The Scottish Fold is a hardy breed. Their life expectancy is about 15 years. When properly bred, they do not have any special health or grooming issues.
Without getting into the genetics of the breed, let’s just say there are strict breeding guidelines in order to maintain the health of the breed.
Basically, only one parent must have the “folded ear” gene. This means the responsible breeder never mates one Scottish Fold to another (even when one Scottish Fold’s ears are not folded). That’s why the breeder usually mates the Scottish Fold to an American Shorthair or British Shorthair.
If both parents contribute the folded gene, then the kitten is likely to suffer from congenital osteodystrophy, a genetic condition that causes deformities of the vertebral, leg and tail bones due to cartilage thickening (a little like osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease in humans).
The Scottish Fold will usually begin to exhibit symptoms of the disease between four to six months of age. These symptoms worsen as the cat ages. Common symptoms of congenital osteodystrophy include:
- The tail may be short and thick.
- The affected bones may appear thickened.
- The affected bones would be tender to the touch.
- The cat may avoid jumping.
- Engaging an affected cat in active play involving jumping and running would be difficult.
- They may limp.
- In extreme cases, especially as the cat ages, they may appear to walk or run like a toy soldier with legs swinging stiffly outward.
- Slow movement which might be accompanied by lack of coordination.
- Lethargy, not wanting to move around.
- There may be severe pain.
Simply put, here’s what happens. The cartilage begins to thicken. As it does, the tail might become shorter and thicker. The legs may also thicken which can result in lameness or an inability walk. The feet can swell.
There is no cure for congenital osteodystrophy and it is not life threatening, however it can become quite painful. Glucosamine supplements or joint treats sometimes help relieve stiffness and discomfort. If a cat is already affected with this condition and it is severe enough, veterinarians may recommend euthanasia as the last resort to avert painful suffering.
So, when only one parent is a Scottish Fold, the symptoms of this degenerative condition do not appear or they appear in a very mild form, but they do not affect the general health or mobility of the cat.
Okay. On to other health issues.
Contrary to a belief when the breed was first being developed, Scottish Folds are not prone to ear infections or ear mites. Although, with the triple folded ear, it may be necessary to be a little more attentive to ear cleaning.
- The Shorthair should be groomed at least once per week.
- The Longhair should be groomed at least twice per week.
All in all, the Scottish Fold who has not been inbred has health issues no different that most cats. Annual check-ups, vaccinations, dental care, along with a clean environment, regular grooming, nutritious food, plenty of water, toys of their choosing, and lots of love are all standard in the care of the Scottish Fold and any other cat breed.