Cat Breeds with Small Ears

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  • Cats with small ears are adorable. We see pictures on the internet of those with folded or miniature ears and we awww… But you may wonder what causes small ears in cats or what breeds have small ears?

    What causes small ears?

    There are cat breeds which appear to have small or nonexistent ears! The most common of these is the Scottish Fold, which is named after their strangely shaped ears. However, the breed’s genetics can produce cats with both straight and folded ear phenotypes.

    Folded ears occur because of a genetic mutation which affects the development of cartilage. “N” means the cat carries the normal (straight ear) gene. “SF” means the cat carries the fold mutation. Cats with two copies of the N gene have straight years and cannot pass the fold onto their children. Cats with one copy of each will have folded ears, but may develop other issues related to cartilage. They can pass the fold variant to approximately 50 percent of their children. Cats with two copies of the folded gene have folded ears, but their health issues are usually more severe. They will pass their variant to all offspring.

    Can my cat get small ears after birth?

    Normally, small ears are a genetic mutation which does not occur after birth. However, there is a phenomenon called cauliflower ear, which creates a similar appearance. But you don’t want your cat to have this, as it’s an irreversible deformity. Cauliflower ear is also known as a perichondral hematoma caused by scar tissue and trauma. Many strays or free-ranging cats gain this trauma through fighting with other cats.

    Cat breeds with small ears

    Scottish Fold

    • History: The first Scottish Fold was a barn cat named Susie who was found in Scotland. Her ears had the characteristic fold, though strange. She had kittens, which were born with the folded ears. A nearby farmer registered the breed in 1966.
    • Temperament: The breed is good natured and placid. They adjust well to other animals inside the household and become attached to their caregivers easily. It’s common for these cats to be stubborn. Interestingly, they like to sleep on their backs or sit in the Buddha position.
    • Physical Characteristics: The Scottish Folds are most well-known for their characteristic ears. Over the years, breeders have selectively bred for genes, introducing multiple folds in the ears of some cats. These are medium-sized cats which can come in any color.
    • Health: Scottish Folds live approximately fifteen years. However, the breed is susceptible to kidney and heart problems. Some are prone to degenerative joint diseases, which can decrease their range of motion.

    Persian

    • History: Unlike other breeds, we don’t know the exact origins of the Persian. The first ancestors were documented to be imported from Persian into the Italian Penisula in the 1600s.
    • Temperament: Persians are described as quiet, placid cats. They are rated high on closeness and affection to owners.
    • Physical Characteristics: Show-style Persians have long and thick coats with short legs. The breed was established with a short muzzle, but has become exaggerated. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) has four coat-pattern diversions, but Persians can come in any color.
    • Health: The median lifespan is above 12.5 years, slightly shorter than other breeds. The modern Persian has a shortened face which can make them prone to breathing difficulties, skin and eye problems, and birth issues. Additionally, the breed suffers from kidney issues, heart disease, and degenerative eye issues.

    Toyger

    • History: This breed developed by breeding domestic short-haired tabbies to ensure the coat resembled a tiger. The breed was created to inspire people to care about tiger conservation.
    • Temperament: Toygers can easy going cats that make great additions to the family. They are intelligent enough to be trained to perform tricks or walk on a leash. The breed is playful and affectionate.
    • Physical Characteristics: Breed standards include a medium-sized head with small, round ears. Body stripes should be vertically aligned with encircling marks. Bold and nonuniform marks are preferred.
    • Health: Togyers are considered to be a healthy breed. However, heart murmurs have occurred before. Additionally, all health problems may not be known as the Toyger is still a newer breed.

    Highlander

    • History: This breed originated as a crossbreed between the Desert Lynx and the Jungle Curl. The breed was recognized by the International Cat Association for competition starting in 2008.
    • Temperament: Highlanders are fond of water. They are human-oriented and playful cats. The breed is active and confident. Cats in this breed love children of all ages and other animals. Intelligence is top notch, requiring lots of stimulation and play to keep boredom away.
    • Physical Characteristics: The cat breed are bob-tailed or short-tailed, with spotted or bullseye markings. They have wide-set eyes and the ears can be slightly curled. Highlanders have a muscular body.
    • Health: They are not known to have any particular health problems. However, they can inherit some of their ancestors health issues. Top issues affecting the breed include ear infections, Horner’s syndrome, and constipation.

    American Curl

    • History: American Curls originated in California in 1981 when a cat named Shulamith gave birth to kittens with the same curled ears as her. Kittens are born with straight ears but they curl within forty-eight hours.
    • Temperament: They are known for their people-loving personality. He is active and smart, but likes to follow you around. If you don’t give them enough attention, they will try to get your attention, but aren’t talkative. These cats can learn to open doorknobs, so be careful!
    • Physical Characteristics: Long and shorthaired cats in these breed have soft, silky coats. They require little grooming. In show, their ears must curl in an arc between 90 to 180 degrees.
    • Health: Due to cross-breeding with non-pedigree cats, the breed is generally healthy. However, rough handling of their ears can damage the cartilage. Additionally, the ears require frequent cleaning to help prevent infection. The “curl” is considered a dominant gene.

    Munchkin

    • History: Munchkins are considered to be the original dwarf cats. They originated when a music teacher found two pregnant cats under a truck. She kept one and her kittens were short-legged. However, only two registries recognize the Munchkin. There is controversy over breeding of this cat due to the genetic mutations associated with their small stature.
    • Temperament: Munchkins are described as outgoing and intelligent. However, there are reports their short legs don’t affect their running or jumping abilities.
    • Physical Characteristics: The coat comes in every color and pattern. Additionally, they can be long-haired.
    • Health: It’s hard to pinpoint what issues their genetic mutation causes as the breed is newer. But we have seen that lordosis and pectus excavatum are more common in Munchkins than other breeds.

    Ukrainian Levkoy

    • History: As its name implies, the breed was created in Ukraine in the early 2000s. It was created by crossing hairless Donskoy females with Scottish Fold males. The breed isn’t recognized by any international cat registries.
    • Temperament: Ukrainian Levkoys are known to be playful and intelligent. They are social creatures who enjoy the company of other pets or family members.
    • Physical Characteristics: The breed has soft, elastic skin which can appear wrinkled. Their ears bend inward, and are medium-sized cats. They are known for the strange angled head and almond-shaped eyes.
    • Health: Due to its hairless nature, it’s important to regularly bathe this breed. Without it, natural oil will accumulate on the skin. Their skin can be prone to yeast infections, cold, or sunburn.

    Is it ethical to have a cat with small ears?

    While these breeds are adorable, some breeders have stopped mating Scottish Folds and others because of ethical reasons. Cats with the mutation have additional health problems affecting the cartilage and joints. If you’re interested in adopting a cat with small ears, reach out to your local animal shelter to see if they have any. It’s up to you whether you want to adopt from a breeder, but it may be difficult to find due to ethical concerns.

    How do I take care of my cat’s ears?

    With genetic issues or other ear issues, it’s important to care for your cat’s ears properly. Improper care can increase risk of infection or other complications. While cats are known to keep themselves relatively clean, there are some additional steps you can take if you feel concerned.

    You should only clean your cat’s ears if you see a small or moderate amount of debris or discharge. Clean them every two to three months as overcleaning can lead to irritation. You can clean the ear by folding back the flap and using the other hand to hold the ear cleaner. Hold it to the cat’s ear but not inside. Once putting the cleaner inside, massage the base of the ear to be sure it covers it. Then, use a cotton pad to clear out the debris. 

    Additionally, you should ensure your cat receives a check up approximately twice a year to help prevent any issues.

    Fun Facts 

    • The popularity of Scottish Folds has increased significantly since some celebrities have shown to have them. Ed Sheeran has a Scottish Fold named Calippo. Additionally, Taylor Swift has three Scottish Folds.
    • A cat’s ear contains thirty-two muscles which are used to rotate to pinnae to identify where a sound it coming from. The muscles allow the ear to rotate up to 180 degrees.
    • Cat ears contain three tiny bones: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. These are called ossicles and transmit sound into the inner ear. 
    • Cats always land on their feet thanks to their ears. The inner ear provides balance to all animals. The ear has something called the vestibular apparatus which is filled with crystals and hairs suspended in a liquid. This tells the cat which way up is when they jump or fall.
    • The extra flap of skin on the outside of a cat’s ear is called Henry’s Pocket. The Pocket helps cats detect higher pitched sounds and can also help them to fold. 

    Author

    • Elizabeth is an animal lover who is owned by three cats: Vivan, Burr, and Puck. Her passion for writing started in the 9th grade when she began writing her novel. She hasn't stopped since.