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 cap-like 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 allow the British Longhair). Because the Fold cannot breed true, outcrosses will always be necessary.
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 coat color. Blue eyes and odd eyes 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 Susie’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.
Because 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 that 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 it 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 with a primary trait 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 10th out of the 41 breeds accepted for championship, according to CFA’s 2014 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. Because fanciers avoid Fold-to-Fold matings to decrease the risk of skeletal problems, quite a number of kittens are born without the gene for folded ears. Therefore, some associations such as CCA, TICA, and UFO accept Scottish Straights in both long and short hair for breeding and showing.