Although this is a cat breed distinguished by its uniquely folded ear, the Scottish Fold who tends to resemble an owl in an amusingly bizarre way, has a number of odd attributes which have contributed to its major popularity. First of all, not all members of this breed display the unusually folded ear which occurs as a result of a dominant genetic mutation. Some kittens develop a straight ear which unfortunately disqualifies them from eligibility to show. Aside from their ears, these cats also deviate from the norm by lying on their backs, legs outstretched and paws on their bellies, seemingly imitating a fat buddha in a slovenly position. This relaxed pose perfectly represents this cat’s overall attitude, one that adjusts easily to every social variable and residential situation. With its ears folded forward, hugging the top of its head, this cat’s appearance is like a caricature of rounded features: round head, big round eyes, and rounded buddha belly, all suggesting the personality of a comical fat cat. Add to this another peculiar habit: This cat often sits up on its haunches and even stands up on its hind legs like a ground hog or a prairie dog, either of which it can also resemble. For those who appreciate humor, this cat is absurdly ridiculous.
Because some Scottish Fold cats possess normally straight ears, those whose ears are folded forward due to the breed’s genetic mutation are considered rare and highly valuable. These are the only ones qualified to show.
Originally called lop-eared or just “lops” after the lop-eared rabbit, the Scottish Fold became the breed's official name in 1966. Depending on registries, longhaired Scottish Folds are known as Highland Fold, Scottish Fold Longhair, and Longhair Fold.
The original Scottish Fold was a white long-haired barn cat named Susie, who was found at a farm in 1961 near Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland. Susie's ear cartilage folded forward in the middle which made her look like an owl. When Susie had a litter of kittens, two of them developed the same folded ears. In 1966, these owl-like cats were registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain, and further developed by knowledgeable experts.
This breeding program produced 76 kittens in the first three years—42 with folded ears and 34 with straight ears. This conclusively established that the ear mutation is due to a simple dominant gene.
Folds were first introduced to the United States in 1970 and accepted by the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) for registration in 1973. It was awarded Championship status in 1978. In an amazingly short period of time, the Fold has earned acceptance in all the major cat associations, and a place in the U.S. cat fanciers’ top ten most popular breeds.
The long-haired version of the breed was not officially recognized until the mid-1980s, although longhaired kittens had been cropping up in Scottish Fold litters since the genesis of the breed. Susie herself apparently carried the long-hair gene. The use of Persians in early crosses apparently helped to establish the long-hair trait. This breed has also been outcrossed to both American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs, diversifying the gene pool for its long-term health and resilience.
All Folds are born with straight, unfolded ears; those with the fold gene will begin to show the fold between nineteen and twenty-two days of age. The kittens that do not develop folded ears are known as Straights. The original cats had only one fold in their ears, but through selective breeding, developers have increased the fold to a double or triple crease that causes the ear to lie totally flat against the head.
The Scottish Fold is a sturdy medium-sized cat, with males typically reaching eight to eleven pounds, and females, six to nine pounds. They generally live an average of 15 years. The Scottish Fold's entire body structure, especially the head and face, is generally rounded. The nose is short with a gentle curve, the head is domed at the top, and the neck is very short. The broadly-spaced eyes (as well as the folded ears, when present) give the Scottish Fold its innocent, beguiling expression. Scottish Folds may have nearly any coat color or combination of colors (including white), except pointed colors.
Both the folded-ear and straight-eared Folds share the same temperament. They are typically goodnatured and placid, and adjust to other animals within a household extremely well. They tend to become very attached to a single chosen caregiver and are by nature quite affectionate.
As comfortable in a room full of noisy children and dogs as they are in a single person’s care, these cats accept any new situation without panic including travel. They react to typically intimidating events with total nonchalance. Still, not fond of isolation, these cats prefer companionship, even if it’s just the distant presence of someone they can apprise from afar.
Scottish Folds have soft voices, yet are able to vocalize a complex repertoire of meows, purrs, chirps, and whistles not found in many other breeds. Folds are known for sleeping on their backs, and also for sitting with their legs stretched out and their paws on their bellies, a laughable posture described as the "Buddha Position.”
Scottish Folds thrive on attention, but are selective about its convenience. Despite their devotion, they can periodically behave like the classic cat – aloof, condescending and independent. Could this be in retaliation for the exasperation of constant mockery?
The Scottish Fold is an undemanding cat. A clean environment, proper nutrition, and generous doses of love and attention are their only requirements in order to thrive. The unique “owl-like” look that has tickled the fancy of so many cat aficionados worldwide will continue to differentiate this cat on a global scale.
Barron’s Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds