Scottish Fold

Janelle Leeson
By Janelle Leeson. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Jul. 18, 2023
orange tabby scottish fold cat lying on a cat tree

In This Article

General Care

As you might have guessed, round-faced Scottish Folds—lovingly referred to as Foldies—originated in Scotland. Standing 8–10 inches tall and weighing up to 13 pounds, they’re stocky cats with lots of love to give.

In 1961, a spontaneous genetic mutation established this breed of cats with folded ears. “These folded ears give them a unique appearance often seen as cute,” says Dr. Primrose Moss, VetMB, MRCVS, a UK-based small-animal veterinarian. However, there’s more to consider than cute looks when adding a new pet to the family.

Let’s explore the essential care and personality traits of the Scottish Fold.

Caring for a Scottish Fold

If you’re a fan of Taylor Swift and her Scottish Fold cats, Meredith Grey and Olivia Benson, you may be familiar with their daily adventures. But what you might not know, Moss says, is that Scottish Fold cats require caregivers who can understand a cat’s body language and notice small signs of discomfort: The folded ears of these celebrity cats also come with joint and cartilage problems.

However, these cats are incredibly popular due to their genuinely sweet and gentle temperament. They thrive in houses or apartments, and Scottish Folds happily share their abode with other pets and/or children.

Scottish Fold Health Issues

“The priority when picking a new pet should always be to ensure it will have a healthy, happy life as free from pain as possible,” Moss says. Unfortunately, the Scottish Fold’s good looks come with some serious health concerns. Therefore, it’s recommended to consider pet insurance when purchasing a Scottish Fold kitten from a reputable breeder.

Scottish Fold Disease

Known as “Scottish Fold disease,” osteochondrodysplasia causes abnormalities in joints and bone development, Moss says. It’s responsible for the cat’s cute, folded ears but affects cartilage throughout the body. This results in early onset arthritis, pain, and even behavioral changes caused by discomfort. All Scottish Fold cats are affected, although some may experience more discomfort than others, Moss says.

If you notice any of the following signs of pain in your Scottish Fold, ask your vet if Scottish Fold disease could be the cause:

There are no treatment options for osteochondrodysplasia. However, your vet can develop a suitable pain-management plan and discuss changes at home to make daily activities more comfortable for your Scottish Fold.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a common heart condition in cats that decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood. It’s typically hereditary, caused by a mutation in a gene responsible for maintaining healthy heart muscles. Less commonly, this heart disease is caused by high blood pressure, cancer, or a hormonal imbalance.

Cats with the disease may not show signs at first. Some cats can be diagnosed early if their vet hears a heart murmur and recommends a heart evaluation. In later stages, a cat may have shortness of breath, be lethargic, and lose their appetite.

At-home DNA tests can identify HCM-carrying genes, and regular veterinarian checkups can detect early signs of HCM. With early detection, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to relieve symptoms and/or slow the progression of the disease. Before purchasing your Scottish Fold kitten, ask your breeder if the kitten’s parents have been tested for HCM.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is another genetic health condition that commonly affects Scottish Fold cats, among other breeds. The condition causes cats to develop cysts in their kidneys, leading to irreversible kidney damage.

Cats affected by PKD often show signs similar to chronic kidney disease, including increased thirst, frequent urination, loss of appetite, muscle wasting, and weight loss. Although the disease can occur in Scottish Fold kittens as young as 6 months old, symptoms generally appear in cats 7 years or older. If you notice any PKD symptoms, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

PKD is diagnosed via thorough exams, including a blood chemical profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis. Abdominal X-rays and/or an abdominal ultrasound may also be needed. As with HCM, at-home DNA kits can test your cat for PKD before symptoms appear. If you’re working with an experienced Scottish Fold breeder, ask if both parents have been genetically tested for the disease.

What To Feed a Scottish Fold

Scottish Fold cats don’t have specific dietary requirements other than a complete and balanced cat food, Moss says. Complete and balanced cat food contains all necessary nutrients for a specific life stage (kitten, adult, or senior) in the correct proportions.

“If you’re keen to feed a homemade or raw diet, it’s especially important to consult with a licensed nutritionist to ensure it’s completely balanced,” Moss says. “An imbalanced diet can worsen a cat’s existing health issues.”

How To Feed a Scottish Fold

Cats with orthopedic diseases can benefit from easy access to essential items. Given that Scottish Fold cats are particularly susceptible to orthopedic issues, Moss says to place their food and water in a location that is easy for them to reach. Adding a non-slip mat to their feeding area can prevent accidents and make mealtime more comfortable, too.

How Much Should You Feed a Scottish Fold?  

Just like with humans, eating too much and exercising too little can lead to weight gain. Moss says if your cat is experiencing joint pain, they’ll be less likely to exercise as much as they should—which, in turn, can lead to more joint pain. “This can be a vicious cycle,” she says.

This makes portion control even more important for your Scottish Fold. Every cat food varies in calorie content, and every cat requires differing amounts of calories. Your vet can help determine how much your cat should eat by considering their lifestyle, age, and ideal weight.

Nutritional Tips for Scottish Folds

Commercially available cat food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) (thus complete and balanced) can provide all the necessary nutrients for your cat. However, cat food with joint-healthy ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin can help support your Scottish Fold’s joints.  

Behavior and Training Tips for Scottish Folds

Scottish Fold Personality and Temperament

The docile personality of the Scottish Fold makes them a loving addition to almost any household, including those with young children, canine companions, and other cats. Of course, every Scottish Fold is different, and proper socialization is key to a happy household.

Scottish Fold Behavior

Welcoming a Scottish Fold cat into your home means adding a faithful companion to your family. These cats have an affectionate and moderately active nature. So while you may not catch them leaping from cat tree to cat tree, they do enjoy a well-maneuvered wand toy. Although they like your company, don’t expect them to be constantly attached to you.

“Scottish Fold cats are typically sweet, but some cats can become aggressive if they are experiencing severe pain,” Moss says. If you notice behavioral or mobility changes in your cat, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian.

The docile personality of the Scottish Fold makes them a loving addition to almost any household, including those with young children, canine companions, and other cats.

Scottish Fold Training

Scottish Folds are bright kitties who relish time with their companions. With the right treats and positive reinforcement techniques, your cat can learn helpful training cues and fun tricks.

Fun Activities for Scottish Folds

Scottish Fold Grooming Guide

Scottish Fold cats come in many colors and patterns, including long- and short-hair variations.

Coat Care 

Regular brushing (ideally daily, but at least a couple of times a week) helps manage shedding and prevent matting.

Due to potential limited mobility caused by osteoarthritis, Scottish Fold cats might lose their ability to groom themselves earlier compared to other cats. If they’re missing spots or unable to reach areas during grooming sessions, your Scottish Fold may need a more hands-on grooming routine.

Skin Care

Bathing isn’t necessary, but it might be needed if your Scottish Fold isn’t able to groom themselves.

Eye Care

While Scottish Folds generally don’t require special eye care, consult your veterinarian if you notice signs of potential eye issues, including discharge, redness, or a cloudy appearance in the eyes.

Ear Care

The Scottish Fold’s ears should be clear of debris, free of odors, and without redness or irritation. If their ears seem bothersome, contact your vet for an exam: Your kitty could have an ear infection.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Scottish Folds are wonderful pets, known for their gentle and affectionate nature. However, their unique folded ears are associated with a genetic disease that can lead to pain in the bones, cartilage, and joints.

This has led to debates about whether Scottish Folds should be bred at all. To eliminate duplicate folded-ear genes and alleviate health issues, responsible breeders in the United States breed folded-ear cats only with straight-eared cats. Regular veterinary checkups, genetic testing, and an appropriate diet can help manage the condition and keep your cat at a healthy weight.

With this consideration in mind, Scottish Folds make loving companions and can thrive in a variety of households with proper care, attention, and socialization.

Scottish Fold FAQs

How much do Scottish Fold cats cost?

Scottish Folds cost anywhere between $1,000–$5,000.  

Are Scottish Fold cats cuddly?

Scottish Folds tend to be affectionate cats who enjoy cuddling. However, they’re not considered clingy and will happily curl up in their favorite heated bed, too. But if your typically cuddly Scottish Fold suddenly avoids being held, cuddled, or petted, it may be a sign of pain caused by osteochondrodysplasia.

Are Scottish Fold cats rare?

Responsible breeders in the United States only breed folded-eared cats (American Shorthairs or British Shorthairs) with straight-eared cats. Therefore, not all cats in a litter are born with folded ears. This makes Scottish Folds rather rare (and quite expensive). 

Featured Image: Adobe/GolubaPhoto

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

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