Catanatomy 101

Scottish Fold characteristics are highlighted in colour. The rest of the descriptions are for cats in general.

On the Scottish Fold, the head is well rounded with firm chin and jaw. Whisker pads (fleshy areas on the sides of muzzle) are well rounded. The neck is short.

Scottish Folds have wide open eyes with a sweet, innocent, somewhat surprised-looking expression. Large and well rounded, the eyes are separated by at least the width of an eye. Eye colour: brilliant gold to copper in most cats, blue in some white cats, green or blue-green in chinchilla and shaded silver cats. Eye colour corresponds to coat colour.

The cat's "third eyelid," is a membrane between the eye and the outer lid, and protects and cleans the eye. If your cat isn't feeling well, or if eye irritation occurs, this membrane may be visible in the inner corner of the eye.

Cats have dual controls when it comes to regulating the amount of light that enters their eyes. Not only do their pupils form vertical slits that narrow and widen as needed, but their eyelids move up and down like window blinds.

Tests in the mid-1960's proved that cats can see color. Cats cannot see in total darkness, but their vision in twilight is almost unparalleled. A reflective layer called the tapetum, located at the back of the eye, enhances the light that reaches the retina and is responsible for the cat's reputation as an unerring night hunter. Cats need only about a sixth of the amount of light that humans do.

Cats can communicate with their eyes: they typically view a prolonged, wide-eyed stare as an act of aggression. For cats, the blink of an eye has more than one meaning. Blinking accompanied by turning the head to one side is a common feline response to being stared at. Long, slow blinking, on the other hand, is a sign of contentment.


Read an article about cats' eyes: "In a Cat's Eye," at

Whiskers (technical name is vibrissae) have functions that are not completely understood. Thought to be a kind of sensor, cats exhibit great distress when they are gone. Never trim or pluck them out; your cat uses them to identify things it can't see. The top two rows of the cat's whiskers can move independently of the bottom two rows. Notice how your cat uses his whiskers rather than his eyes to search out small pieces of food that have slipped off his plate.

A Scottish Fold's nose is short, broad, and gently curved. A brief "stop" is permitted, but a definite break -- "indentation" -- is considered a fault.

A cat has about 19 million nerve endings in its nose; we have about 5 million. All these nerve endings, plus a special sensitivity to odors that contain nitrogen, a by-product of rotting food, is thought to be one reason cats can be fussy eaters.

Every cat's nosepad, or nose leather, has unique characteristics. Just as no two humans have the same fingerprints, it's a fact that no two feline noseprints are ever alike.

Occasionally you may observe your cat making an open-mouthed grimace called "The Flehmen Response." Your cat is simply employing his other scent detector, called Jacobsen's Organ, located in the roof of his mouth

A cat's sense of taste is unique, to say the least. It lacks the ability to detect sweetness, but it can differentiate the slightest variations in the taste of water.

Cats have roughly 100 different vocalization sounds. Dogs, on the other hand, have about 10.

Did you know that shorthaired cats have longer tongues than longhaired cats do?

Have you ever noticed your cat's tongue? It's long and flat with almost parallel sides. Near the lower surface of the tongue is a piece of muscular fiber known as the lytta, which scientists think that this fiber is used in lapping action. The upper surface of the tongue is covered with the rasp-like areas called papillae that enable a cat to scrape every piece of meat off a bone and to lick its coat clean.


A Scottish Fold's body is medium-sized, rounded and well padded, with medium bones. Five toes in front and four behind. Females may be slightly smaller than males.

Cats have very few of the sweat glands other mammals use to cool down. Cats radiate heat from their body surfaces, which is much larger in relation to their mass than bigger animals'.

The lifespan of an outdoor cat averages about seven years. Healthy house cats may live up to 15 years, but few achieve the advanced age of 20.

Cats are carnivores, and cannot live on strictly vegetarian diets. They need taurine, an essential amino acid found only in animal sources, and other nutrients found only in foods like liver and kidney or in fish oils.

Cats have very few of the sweat glands other mammals use to cool down. Cats radiate heat from their body surfaces, which is much larger in relation to their mass than bigger animals'.

The lifespan of an outdoor cat averages about 7 years. Healthy house cats may live up to 15 years, and a few achieve the advanced age of 20.

Shorthair Scottish Folds should have a short to medium coat, dense, plush, soft in texture and full of life. The Longhair Fold has a semi-long coat, soft, full of life, and standing away from the body. A ruff on the chest and britches on the hindquarters are desirable. Acceptable colours of the Fold are: white, black, blue (grey), red, cream, chinchilla silver, shaded silver, shell cameo, shaded cameo, black smoke, blue smoke, and cameo smoke. Coat patterns can be: classic tabby, mackerel tabby, patch tabby, spotted tabby, silver tabby, blue silver tabby, blue silver tabby, red tabby, brown tabby, blue tabby, cream tabby, tortoiseshell, calico, dilute calico, blue-cream, and bi-colour.

When the tail is at a 90-degree angle to the body, this means that the cat is happy and content. Carried at a less jaunty angle and puffed out may mean a declaration of war. Twitching slowly from side to side, the tail signals annoyance. The faster the twitch, the greater the itch; and if twitch turns to lash, beware, fireworks are about to go off. Most people imagine that if a cat wags its tail, it must be angry -- but it's really in a state of conflict. The cat wants to do two things at once but each impulse blocks the other. For example, if a cat cries to be let out and the door is opened to reveal a downpour of heavy rain, the animal's tail may start to wag. If it rushes out and stands there getting drenched, its tail wages even more furiously. The conflict is between the urge to explore and the powerful feline desire to keep snug and dry. Once the cat makes a decision and either returns to the shelter of the house or sets off on patrol, its tail will immediately stop wagging.

Cats will express affection and trust if they rub against their owner with their hindquarters, usually in the direction of the human's face. The meaning behind this goes back to their infancy when their mother would lick their little bums to keep them clean. This meant security and love, so if they do this to you, take it as a compliment, and gently turn them around if it bothers you.


A folded-ear Scottish Fold should have ears that fold tightly against the head, the tighter the better. The ears are the singular, unique feature of the Scottish Fold that sets them apart from all other breeds.

A note about the health of the ears on a folded-ear Scottish Fold: there are no more problems associated with the health of a Fold's ears than that of any other cat. And, their hearing is perfectly normal. The only precaution that an owner of a Fold MUST take is to handle the cleaning of the ears very carefully, never pulling on the ears, or turning them back.

Cats will flatten their ears and move them to the side if they hear something frightening, and may curl them backward in anger. Cats' ears can be rotated because they are connected to 30 muscles. There are only six muscles connecting human ears, so, unfortunately, we can't rotate ours.

The inside of a cat's ear acts like an echo chamber, providing a high sensitivity to sounds in particular frequencies, especially high-pitched noises like those made by small rodents and other prey, or your approaching footsteps! Cats can hear at 100,000 cycles per second. This just "happens" to be the same pitch as a mouse's squeak.

A cat, with its tail erect, will greet their two-legged and four-legged friends with a rub with its cheek against the cheek, neck or face, or leg of that friend. This not only indicates cordiality, it is a request for permission to enter another individual's space, and most important, leaves a trace of themselves from the scent glands near his whiskers. Take it as a compliment -- he's claiming you as his own.

The cat's flexibility stems from the extreme mobility of his spine, whose vertebrae are connected less tightly than in most other animals. In addition, the first two vertebrae, called the atlas and the axis, are shaped so the cat can easily move his head in almost every direction to keep tabs on his turf. Cats are natural contortionists. Not only do their forelegs turn in almost any direction because the shoulder points are open and free, but both halves of their body can move in opposing directions!

The cat's sense of touch is the most delicate in the broad class of mammals. In fact, some experts believe it to be the most highly refined tactile sense in the entire animal kingdom.

Cats have an extra forepaw pad called a carpal pad, found behind and above the large metacarpal pad used for walking. It is thought to provide an anti-skidding feature when cats land after a jump.

Deep, fatty layers in the cat's footpads act as shock absorbers for jump-landings and other aerial acrobatic feats. Since cats can jump up to five times their own height, these cushions are designed for heavy-duty protection.

Polydactyly, a medical term from the Greek meaning "many toes," is when a cat has an extra toe on its paws. This trait is considered a rogue gene because it is an abnormality, although a benign one. Some believe it's a sign of good luck.

Declawing, a medical procedure called onychectomy, is a controversial practice in North America, and is illegal in the United Kingdom The procedure is more accurately classified as a toe amputation rather than a claw removal, and is done to prevent a cat from using them on furniture, etc. The loss of a cat's claws can affect its balance, as well as other side effects. A cat can be encouraged to use a scratching post and other toys and can be trained to not scratch furniture. Use declawing as a last resort only.

The cat's sharp, hooked claws, sheathed in soft, leathery pockets at the end of each toe, are perfectly designed for catching and holding prey when extended. In addition, they're useful in climbing, digging, and anchoring the cat's body during stretches.

Fast, agile & quiet: a cat's movements reflect a true hunter's. Their legs are designed for short bursts of speed -- clocked at about 30 miles per hour.

Cats make many sounds to communicate. One of these might be a soft, dove-like cooing. Another is the mysterious purr, which may occur as a cat's communication of contentment. But the purr is also used by the mother cat as a vibration to let her newly born, blind kittens know where she is. Cats have also been known to purr when they are very sick and in severe pain. Humans have been unsuccessful in defining the source and physical mechanizations of the "purr."