The British Shorthair and the Scottish Fold are two of the most beloved pedigree breeds, especially in the UK. They both have many charming traits — they’re both cute, cuddly and have wonderful personalities.
Deciding between a British Shorthair and a Scottish Fold can be a little tricky, especially if this is your first cat. In this article, we’ll be looking at the similarities and differences between the two breeds, what you need to know about each one and how to choose your perfect cat.
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What you need to know about the British Shorthair
British Shorthairs are the result of an attempt to create a pedigree breed from the standard British domestic cat. The descendants of European wildcats and Egyptian cats that sailed over with the ancient Romans, the standard domestic shorthair proved to be excellent breeding stock. The first real pedigree British Shorthairs were generally of the “British Blue” type, the result of cross-breeding with the lovely Russian Blue to create a BSH with gloriously thick blue-grey fur and unforgettable deep amber or coppery eyes.
A British Shorthair was exhibited at the first ever cat show, in the Crystal Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria. The most important thing to know about the British Shorthair is that this is a very independent cat. That doesn’t mean she’s not loyal and affectionate — British Shorthairs are wonderfully loving — it just means that she may not be as cuddlesome or physically demonstrative as some kitties. Affection is expressed through wanting to be close to you and to supervise your activities throughout the day. Expect her to follow you quietly from room to room, to sit by you on the sofa and wait for you at the door when you’re due to come home from work.
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What you need to know about the Scottish Fold
The Scottish Fold is distinguished by her adorable folded ears, giving her round head a cap-like appearance. This breed was originally termed a lop or lop-eared cat, based on their resemblance to lop-eared rabbits. Scottish Folds come in both shorthaired and longhaired varieties. Longhaired cats of this breed may be known as Couparis, Highland Folds, Longhair Folds, or simply Scottish Fold Longhairs. This breed descends from a little white barn cat found in 1961. Named Susie, this cat had folded ears that gave her an unusual owlish look. It took some time for the breed to be accepted by registering bodies; the folded ears are caused by a genetic abnormality affecting the cat’s cartilage and this can give rise to physical problems in some animals.
These issues, affecting the cat’s joints, can have a serious impact on the animal’s quality of life. Extensive cross-breeding has reduced the number of Scottish Folds born with these problems, however. Today, breeding Scottish Fold cats are carefully monitored for signs of pain or lameness and de-sexed if these appear. There’s no reason that a Scottish Fold can’t lead a happy, healthy life if you purchase her from a reputable breeder who is careful about selecting for well-being as well as for appearance.
British Shorthairs are not rare but they are hugely popular. You would be very lucky to pay much less than £500 for a pet-quality kitten or an older, retired show cat. For a top-tier show-quality kitten, you will be looking at well over £1000. More sought-after colourations can bump the price up to a few thousand. Buyers in the US should expect to pay around $1500 for a show kitten.
Prices in Australia are less eye-watering but still steep, with a top-quality pedigree kitten from a prestigious breeder setting you back around $1000 AUD. You can reduce costs significantly if you buy a pet-quality kitten with less unusual colours; you could also look into giving a home to an older kitty. It’s also possible (if unusual) for a British Shorthair to turn up at a shelter or a pet adoption list; this is definitely the least expensive option, although you may be in for a long wait.
Scottish Fold kittens are quite rare and tend to fetch a high price. Expect to pay a few hundred pounds or the equivalent in dollars for a kitten with pet-quality characteristics; inexpensive kittens often lack a pronounced fold, although they may still be noticeably lop-eared (note that all kittens are born with straight ears and don’t develop their folds till the third week of life). If you want a cat with those characteristic folded ears and other good show traits, you should expect to pay a minimum of £1000 and probably more. Show-quality Scottish Folds in the US go for at least $1500. Australian buyers are looking at $1600 AUD and up.
Keep in mind that, given this breed’s propensity to joint and mobility problems, it is even more important than usual to choose a reputable breeder. A good breeder will conscientiously monitor their stud and queen cats for any signs of these problems so that any kittens can be born healthy and pain-free. A cat from a less scrupulous breeder may cost you much more in vet bills than you might save.
If I had to sum up the British Shorthair in one word, it would be “solid”. These cats are physically very sturdy, with chunky, muscular bodies; they also have solid, steady personalities. Mischief and drama are not for the British Shorthair. When provoked, she walks away rather than attacking. The BSH kitty is not destructive and tends not to act out by clawing or spraying unless seriously stressed.
As mentioned previously, if you really want a cuddler you might be a bit disappointed: I have met British Shorthairs who wanted extended lap time with their humans but for the most part they want to sit with rather than on you. The British Shorthair is independent but loyal and affectionate. If they have a flaw as a breed, it might be that they’re too placid and patient. British Shorthairs are also very sedated, a trait that becomes more pronounced with age and which can make them prone to laziness.
The Scottish Fold is a very sweet cat. They have a similarly calm disposition to the British Shorthair but are a lot more cuddlesome and playful. The Scottish Fold lacks the British Shorthair’s trademark independence, as a rule, and can become sad and lonely if left without company for too long. The Scottish Fold is a “people person” and won’t be happy unless she can be by your side.
Although they’re more of a lap cat than the BSH kitty, the Scottish Fold doesn’t like to be handled overmuch. Let her set the pace and come to you for petting rather than insisting on picking her up. Active but not prone to mischief, this breed loves games and responds eagerly to any playful overtures (while the BSH may need a bit more encouragement to get moving). All in all, the Scottish Fold is a truly charming companion for any cat lover.
The British Shorthair is a famously robust kitty with a long lifespan (12-20 years). Descended from hardy wildcats and tough working cats who survived on Roman galleys, bred for solidity and a stoic temperament, it’s not surprising that this breed enjoys a long lifespan and overall good health. BSH kitties are blessed with a really good constitution and not at all subject to the health problems that can affect some other breeds. They do, however, fall prey to the same conditions as any other domestic cat. The main issues to look out for with this breed are haemophilia (this can be detected via a blood test), urinary and renal issues, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
This heart condition is very rare in females (only around two per cent of BSH queen cats will go on to develop it) but regrettably more prevalent in the boys. It can be managed effectively with medication and lifestyle changes.
Scottish Fold cats can be perfectly healthy and happy creatures; as we’ve seen previously, however, the mutation that gives them those cute lop-ears can also affect cartilage in other parts of the body. This can give rise to painful problems with the cat’s limbs and spine that may seriously impact both longevity and well-being.
You will need to monitor your pet for signs of discomfort, limping and so on, and be sure to take her to the vet promptly if she seems to be in pain. These issues can be managed very effectively but they do need to be treated as quickly as possible; if left unaddressed, the cat’s condition will deteriorate. Besides this, Scottish Folds may develop similar health problems to any other domestic cat: polycystic kidney disease, UTIs, feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and so on. Fifteen years is considered a good age for a Scottish Fold, although they can live longer.
Size and weight
The British Shorthair is considered a medium to large cat. You should factor this in when shopping for equipment such as litter trays and cat trees. My recommendation would be to buy small and cheap if you’re getting a BSH kitten — she’ll soon outgrow everything! These larger-than-life kitties gain most of their length of bone in the first 12 months but continue to grow and bulk up for years to come.
You should expect your cat to keep getting bigger and taller until at least three years old, with some BSH cats taking a full five years to get their full stature. Expect an adult female BSH to weigh between 3.6 kg to 5.5 kg (8 to 12 lbs). Adult toms get a lot bigger — they may weigh from 5.5 kg (12 lbs) up to a hulking 16.8 kg (15 lbs). Try not to let your BSH cats get much heavier than this.
The Scottish Fold is a medium-sized cat breed. They have a similar round configuration as the British Shorthair but they don’t get nearly as hefty. Also, like the BSH, Scottish Folds have a pronounced degree of dimorphism. When you first acquire your Scottish Fold at 12 weeks or so, she may weigh less than half a kilo; don’t worry, though, as she’ll soon grow up.
Typical weight ranges for adult Scottish Fold kitties are 4 to 6 kg (roughly 9 to 13 lbs) for toms, 2.7 to 4 kg (6 to 9 lbs) for queens. Like the British Shorthair, this cat is somewhat prone to becoming overweight. In the sections on care and maintenance, we’ll talk about ways you can address this. In general, note that it’s important not to free-feed either of these breeds and to make sure they get plenty of exercise in the form of play.
With kids and dogs
In general, it’s true to say that British Shorthair cats get on really well with both children and dogs. I would not hesitate to recommend a British Shorthair to a household with youngsters, other cats and a cat-friendly pooch or two. The British Shorthair’s calm, patient character makes her a good fit with little ones. Children need to be taught how to treat cats compassionately and with respect, of course.
Once youngsters understand that cats are not toys and don’t appreciate rough treatment, though, children and British Shorthairs make a winning team. As for dogs, some BSH kitties seem to actively benefit from the companionship and stimulation that a well-trained dog can provide. Do bear in mind, however, that introductions need to be performed with care and interactions supervised until you’re sure the dog will not chase or bite the cat.
Scottish Folds make absolutely wonderful family pets. These little characters are great with children, who bring out their playful sides and give them lots of fun activities to enjoy. Naturally, you will need to supervise and teach young children to play responsibly with the cat (yes, Fluffy enjoys being stroked and petted; no, Fluffy will probably not enjoy being put in a dress and forced to participate in a dolls’ tea party).
These loving and affectionate cats are also great with cat-friendly dogs. The usual caveats about training and careful introductions apply, of course; do be advised that the Scottish Fold is very gentle and not at all a fighter. If you have rough or ill-trained dogs around, she won’t be able to hold her own and could get hurt. A dog who hasn’t received the proper socialisation and training may see the cat as prey and attack her.
Care and maintenance
In general, the British Shorthair needs little additional care besides what you would give to any other domestic kitty. Brush her teeth at least once a week and try to lightly clip her claws every ten days or so. The one additional step I would recommend is a weekly brushing or combing to deal with all that thick, plush hair; this will stop her from shedding on everything and getting furballs.
The typical British Shorthair is very independent and doesn’t mind being left to herself — but do make time to play with her when you are at home. These kitties can become incredibly lazy if you don’t make a special effort to get them moving. Set aside sometime every day for a regular play-date where you break out the teaser toys and really try to stimulate the cat. You should make sure she gets plenty of fluid (consider a kitty water fountain) and feed her a diet of premium high-protein wet food.
Scottish Folds are also very easy to care for. People often assume that the folded ears will make them prone to infections or infestations of mites but this is untrue; their ears are as healthy as any straight-eared cat. One main difference between this breed and the British Shorthair in terms of everyday care is that you should be checking for signs of degenerative joint disease when you pet or groom your cat.
Another difference between the breeds is Scottish Folds are much less independent than the stalwart British Shorthair. If you need to be out a lot, consider hiring a cat-sitter to check in periodically. Alternatively, get a second cat for her to play with. As with the BSH, do not overfeed the Scottish Fold. Obesity can exacerbate this breed’s tendency to joint issues. She needs a sensible diet of premium, high-protein wet food with very occasional low-calorie treats.
I would have no qualms about recommending either of these breeds as your first kitty. Minor quibbles aside, both are sweet-natured, calm and easy to care for. My only hesitation would be in recommending the Scottish Fold to a single professional, or to a family where everyone is out at work or school all day long. If the house will be empty a lot, I would recommend the self-contained British Shorthair.
While you can probably go out to work and leave your Brit alone all day without her turning a hair, the Scottish Fold needs lots of love and attention throughout the day and will fret if left all by herself. The Scottish Fold does better with retired or self-employed people, or in a family home where people will be around a lot. If this is your second cat, a Scottish Fold would be fine.
You will probably find that — so long as they get along well — the other cat will provide sufficient company to stop your lop-eared companion from getting lonely. With Scottish Folds, it’s a case of “the more, the merrier” — the more people and animals there are in your house, the happier your cat will tend to be.