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Scottish Folds are a breed of cat generally known for their folded ears and ‘round’ appearance. The first Scottish Fold cat was born in Scotland in 1961 with a genetic mutation which caused her to have folded ears.

Due to this mutation, Scottish Folds have serious health problems that cause pain and poor welfare. We’d advise against getting a Scottish Fold if you are thinking of getting a cat. Read on to find out more.


Scottish Fold health problems

Unfortunately, all Scottish Folds have certain health problems to do with their breed.

Osteochondrodysplasia (Scottish Fold disease) 

Osteochondrodysplasia is a disease caused by the mutation that gives them their folded ears. It changes the way their cartilage forms, and affects all cats bred from Scottish Folds. Osteochondrodysplasia causes:

  • abnormal bone growth and skeletal deformities
  • arthritis, a painful joint disease. Cats are very good at hiding their pain, so often owners don’t realise their cat has arthritis until much later
  • severe pain, usually from the arthritis caused by osteochondrodysplasia

Even cats bred from Scottish Folds who do not have folded ears are still at risk of an earlier onset and faster progressing arthritis and abnormal bone growth. 

If you already have a Scottish Fold, it’s important to monitor them closely and make sure you have regular check-ups with your vet. Take a look at our advice on recognising the signs of pain in cats

Other health problems in Scottish Folds

Other health problems Scottish Fold cats may get include:

  • an increased risk of ear disease
  • polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Scottish Folds are more at risk of this inherited kidney disease which causes cysts (fluid filled sacs) to form in the kidney. Over time the cysts expand and normal kidney tissue is lost, resulting in kidney disease. Testing is available to identify the abnormal gene which can cause this condition
  • brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS). Some Scottish Folds are classed as brachycephalic, which means they have shorter noses which can lead to severe breathing problems. Brachycephalic cats are also more likely to have dental problems as well as issues with their eyes, such as ulcers
  • from a behaviour perspective, they might have problems using their ears to communicate with other cats

If you’re considering getting a pedigree cat, read our advice on pedigree cats first.

Scottish Fold characteristics

Scottish Folds are often thought to have ‘calm’ and ‘laid back’ personalities and are praised for their mild temperament. Sadly, these behaviours may actually be caused by the pain they are experiencing, and a reluctance to move, jump and play.


Are Scottish Fold cats banned?

The commercial breeding of cats in Scotland is licensed and breeding Scottish Fold cats likely breaches conditions for licensed breeders. This is because the mutation that gives them their folded ears causes a disease which leads to severe pain, even though they may hide it well from their owners. 

In the rest of the UK, Scottish Folds are not recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) for pedigree registration due to these welfare concerns. While the breeding of Scottish Folds is not banned in the rest of the UK, we are campaigning to educate people about the breed, and are calling for the breeding of these cats to be banned. You can help us by signing our petition.

Caring for a Scottish Fold cat

Many owners of Scottish Fold cats are unaware of the extent of the breed’s health and welfare issues before they purchased a kitten. This is why it is important to raise awareness about the breed, so that owners do not have to deal with the pain and anguish suffered by a beloved pet. 

If you currently have a Scottish Fold cat, take them for regular vet checks and consider pain relief trials (putting your cat on pain relief to see if they become more active, which will confirm that they have been doing less because of pain). Imaging, such as radiographs, may also be helpful. We would also recommend neutering them to make sure their genetic mutation is not passed to more cats.

It’s important to be able to recognise the signs that something is wrong with your cat. You can read our advice on cat body language to help you understand your cat a little better. Always give your vet a call if your cat’s behaviour suddenly changes as this could be a sign something is wrong.

Do Scottish Fold cats make good pets?

All Scottish Fold cats are affected by osteochondrodysplasia and this disorder cannot be bred out of the breed, as such we would not recommend getting a Scottish Fold. Scottish Fold cats can often be in a lot of pain which prevents them from doing a lot of ‘normal’ cat things (like playing and jumping) and has a big impact on their welfare. They are also more expensive to care for and insure than moggies or other breeds with fewer health concerns.

If you are looking for a cat with a particular temperament, check your local Cats Protection as we have plenty of wonderful cats looking for homes. Our rehoming teams will do their very best to find the perfect cat to match your family and lifestyle.

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