American curl and Scottish fold cats both have unusual ear shapes, resulting from genetic mutations. These two types of cat are distinct, however -- know the breed differences to choose the best feline for you.
As you could probably guess by their names, the American curl and Scottish fold breeds originated in Northern America and Scotland, respectively. The Scottish fold dates back to 1961, when an individual stray cat with the characteristic flattened ears was found in Scotland. The American curl was first known in 1981, after a litter of spontaneously-mutated kittens were born in California. Modern breeding of either American curls or Scottish folds involves cross-breeding with non-pedigree cats -- as many as 50 percent of each litter bred this way will typically be born with regular, straight ears.
The American curl's ears have an arched shape, curling backwards over the cat's head. Breed standards dictate that a show-quality cat will have a 180-degree backward curl; a pet cat may have only a 90-degree curl. By contrast, the ears of the Scottish fold are flattened forward towards the cat's face. The cat's ears may have anything from a single to a triple fold in their flattened shape. Show-quality Scottish fold cats typically have the triple-folded ears.
Temperament and Appearance
A Scottish fold cat is typically more relaxed and laid-back than an American curl. The American curl tends to be a relatively active cat, with an almost dog-like, attentive temperament. This sociable breed will pay significant attention to humans in the family. The Scottish fold is also sociable, and is typically a loyal and intelligent cat. They can be trained to perform tricks, or to fetch items as a dog would. Scottish fold cats typically get along well with children and -- when socialized properly -- with other pets. American curl and Scottish fold cats alike can come in any color and with long or short hair. Obviously, the long-haired cats require more diligent grooming than their short-haired counterparts. The coat of the American curl is a little softer and silkier than that of the Scottish curl, and American curls shed relatively little. These cats can have any color of eyes, though copper is the most common color in the Scottish fold breed.
The genetic mutations that lead to both breeds' distinctive ear shapes can cause various potential health problems for these different types of cat. For example, the American curl's distinctive ears can easily be damaged if you handle them roughly or attempt to bend the ears further back. The American curl ears have an area of rigid cartilage at the base, and the rest of the ear is more flexible. In the Scottish fold, a genetic problem can occur -- commonly, when two of these cats are bred together. If your cat has this genetic problem, its bones and skeleton can become deformed and enlarged. Signs of this condition include limited mobility, stiff tail and splayed toes at the end of short legs.
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.