Scottish Fold Cats and Their Genetic Disease

Lovely Scottish fold cats, adapted from photo by Choo Tang, via flickr

Scottish fold cats have round head, round big eyes and the most typical feature of them are their folded ears. They can also stand and sit like human. If you search key words of ‘Scottish fold stand’, there will be many interesting photos of them. These lovely appearance and humanlike actions make them capture hearts of many people and become popular as pets. Meredith Grey, Taylor Swift’s pet is also a Scottish fold cat. However it’s sad to say that these attractive appearance and actions are caused by a genetic disease called Scottish fold osteochondrodysplasia (SFOCD).


What’s SFOCD?

SFOCD is characterized by skeletal abnormalities. Due to this disease, the cartilages do not grow strong enough to support ears as they normally do. SFOCD not only affects ear cartilages, but also other bones in their bodies, such as carpal, metacarpal bones, phalanges, and caudal vertebrae. These abnormalities make affected cats lameness, stiff and reluctance to jump. When they want to walk, run or jump they will feel painful, because of narrow joint spaces and new bone formation around the joints. These abnormalities also explain why they stand and sit like human, keeping their legs straight.

SFOCD is caused by genetic mutation and all Scottish fold cats more or less suffer from this disease. Severity of SFOCD is different among affected cats. Homozygous cats with two copies of mutant gene will show abnormalities from about 7 weeks of age, earlier than heterozygous cats with only one mutant gene. The homozygous also suffer more than the heterozygous.


How to mitigate the effects of SFOCD?

There are some drugs or combinations of them that can be palliative and reduce painful feelings of Scottish fold cats. Surgical approaches are suggested in some severe cases. Unfortunately this disease cannot be completely cured and the only way to eliminate its effects is to stop mating two cats both having folded ears.

The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy has stopped registering Scottish fold cats since 1970s. And this year the British Veterinary Association also suggests that Scottish fold cats breeding programs should be banned because of health problem. However, many breeding programs and trades still exist all over the world, because there is still a large demand of the cats. Some breeders only aim at breeding beautiful, cute cats for their own profits, and regardless of their health conditions.


What can we do?

My family has a dog and when he looks unhappy we always take him out for a walk or play with him. As a pet owner myself, I don’t want my pet live with congenital disorder and always feel painful. Since Scottish folds are born with congenital disease and are breed to satisfy human desire, we should consider more carefully before buying new born kittens. If you really want to raise a Scottish fold cats, you can adopt currently living one.

As mentioned before, we can find many interesting photos of standing and sitting Scottish fold cats on the internet. There are still many owners uploading lovely photos of their cats without realizing the fact that their cats are painful. So we should share the information of SFOCD with our family, friends and maybe people on the internet and make more people aware of this disease and pay more attention to welfare of Scottish fold cats.

Please give your pet a happy and comfortable life, by author


For more information:

BBC News:

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare:

NCBI article about SFOCD:

The Cat Fancier’s Association: