Why Do Scottish Fold Cats Sit Funny? [What Is SFOCD]

Scottish Fold cats are popular thanks to their round heads, large eyes, and folded ears, giving them an owl-like appearance. However, this isn’t their only unique feature, and if you Google the breed, you’ll likely see these cats propped up in a range of funny positions. Sadly, the leading cause of this is the genetic disease SFOCD.

The human-like actions of the Scottish Fold make them trendy pets. But why do they sit in these positions, or what are the health issues behind these “funny” behaviors? Continue reading to find the answers to these questions and understand why your Scottish Fold sits in funny positions.

Why Do Scottish Fold Cats Sit Funny?

Cats are different from humans, and their bodies are much more flexible than ours. They have more significant rotation in the spine than most other animals with flexible vertebrae that have elastic cushioning on the discs. This quality allows cats to contort into several positions that are fascinating for humans to observe.

But Scottish Folds possess their own traits and will get into positions that no other breed generally does. This is because their bone structure is different, even compared to other cats.

One of the main reasons for this unique trait is that Scottish Folds carry a mutant gene that affects their bodies’ bone and cartilage. This gene affects the amount of flex in joints such as their legs.

If you see a Scottish Fold sitting with its legs extended, this may be the most comfortable position for the feline, or it could be that it feels painful for them to bend this joint.

What Positions Do Scottish Fold Cats Sit In?

The most common position that a Scottish Fold will sit in is on its back; people often call this the Buddha, especially when the cat has both of its legs extended.

Another common position for a Fold is sitting on its butt with one leg extended into the air (sometimes they also extend both legs). They are also prone to standing on their back legs like meerkats, though many other breeds of cats also do this.

Why Do Cats Stand On Their Hind Legs?

Standing on its hind legs is not a trait that is unique to the Scottish Fold, and most cat owners have experienced their feline friend engaging in this behavior, so what makes a cat stand up on its back legs?

One reason is if they feel under threat and want to ward off a predator. When cats think they are under attack, they want to make themselves appear as large as possible – sometimes they do this by arching their back, and other times they do it by standing on their hind legs.

Cats will also stand on their hind legs to get something they want. This could be a fuss from you if you are above their level or a treat that you are preparing. If you want to get your cat to stand on its hind legs, a treat is a great way to entice them.

What Is SFOCD?

SFOCD stands for Scottish Fold osteochondrodysplasia, a disease that is characterized by abnormalities of the skeleton. Breeders actively seek this quality for the folded ear appearance that it brings to a cat.

Unfortunately, the ears aren’t the only cartilage affected by SFOCD, and the disease also impacts a cat’s carpal and metacarpal bones along with the phalanges and caudal vertebrae.

The effect of these abnormalities means the cats experience stiffness and feel pain when they try to walk, run, or jump because of the narrow joint spaces. And it’s these abnormalities that cause them to sit and stand as a human would, to keep their legs straight.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of SFOCD?

It can be challenging for an owner to determine whether or not their Scottish Fold is suffering from the symptoms of SFOCD. The best way to determine this is a diagnosis through radiographs, which can detect skeletal alterations. 

Clinical symptoms are mostly limited to ambulatory problems (or strange walking patterns), but these can be particularly difficult for an owner to detect.

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is In Pain?

SFOCD can be extremely difficult for owners to detect without consulting a professional, but if you suspect that your pet is in any pain, there are several symptoms to look out for:

  • Excessive meowing, howling or crying.
  • Agitated or grumpy
  • Limping or difficulty jumping
  • He plays less and avoids pettings or handling
  • Licking a particular region of their body
  • Quiet or reclusive
  • Change to their temperament
  • Change in eating, sleeping, or toilet habits
  • Shallow breathing
  • Reluctance to move or walk

Why Do Scottish Fold Cats Suffer From SFOCD?

You can trace the ancestry of all Scottish Fold cats back to a single Scottish female named Susie. As Susie grew, her owners noticed that her ears were folded over, which piqued the interest of local farmers.

When Susie gave birth to a litter of kittens, they also had folded ears, suggesting a specific gene caused this mutation. Following this discovery, a local farmer teamed up with a geneticist to breed these cats and create a “lop-eared” species.

However, as scientists studied this new breed, they discovered that the mutant gene affected the ear cartilage and other bones throughout the cat’s body.

Susie and her litter had only one copy of the abnormal gene, so they only experienced minor health issues and, for the most part, could live a happy life. However, when scientists bred cats to hold this trait specifically, many ended up with a double gene.

This double gene (homozygous) causes the most significant health risks for a Scottish Fold cat; following the findings, many countries banned the breeding of Scottish Folds, including the UK.

Nowadays, breeders continue to produce this breed in the US, Asia, and Australia; ethical guidelines mean that only heterozygous varieties of the Scottish Fold can reproduce. But not everyone follows these guidelines, and many cats still experience the bone issues associated with SFOCD.

Do All Scottish Fold Cats Suffer From SFOCD?

All Scottish Folds experience SFOCD to some degree, but this disease’s impact depends on the cats’ genetic history. Homozygous cats with two copies of the mutant gene tend to show symptoms of the disease at an earlier stage and experience worse symptoms than the heterozygous cat (one has one copy of the gene).

In today’s ethical enviroments, breeding should be kept to heterozygous cats, meaning most Scottish Folds will be less impacted by the effects of their gene defect.

Final Word

Scottish Folds are an adorable breed of cat that humans love to observe for their owl-like appearance and funny sitting positions. While these positions can endear the cats to us for their human-like qualities, the underlying reasons can be less entertaining.

While some Scottish Folds are perfectly happy and healthy, others experience painful limbs that make proper bending and flexing difficult. The best course of action is to check your pet’s health with your vet.

In general, if your pet eats, sleeps, and behaves happily and playfully, they are in good health. It’s only when their behavior starts to change that you should have any concerns.

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