation is unknown.


Foldies, as some fanciers affectionately call them, are mellow, loving, intelligent, and sweet tempered. They adapt quickly to new environments, situations, people and companion animals. While Folds allow other people in the household to cuddle and pet them, they tend to bond with one special person, become completely devoted, and follow their chosen ones from room to room like loyal, lop-eared pups. They thrive on interaction with their chosen human companion and are agreeable to just about any suggestion, as long as it can be done from a reclining position. They have soft voices and use them infrequently.

Docile and far from hyperactive, Folds are no problem to keep off the counter. You usually don’t have to put away your breakables or worry about your Foldie climbing your curtains or racing around the house at warp speed. However, they do relish short bouts of interactive play, particularly as kittens, and will keep you amused with their strange postures. Many Foldies enjoy their own form of yoga; they lie on their backs with legs in the air, sit as though meditating with their legs stretched out in front, flatten themselves out like purring bearskin rugs, and sit up like pert chipmunks.

Folds can become lonely if their favorite people are gone for long periods. A compatible cat or mellow cat-friendly dog will help keep your Fold company while you’re away.

Breed Characteristics

Coat Length(s):Short hair and long hair.
Body Type:Moderate.
Grooming Requirement:Once a week (shorthairs) / twice a week (longhairs).
Activity Level:Average.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults, seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs average attention.
Handling:Moderately docile.