The Scottish Fold is a breed of domestic cat with a natural dominant-gene mutation that affects cartilage throughout the body, causing the ears to “fold”, bending forward and down towards the front of their head, which gives the cat what is often described as an “owl-like” appearance.
Originally called lop-eared or lops after the lop-eared rabbit, Scottish Fold became the breed’s name in 1966. Depending on registries, longhaired Scottish Folds are varyingly known as Highland Fold, Scottish Fold Longhair, Longhair Fold and Coupari.
The original Scottish Fold was a white barn cat named Susie, who was found at a farm near Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1961. Susie’s ears had an unusual fold in their middle, making her resemble an owl. When Susie had kittens, two of them were born with folded ears, and one was acquired by William Ross, a neighbouring farmer and cat-fancier. Ross registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain in 1966 and started to breed Scottish Fold kittens with the help of geneticist Pat Turner. The breeding program produced 76 kittens in the first three years—42 with folded ears and 34 with straight ears. The conclusion from this was that the ear mutation is due to a simple dominant gene.
Susie’s only reproducing offspring was a female Fold named Snooks who was also white; a second kitten was neutered shortly after birth. Three months after Snooks’ birth, Susie was killed by a car. All Scottish Fold cats share a common ancestry to Susie.
All Folds are born with straight, unfolded ears, and those with the Fold gene will begin to show the fold usually within about 21 days. The kittens that do not develop folded ears are known as Straights. The original cats only had one fold in their ears, but due to selective breeding, breeders have increased the fold to a double or triple crease that causes the ear to lie totally flat against the head.
The breed’s distinctive folded ears are produced by an incompletely dominant gene that affects the cartilage of the ears, causing the ears to fold forward and downward, giving a cap-like appearance to the head. Smaller, tightly folded ears set in a cap-like fashion are preferred to a loose fold and larger ear. The large, round eyes and rounded head, cheeks, and whisker pads add to the overall rounded appearance. Despite the folded ears, folds still use their aural appendages to express themselves—the ears swivel to listen, lay back in anger and prick up when the treat bag rustles.
The Scottish Fold is a medium-sized cat, with males typically reaching 4 to 6 kg (9–13 lb), females 2.7–4 kg (6–9 lb). The Fold’s entire body structure, especially the head and face, is generally rounded, and the eyes large and round. The nose will be short with a gentle curve and the cat’s body well-rounded with a padded look and medium-to-short legs. The head is domed at the top, and the neck very short. The broadly-spaced eyes give the Scottish Fold a “sweet expression”.
Scottish Folds can be either long- or short-haired, and they may have nearly any coat color or combination of colours (including white).
Scottish Folds, whether with folded ears or with normal ears, are typically good-natured and placid and adjust to other animals within a household extremely well. They tend to become very attached to their human caregivers and are by nature quite affectionate. Folds also receive high marks for playfulness, grooming and intelligence.
Folds are also known for sleeping on their backs. Scottish Folds typically have soft voices and display a complex repertoire of meows and purrs not found in better-known breeds. Folds are also known for sitting with their legs stretched out and their paws on their belly. This is called the “Buddha Position”.