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Michelle found a fold-eared cat some time ago. Now that he's getting older, she's concerned about Scottish Fold health issues. Get the scoop in this post.

Scottish Fold health issues can range from  barely noticeable to downright crippling. Photo CC-0 via Pixabay

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Thunder found me about 5 years ago now, and I don’t really know how old he really is–I’m guessing he’s getting close to 7 though. I’ve heard that “fold” breeds can have problems with their joints, etc, as they get older. Can you point me toward a reliable reference that explains 1) what a Fold is and why their ears flip down, 2) what to watch for as he gets older, and 3) if there is anything I can do for him now to support his physical health later–like supplements or activities to try to engage in or pull back from? (He doesn’t know how to play, but he will roll for ages on a catnip stuffie or on a catnipped floor.) I know this sounds like a lot–sorry about that. It’s just that there are so many blogs and websites that are kind of “half-baked,” that I don’t know who else to trust. I figure, if anybody knows a good one, it has to be Mama JaneA. I’ve followed you guys for quite a while now, and I know that Mama knows everybody that knows kittehs. Thanks for all of your help!

~ Michelle

Thomas: Oh, Michelle, we’re just purring our hearts out at all your compliments! And we’re grateful that we’ve earned your trust.

Bella: We can certainly give you the 411 on how folded ears happened and Scottish Fold health issues to look out for as Thunder ages.

Tara: So, first of all, the Scottish Fold arose from a spontaneous mutation that affected the cartilage of the ears, causing the ears to fold down over the head–hence the name.

Thomas: Scottish Folds come in fold-eared and straight-eared varieties, and good breeders breed straight-eared and fold-eared cats together. The reason for this is because if two fold-eared cats are bred together, the offspring develop a crippling joint deformity known as congenital osteochondrodystrophy.

Bella: This is one of the main Scottish Fold health issues, and early warning signs include thickness or lack of flexibility of the legs or tail. But like we said, this typically only shows when two fold-eared cats are bred together.

Tara: There is controversy about the breed in general, with some cat organizations believing that all Scottish Folds suffer pain and discomfort throughout their lives. Part of that is because in studies done to date, all Folds who have been studied have osteochondrodystrophy to a greater or lesser extent.

Thomas: What does seem to be unequivocally true is that Scottish Folds are more likely than other breeds to develop degenerative joint disease (also known as arthritis) as they age, particularly in the tail, ankle, and knee joints.

Bella: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has been seen in some Scottish Folds, but the jury’s still out on whether that tendency to develop HCM is inherited or not.

Tara: So, now that you know about the primary Scottish Fold health issues, here are some things you can do to help Thunder ease into his golden years.

Thomas: It certainly couldn’t hurt to give Thunder a joint supplement like glucosamine/chondroitin to slow the degeneration of his joints. Make sure you get a supplement specifically for pets.

Bella: The stronger he is going into his senior years, the more likely he will be to have a pain-free life, so some daily gentle play with a “thing on a string” toy could be helpful. Low-impact exercise is very important for any cat that has joint degeneration.

Tara: We don’t think you should keep him from jumping. Besides, you can’t make a cat stop doing something they want to do!

Thomas: That’s right. However, as he ages, you may want to consider adding steps or ramps to his favorite places in order to minimize the strain on his joints.

Bella: You might want to take Thunder in for an X-ray to see what level of arthritis he has now, and work with your vet on a pain management plan. When Siouxsie’s arthritis got bad, our vet gave her buprenorphine, and it worked really well.

Tara: Hemp supplements with cannabidiol (CBD), one of the non-psychoactive ingredients in the cannabis plant, can also help to reduce inflammation. Mama says that when Siouxsie’s arthritis was milder, she benefited from a supplement called Canna Companion.

Thomas: CBD supplements are not a cure. They’re part of a complete strategy of managing arthritis pain. Your vet is your biggest ally when it comes to keeping Thunder pain-free.

Bella: So, Michelle, the links we’ve shared in this article are to sources that we believe are reliable and well-vetted, so to speak. We hope we’ve been able to help you to keep Thunder purring for many years to come.

Tara: What about you other readers? Do you have a Scottish Fold or other fold-eared cat? Have you seen any signs of pain or discomfort? What have you done to help arthritic cats stay flexible and pain-free? Please share your thoughts in the comments!