Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Scottish Fold – Owl Cat Extraordinaire

The Scottish Fold is something of a special breed of cat.  Seeing one for the first time you are drawn to its round facial features and, in the back of your mind, a thought nags you that something seems to be missing. Then you realize – it’s all about the ears.

Not so much missing, mind you – this cat has fine hearing. Yet a dominant gene mutation has caused the ear cartilage to fold. So, instead of the usual pert and upright cat ears what you see is the ears bending forward and down, towards the front of their head.

It can be a surprise – and the shock of the new can to begin with, be confused with dislike. Yet once you get used to this unusual owl-like appearance. The Scottish Fold breed becomes a very attractive cat.

Until 1966 the breed was known as the lop-eared cat, which was after the rabbit of the same name.  Breeders decided it deserved a unique name of its own and so the name Scottish Fold was created, even though it can also be called the Highland Fold, Longhair Fold or even the exotic sounding Coupari.

The breed is not an old one. In 1961 a white barn cat (called Susie) who lived in Coupar Angus in Scotland, was born with folded ears, which gave her the now famous owl-like features. Out of her first litter, two had folded ears just like their mother.  A local farmer William Ross,  bought one of the cats and in 1966 began to breed them.

Out of 76 kittens born in the first three years, 42 had folded ears and 34 had straight ones. With the help of the geneticist Pat Turner, it was deduced that 50% of the kittens born from the union of a folded-ear cat and a straight-eared cat would have the fold. 

Although there were concerns for a number of years about genetic difficulties the breed was exported to America and crossed with British and American Shorthairs. Although the build up of wax in their ears may be greater than other breeds the initial concerns have now been allayed.

Yet at least one vet has called for the cessation of the breeding of the folds. Ethical breeders ensure that a fold is only mated with a non-fold to alleviate any potential genetic drawbacks.  However, the resulting kittens of a fold on fold union can have disastrous degenerative bone conditions.

The Scottish Fold has a reputation for being a very loving cat and a great companion – which is quite unusual in the feline word! As such and together with the very distinctive physical trait the Scottish Fold is a highly desirable cat to have around the home and typically do cost a lot more than common breeds.

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