If you love Scottish fold cats, I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear. Please, please read on anyway. If you are considering adopting a Scottish fold, PLEASE continue reading. This information needs to be more widely known.
In 2008, the Journal of Small Animal practice released a short report on disorders associated with breeds of cats. In this report, the authors mentioned the Scottish fold:
People who own them may be “charmed” by their round faces and open expression (and they may not realise that the reason the cats do not move around too much is because they are variably crippled with arthritis).1
The gene that causes the cute fold in the Scottish fold’s ear also leads to the development of a degenerative disorder called osteochondrodysplasia. ALL Scottish folds have this disorder, whether they show symptoms or not- the fold in their ears is caused by a cartilage deformity that also affects their joints.
Osteochondrodysplasia leads to crippling osteoarthritis, which affects Scottish folds at much younger ages than other breeds of cats. In cats heterozygous for the gene, the disease’s progression can be seen in cats as young as six months. In homozygous cats, it can be seen as early as seven weeks old.
Affected cats may be grossly deformed, with short wide limbs and a short, inflexible tail. They show lameness, swollen wrist (carpal) and ankle (tarsal) joints, have an abnormal gait, and are reluctant to move and jump. Severely affected individuals become crippled and unable to walk.
…Many affected cats are euthanased earlier in life due to the profound effects of this disease.2
The breed is often described as “placid” and “calm.” This is due to the fact that they are constantly in pain due to this disorder. Even in mild, ‘asymptomatic’ cases which can occur in heterozygous cats, they may still be experiencing pain due to cats’ tendency to hide their suffering.
Many breeders of Scottish folds claim that not all heterozygous cats have the disorder, because the studies that examined the cats (which were all, heterozygous or not, shown to have it) had small sample sizes.
In 2003, Lorraine Shelton, a specialist in genetic diseases, offered to pay for 300 x-rays of healthy adult Scottish folds to prove that the disorder was not present in some heterozygous cats.
…She has asked a list of 300 Scottish Fold breeders from around the world to go to their vet to get X-rays done. She had offered to pay for these X-rays but not a single breeder had taken up that offer. You could not know whether this problem existed unless an X-ray was taken. If somebody would send her an X-ray of a healthy hind leg of a folded eared cat, she would be grateful as she wanted to see the very first one.3
To date, no one has taken her up on the offer. The breeders’ unwillingness to have their cats examined speaks volumes. The authors of all studies on these cats agree: it ethically wrong to continue breeding these cats.
It disturbs me that any breeder would knowingly continue to create animals that will be in pain throughout their lives. As a cat lover myself, I am begging you, please do not buy Scottish folds. Do not support these unethical breeding practices, or the concept that it is acceptable to intentionally breed unhealthy animals for the sake of how they look.
1 Breed-related disorders of cats (discusses issues with other breeds as well)
2 Genetic welfare problems of companion animals: osteochondrodysplasia (a thorough description of the disease and its prevalence)
3 FIFe meeting notes (leading to a decision not to recognize Scottish folds as an offical breed due to the disorder)
There was also a follow-up email about Shelton’s offer which can be read here.
Studies on osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Folds
Osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish Fold cats
Incomplete dominant osteochondrodysplasia in heterozygous Scottish Fold cats (this is the source of the above x-ray pictures)
Before you buy ANY animal, please do your research. If a breed suppers from high incidences of genetic disorders, don’t use your money to support the creation of more animal suffering.