There is a Scottish saying that rainbows come out of rain’s drips. To reach the heights of joy, you must be willing to embrace the depths of sorrow.
Scottish Folds – the cats that launched a thousand memes – could be the embodiment of this truth.
Robust but gentle, beautiful and friendly, they nonetheless are susceptible to a painful disorder caused by the same gene mutation that gives them their uniquely folded ears.
And humans are responsible for it all.
In central Scotland, one day in 1961, near Coupar Angus in the Tayside region northwest of Dundee, William Ross, a local shepherd, noticed a white “pixie-faced” cat, named Susie, playing in a neighbor’s barnyard. Susie’s ears bent forward and this intrigued Ross.
He was able to get Susie’s daughter Snooks and was delighted to find that her kittens had folded ears, too. He contacted cat fanciers and scientists, and well, basically that was the beginning of the Scottish Fold breed.
All Folds today are ultimately related to Susie, though genes from Persians, American and British Shorthairs, Exotic Shorthairs and/or Burmese, etc., have gotten mixed in along the way, giving Scottish Folds beautiful round heads and bodies as well as a wide variety of colors, patterns, and short or long fur.
That’s the rainbow. Now watch out for the drips.
Some experts say that Scottish Folds should not be bred at all. They think we should go instead for Scottish shorthairs (as the same cats with normal ears are called, though Maru would be a good name, too).
The folded ears come from a gene mutation. Nobody knows if Susie was the first to have this mutation or if it ran through other local cats back in the day.
What people have realized is that this same mutation also makes these cats prone to a very painful arthritic condition called osteochondrodysplasia.
All Folds have it to one degree or another. It can be severe, even in kittens, yet sometimes the cat will have it and yet be totally without symptoms.
Ethical breeders avoid fold-to-fold breeding and claim that with care (i.e., fold-to-nonfold breeding) the arthritis can be bred out.
However, some organizations refuse to recognize the Scottish Fold breed for this reason and urge the public not to search out cats with folded ears.
The gene mutation still isn’t fully understood, and so nobody can be sure who is right: those trying to eliminate osteochondrodysplasia from the Scottish Fold breed or those who just want to eliminate the breed altogether.
The Bottom Line
Scottish Folds have so much going for them.
They’re beautiful, friendly and loving, and their barnyard background makes them really quite hardy, aside from the arthritis. They live for about 15 years on average and make wonderful companions.
If you have a Scottish Fold-sized hole in your heart, go for it. Just be sure to look past the memes and know what you may be getting into – the joy and the sorrow.
With great power comes great responsibility.
We fiddled and tweaked Scottish Folds into existence because we liked the look of their ears. Now we owe it to them to either find out how to overcome the negative parts of this, or to be good companions to all the remaining Folds during their journey through life as the last generation of a star-crossed breed.
Categories: Friday's Casual Cat