Prospective and current Scottish fold owners should become familiar with the breed’s well-known health risks to ensure your cat receives the best lifelong comfort and care.
However, the same genetic mutation that causes this breed’s ear shape also contributes to serious health issues. Prospective and current Scottish fold owners should become familiar with the breed’s well-known health risks to ensure your cat receives the best lifelong comfort and care.
Scottish fold cats—a brief history
According to The International Cat Association, the first Scottish fold—a barn cat named Susie—was discovered in Scotland in 1961. Susie’s uniquely folded ears—formed by a spontaneous genetic mutation—gained instant attention and acclaim. To achieve the Scottish fold breed’s trademark round head and soft expression, Susie was purposely bred with cats of various breeds.
However, the Scottish fold’s signature look came at a cost. A disproportionate number of Scottish fold kittens and cats had physical abnormalities—including short limbs, swollen joints, limping, stiff or abnormal movement, and crippling arthritis. Many purebred registries banned the breed, and advised remaining breeders to cease pairing folded-ear cats with one another. To preserve the breed’s general health and maintain their physical characteristics, Scottish folds are now often bred with American shorthair or British shorthair cats.
Scottish fold cat health concerns
Other than a few hereditary conditions, the lovable Scottish fold is generally a hardy breed. Still, this rare and unusual breed should receive equally individualized veterinary care. When we examine your Scottish fold cat, our Dr. Treat team assesses them inside and out—through comprehensive hands-on evaluation and appropriate health screening tests. We can then tailor your Scottish fold’s health plan to meet their unique needs, and ensure they enjoy a long and comfortable life. We always address the breed’s most significant health risks, including:
Osteochondrodysplasia (i.e., Scottish fold disease)
The Scottish fold’s genetic mutation affects cartilage development, causing the ear to fold. Unfortunately, this genetic mutation also affects cartilage elsewhere in the body—the joints and bones—creating the debilitating osteochondrodysplasia condition.
Depending on gene expression, some Scottish folds experience severe and crippling disease while others display only mild signs. However, according to International Cat Care, all Scottish fold cats experience osteochondrodysplasia in some form.
Affected cats may display physical abnormalities, including a thickened or stiff tail, wide and short limbs, and fused (i.e., immobilized or inflexible) joints. Painful cats may appear reluctant to move, lethargic, or have an awkward and uncoordinated gait. Left untreated, the pain and deformity can render affected cats immobile—leading to early euthanasia.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited condition common in Persian-derived breeds, including the Scottish fold. Cysts (i.e., fluid-filled pockets) may be present at birth or develop in early life (i.e., before 12 months of age), and are often present in both kidneys. Generally, the cysts grow slowly and do not disrupt kidney function until the cat’s senior years (i.e., 7 years of age or older). However, young cats with severe PKD can experience kidney failure.
Although PKD is incurable, we can suggest early lifestyle changes to promote kidney health and recommend appropriate monitoring to diagnose the condition early. This allows for prompt intervention which can extend survival times.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes thickened heart muscle and affects the heart’s ability to contract and pump blood. Although HCM’s cause is not entirely known, a genetic link—similar to that in humans—is likely. HCM is prevalent in certain purebred cats, including the Scottish fold’s relative—the British shorthair—and several cardiac gene mutations can be identified through breed-specific genetic testing. Our Dr. Treat team recommends that cats with genetic mutations undergo advanced imaging, such as an echocardiogram (i.e., heart ultrasound), to assess their heart muscle and the organ’s function.
Clinical signs can vary, with some affected cats showing no visible signs. Cats with HCM are at risk for heart failure, life-threatening blood clots, and sudden death. Although disease progression cannot be slowed, clinical signs can be well-controlled with medication—allowing cats who have HCM to enjoy a good quality of life.
“ We can then tailor your Scottish fold’s health plan to meet their unique needs, and ensure they enjoy a long and comfortable life. ”
Purr-sonalized veterinary care for your Scottish fold
Your Scottish fold’s health is in good hands with our Dr. Treat team. Our skilled veterinary professionals are always available to explain the facts you need to ensure your feline friend enjoys a happy and healthy life. Special breed-specific considerations and care tips include:
Routine wellness exams
No one likes to go to the doctor, but biannual preventive care exams are key to promoting and maintaining your Scottish fold’s health. In addition, these twice-per-year visits allow your Dr. Treat veterinarian to detect subtle changes that can indicate undetected disease—providing an opportunity for early intervention.
Maintaining your Scottish fold’s weight is essential for reducing inevitable arthritis pain. Your Dr. Treat veterinarian can provide a personalized diet recommendation—as well as your cat’s individual caloric requirements—to ensure your feline friend receives effective and appropriate nutrition. Keeping your Scottish fold active by encouraging low-impact exercise supports a healthy muscle mass and helps to maintain comfortable mobility.
The original Scottish fold may have been born in a rough-and-tumble barn, but to prevent further joint damage or pain, this breed should be handled or restrained gently. Before adopting a Scottish fold cat, you should check them for palpable bone thickening, stiffness, or discomfort by gently flexing their legs, toes, and tail.
If a Scottish fold cat has wrapped you around their little paws, give them the one-of-a-kind care they deserve with a Dr. Treat One™ Membership. Our personalized approach to veterinary medicine goes beyond the traditional exam to provide your feline friend the life, love, and care they need. Explore our comprehensive membership benefits list, or book your pet’s next appointment online or through the exclusive Dr. Treat app.