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    Scottish Fold

    Scottish Fold

    Place of origin



    Cats with folded ears have been reported in the Hebrides, England, Germany, Belgium, and the Greek Islands, but have been regarded as curiosities and not bred. However, all Scottish Folds trace their heritage back to a white barn cat named Susie, living near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961. Susie produced a number of fold-eared kittens, but was killed by a car in 1963. One of her female offspring, Snooks, became the foundation for the Scottish Fold breed (alternatively known as the Scottish Lop). Snooks' son, Snowball (sired by an unnamed red tabby male) became the first Scottish Fold stud and was mated to a British Shorthair. A number of other Folds were given away as pets and neutered by their new owners. Novel mutations often attract adverse attention, and Susie's owners were accused of breeding deformed cats for profit.

    Initially, the Scottish Fold was registered with the GCCF in the United Kingdom in 1966, and by 1967 numerous "Scottish Lops" had been born. However, the breed was not accepted by European registries, and the GCCF stopped recognizing it in 1971. By then it had become evident that the gene causing the cartilage of the ears to fold also caused limb and tail deformities. There were additional concerns about ear problems, such deafness and greater risk of ear mites or ear infections.

    Interest in Scottish Folds in the United States led to almost all the breeding cats being exported there and to the Scottish Fold being developed in the United States. Geneticists had determined that the gene responsible for this trait was an incomplete dominant and that breeding two folded ear cats together risked producing offspring with severe joint abnormalities. Therefore, folded ear cats must only be bred to straight-eared cats. British and American Shorthairs were used to expand the population of this breed, and Persians, Exotic Shorthairs, and Burmese were used early in the breed's history.

    In the United States, the Scottish Fold was recognized as a breed in 1973 and gained championship status with the CFA in 1978. Longhaired cats were present in the breed right from the start, but the shorthaired variety was initially preferred because the ear shape was more visible. Early Scottish Folds had one fold in their ears; selective breeding has resulted in a double or triple crease so that the ear folds forward and downward, lying completely flat against the head. The Longhair Scottish Fold has been called the Highland Fold in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the Longhair Fold is known as the Coupari, reflecting the cat's origin in Coupar Angus (which is in a lowland region of Scotland, not in the Highlands).

    Scottish Folds eventually returned to the United Kingdom in 1982. In 1983, the now defunct Cat Association recognized the Scottish Fold (shorthair) and recognized the Coupari (longhaired Fold) in 1986. The GCCF still does not recognize the Scottish Fold and has no plans to do so. In Europe, it is not accepted by FIFe and is impacted by animal welfare legislation; however, it has been shown in FIFe shows as an unrecognized breed under FIFe's "open doors" policy.

    In 1986, a folded-ear "Hebridean Cat" appeared in a British cat magazine. The tabby shorthair had small, folded ears that the owner claimed to be a feature of random-bred Hebridean cats. However, nothing further was heard of the variety. It is tempting to think that one of Snooks' descendents may have been taken to the Hebrides and founded a branch of the Scottish Fold dynasty there, just as the barn cat Susie founded the breed now seen around the world.

    Scottish Fold kittens start off straight-eared and start to develop the folding at around 4 weeks of age. The fold is fully developed at around three months of age. Because the fold-ear gene is dominant and because ethical breeders do not breed Fold to Fold, straight-eared kittens appear in Scottish Fold litters. On average, only one-quarter of the kittens in a litter develop folded ears. This means demand for these popular cats outstrips supply.

    In Australia, Straight-eared Scottish Folds have given rise to the Scottish Shorthair, which has longer legs and tail and a different coat texture than the British Shorthair. The Scottish Shorthair was recognized as a breed by the Queensland Independent Cat Council (QICC) in the 1980s. It may only be bred to other Scottish Shorthairs or to Scottish Folds and not outcrossed to British Shorthairs. There is also a Scottish Longhair awaiting recognition.

    In Europe, the straight-eared variants are recognized for exhibition as Scottish Straight (shorthair) and Highland Straight (longhair). They meet the same standard as the Scottish/Highland Fold except for the ear conformation.

    Scottish Folds fall foul of the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals legislation, which imposes a total breeding ban because of cartilage and bone defects, especially in Biblecats who inherit two copies of the gene. In addition to locomotor problems and pain, the ears serve as a signal system in establishing social contacts, a function lost in fold-eared cats. This legislation overrides any breed standards in member countries. In Victoria, Australia, the Animals Legislation (Animal Care) Bill prohibits the breeding or sale of animals with heritable defects. This includes the Scottish Fold.

    No account of the Scottish Fold would be complete without a mention of the almost mythical Chinese Lop-Eared Cat. Martino Martini visited the Peking province of China in the 1650s and described cats who resemble the Maltese dog in having long white fur and long ears. These cats were indolent and did not hunt mice, but were favored as lap-cats by ladies and fed delicacies. Over the centuries, a series of mistranslations of explorers' texts confused this white lop-eared cat with the Sumxu, a sable-and-yellow marten found in southern China and tamed as a pet and to hunt rats. A series of assumptions and mistranslations led to the name "Sumxu" becoming attached to the cat instead of to the yellow-throated marten. Later writers suggested the Chinese Lop-Eared Cat was kept in cages and fattened up to be eaten as a delicacy.

    In 1796, a droop-eared cat was brought back to Hamburg from China and was later taxidermized. It was similar in appearance to an Angora, but a dirty white-yellow in color, and it had pendulous ears. The British breeder H. C. Brooke saw this specimen in 1882 and thought it might be a fake or have ears deformed by canker. Despite several searches by nineteenth-century naturalists and collectors, the Chinese Lop-Eared Cat was not found again. Not even Hagenbeck, a noted animal importer and dealer, was able to locate it. The last reported sighting of the Chinese Lop seems to have been in 1938, when a second droop-eared cat was imported from China.

    Physical description

    The Scottish Fold is a sturdy and solid cat. The round head and short muzzle, with large eyes resulting in an owl-like expression, is accentuated by the folded, capped ears. This results in a cat who epitomizes the definition of "cute." The extent to which the ears are folded varies between individuals and may even change with the age or hormonal state of the cat. Almost everything about the Scottish Fold is rounded. A short neck, well-padded body, and plush coat add to the impression of an adorable, cuddly companion.

    The degree of folding is variable. An exhibition-quality Scottish Fold has ears that form a close-lying cap. Smaller, tightly folded ears are preferred over a loose fold and larger ear. Scottish Folds can still swivel their ears to track sound, lay them back to express anger, and prick them up (but not unfold them) to express interest.

    Colors and varieties

    This breed is recognized in a wide variety of colors, including solids, bicolors, torties/tricolors, tabbies, silver tabbies, tipped, and smoke. Colorpoints, chocolate, and lavender are not generally recognized. Longhaired Scottish Folds are sometimes referred to as Highland Folds or Couparis. Some registries recognize the straighteared offspring of Scottish Folds as Scottish Straight or Scottish Shorthair/Scottish Longhair.


    These cats share the laid-back, tolerant nature of the British Shorthair and American Shorthair cats who continue to be crossed into this breed. Very people-oriented, these softspoken cats are known to be excellent lap-cats. Scottish Folds are affectionate, intelligent, and loyal and get along well with children and with other pets. They are also playful and adaptable. An especially endearing trait of the breed is "the Buddha sit"-a Scottish Fold sitting with hind legs outstretched and front paws resting on its belly as though lounging in an armchair. The straighteared variants of this breed have the same sweet temperament.

    Activity level


    Vocal level


    Special needs

    It is a myth that folded ear cats are more susceptible to deafness or ear mites, but infection with these parasites must be prevented, as with any breed of cat. Due to the nature of the cartilage defect that causes the ears to fold, some Scottish Folds, even from the most conscientious breeding program, may develop symptoms of arthritis that range from mild to crippling (osteochondrodysplasia). These problems include a thickened tail caused by tail vertebrae fusing and thickened legs with swollen feet due to overgrowth of cartilage around the paw. Cats who inherit two copies of the folded ear gene are worst affected, hence unaffected straight-eared variants are important in Fold breeding programs.


    A Rex-coated variety called the Poodlecat (Pudelkatze) combines the Scottish Fold conformation and ears with the curly coat of the Devon Rex. Outcrossing to Siamese to create colorpoint folds resulted in Oriental Folds, with larger ears and more foreign conformation. The Hemingway Fold has folded ears and extra toes. The Foldex or Exotic Fold combines the cobby Exotic Shorthair conformation with folded ears and is described as resembling "a little furry owl." The Ukrainian Levkoy Cat, a hairless fold-eared cat, was created in 2005 by crossing the Donskoy to the Scottish Fold. The Ukrainian Levkoy's ears do not fold tightly to the skull as in the Scottish Fold, but stand out from the head and fold closer to the tips.

    These derivatives are prone to the same cartilage problems as the Scottish Fold and produce straighteared variants. Crossing Scottish Folds with breeds having other physical mutations (e.g., Manx, Munchkin) is discouraged by most registries due to the potentially crippling interaction of genes.

    Scottish Fold

    Scottish Fold kittens

    Longhaired Scottish Folds are often called Highland Folds or Couparis.

    Colorpoint Scottish Folds are not officially recognized.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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