Scottish Fold Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

In this article, I want to talk about Scottish Folds and their health issues. One of the health issues a Scottish Fold might have is arthritis, and here we’re going to focus on its causes, origin, and treatment.

Cats are cute, and they are dominating the Internet. In fact, they are so cute people go to great lengths trying to find new breeds that are even cuter. But unfortunately, this doesn’t always bring the best results, and some have genetic mutations that might affect more than their external appearance.

scottish fold arthritis

What is the arthritis origin in Scottish Folds?

If you own a Scottish Fold, you know they are incredibly cute. Their small, owl-like ears make them aesthetically attractive, but you must know by now that this is not normal. Their trademark ears actually bring health problems. They are the result of a genetic defect with the cartilage in the ears. But this genetic mutation doesn’t stop here, and it can also affect other parts of your cat’s body, as well.

Ever since the discovery of Scottish Folds back in the 1960s, they didn’t have a healthy life. Just like people, cats also have two copies of most genes. Some cats are born with one copy of the gene, some with two. After several tests, it turns out that the first Scottish Folds had a single copy of the postulated defective gene. They were a happy case of healthy cats.

However, the cats with two copies of the gene developed arthritis even from an early age. After that discovery, British geneticist Oliphant Jackson suggested the breeding of the Scottish Fold should be banned, and the UK and France agreed.

The condition that Scottish Fold suffers from is called osteochrondrodysplasia. This is something particular to the breed, and all of them will have it on some level. In order to establish the severity of the genetic disease, it matters how the cat has been bred. In its severest form, the condition can affect the tail, knees, and ankles of the cat. It can also cause severe arthritis and chronic pain. Besides, it can also cause deformities in the joints: short limbs, inflexible or thick tail.

In the early 1990s, a group of Australian veterinarians took different tests that demonstrated that all Scottish Folds cats have abnormal bone development of their distal limbs. This is associated with the early onset of the osteoarthritis in the joints of the distal limbs and tail.

The requirement for a healthy cat is to come from a parent with straight ears and one with the fold-ear. This decreases the severity of osteochrondrodysplastia in kittens.

What is arthritis and what are its causes?

Just like it is for humans, arthritis is a disease that affects joints and can cause pain and discomfort. Normally, arthritis in cats is part of the aging process. As they get older, the cartilage between bones deteriorates and makes the body less flexible, which can cause pain and stiffness. Senior cats are at risk for developing arthritis, and it’s something relatively common.

However, in the case of the Scottish Fold, the genetic mutation that they share causes them to get this condition at any age.

There are two types of osteochrondrodysplasia (OA): primary and secondary. The primary is caused by normal wear and tear on the joints as a result of the aging process. The secondary is the direct result of injuries or abnormalities like tumors. When it comes to OA, they belong to the primary one, due to the genetic abnormalities in the breed’s cartilage.

What are the Scottish Fold arthritis symptoms?

In order to determine whether your cat is suffering from joint pain, you can take a look at one of these symptoms:

  • Reduced mobility. Cats with this disorder are reluctant to jump up onto or down from high surfaces. They also have difficulty in climbing, jumping or any other fast activity. It also might include stiffness in legs after a long period of rest, difficulty climbing in or out of the litter box.
  • Reduced activity and sleeping in different places. Cats are sedentary creatures most of the time. And Scottish Folds, even more, we know. But if your cat has trouble moving or spends too much time in a stationary position, you might want to observe it further.
  • Spending time alone. I know what you’ll say. Cats are independent creatures. And it’s true, but they also tend to hide when they are not feeling well, so make sure to keep an eye on them for other symptoms.
  • Aggressive when being handled or petted. If your cat has joint pain, she will not like it when you touch certain parts of her body. If she gets angry when you touch her joints, she might be suffering from arthritis.
  • Too much or too little grooming. You already know that, when in pain, cats are obsessively licking themselves to try to ease the pain away. This is not a regular system of arthritis, but, combined with one or more from above, it could be a sign.

How to diagnose Scottish Fold cat arthritis?

If you noticed any of those symptoms in your cat, the next step is to take your pet to the vet. They could conduct a physical exam and perform other tests to check its mobility. That way, they can determine whether there is an inflammation in your cat’s joints. Based on these preliminary tests, your veterinary will decide whether to take the next step and also give her radiography. There, they will see if there is any deterioration of the cartilage.

So, what is the treatment for arthritis?

For now, there is no treatment that can cure the genetic abnormality itself. OA can be treated the same way as osteoarthritis with environmental modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills, and nutraceuticals.

If the disease gets worse, you can also try radiation therapy. In a big number of cases, this has prolonged the drug-free beneficial effect.

But surely can it be something I can do for my cat, right?

Yes, actually, there is. While there’s no cure for OA, there are a few things that might stop the advance of the disease.

Here’s what you can try:

  • Acupuncture
  • Prescription pain medication
  • Specialized diets from Hill’s/ J/D for joint disease
  • Laser therapy. This works very well for arthritis, calming the inflammation of the joints
  • Weight loss. This could also improve the way your cat moves around, and it would be easier to walk if she loses a few pounds in case she is overweight
  • Nutritional supplements to help refill the cartilage. Fish oils are beneficial, and they help with the cartilage. Besides, they’re also great for your Scottish Fold’s regular diet.

Besides all the medication and treatment, you also have some very simple suggestions that you can do at home to reduce your cat’s discomfort:

  • A cozy blanket or a fluffy cat bed. Also, a warm cat bed. Heat eases the pain associated with OA, and also improves the overall sensation.
  • Helping groom areas that are hard to reach. Having a regular grooming routine helps can also be beneficial. It might even be possible that the cat becomes more relaxed if she gets used to the grooming. That way, you can approach different areas that otherwise she wouldn’t allow.
  • Gently massaging your cat’s joints. If your cat allows you, you can try massaging when she is laying on your lap or during cuddle time. A good alternative is to try it when she’s asleep if she won’t allow you to do it at all.
  • Try to keep all your cat’s necessities on the main floor. That way, she won’t have to go up the stairs or jump to do her normal routine.

Other (relevant) information about OA

Following the discovery made by Oliphant Jackson, the UK and France have banned the breeding of Scottish Folds in the 1970s. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy said that they continued the ban the breed on health grounds. The association doesn’t register the cats or even allow them at exhibitions or shows.

For a healthy Scottish Fold, as mentioned previously, it’s crucial to pay attention to how it’s bred. It’s not healthy to mate two Scottish Folds. The best alternatives are to combine them with a British Shorthair or American Shorthair. That way, there are fewer possibilities to have chronic problems.

“The rate at which they get the disease and the severity of the disease can be different but they will all to some degree have an incurable, painful and lifelong disease,” declared Ms. Ravetz from the British Veterinary Association. “We should not be breeding pets that can have these problems.”


No matter how cute they are, we have to keep in mind Scottish Folds are not as healthy as any other cat. So in order to provide them with the best life they could have, you have to pay attention to their behavior, diet, and exercise. But most of all, you must remember to love them and provide as much support as possible.

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