Pop stars Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran might be primarily known for their music, but several Scottish Fold cats are quite a popular, like-attracting feature on their Instagram feeds. 27-year-old Taylor especially enjoys sharing her love for Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey, but she might have a cause for worry after scientists have come forward with concerns about the breed’s susceptibility to health problems due to their genes.
The Scottish fold breed has developed through a genetic mutation that has resulted in cats who look adorable with their folded ears and a ‘smiling’ face. However, behind the cute exterior, these cats often suffer from underdeveloped cartilage – thus, the folded ears.
According to the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “The cartilage and bones of the Scottish fold cat do not develop properly, which leads to arthritis and other painful joint diseases that can cause reluctance to move, abnormal posture and gait, lameness and short, misshapen limbs.”
Retailing for around $1000 per kitten, the popularity of the breed has resulted in Scottish fold cats being the subject of extensive inbreeding for decades, resulting in the abovesaid health conditions.
And while it is currently not illegal to breed Scottish folds, the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would “welcome any change to legislation to prevent the breeding and sale of Scottish fold cats.”
Veterinary internal medicine specialist Dr. Richard Malik of Sydney University said breeding the cats is ‘cruel’ and ‘ethically indefensible’.
Taylor Swift has named her Scottish fold cats Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey as a tribute to her favorite characters from TV shows Law & Order and Grey’s Anatomy.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is currently no breeding ban on the Scottish fold cat or restrictions on cat breeding in Scotland. However, we are currently considering the issue of pet breeding as part of an ongoing review of pet welfare.”
“The Scottish government would encourage anyone breeding any type of animal to avoid breeding from any individual animals with genetic problems likely to give rise to ill health,” the government statement says.
The Scottish fold cats are considered very affectionate, good-natured companions who enjoy interacting with humans and other animals. Unlike some breeds, they are considered to dislike solitude.
The Scottish fold enjoys outdoor games and activities and are known to adapt to a household particularly well, even if it houses other animals. They can be both long- or short-haired, and despite the name, not all of them have folded ears.
The original Scottish Fold was a white barn cat named Susie, who was found at a farm near Coupar Angus in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1961. Susie’s ears had an unusual fold in their middle, making her resemble an owl.
When Susie had kittens, two of them were born with folded ears, one of which was acquired by William Ross, a farmer and cat-enthusiast from the area. Ross registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain in 1966 and started to breed Scottish Fold kittens together with geneticist Pat Turner.