Taylor Swift’s cats have condition that causes constant pain, say experts

<span>Taylor Swift with one of her Scottish fold cats which have appeared with the singer in many adverts.</span><span>Photograph: X</span>
Taylor Swift with one of her Scottish fold cats which have appeared with the singer in many adverts.Photograph: X

To any devoted Taylor Swift fan, the musician’s cats are almost as well known as she is, frequently appearing in her TikTok postings and with hundreds of millions of posts devoted to them across social media.

But as Swift’s planet-conquering Eras tour prepares to land in the UK next month, animal welfare experts have urged her fans not to copy Swift’s cats, saying the same characteristics that make the breed cute also condemn them to a life of constant pain.

Swift has three cats, two of which, Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey, are Scottish folds, a breed distinguished by a genetic mutation that makes their ears fold flat and gives them an “owl-like” appearance. But the same gene that causes floppy cartilage in their ears also causes osteochondrodysplasia, which leads to abnormal bone growth, arthritis and severe pain.

Ironically, in Scotland, where the breed originated and where Swift plays her first UK date in Edinburgh on 7 June, the breeding of Scottish folds is in effect banned, while other countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and Norway, have also placed restrictions on them on animal welfare grounds.

That has not stopped their numbers surging in recent years, according to Cats Protection, a UK cat welfare charity. In its most recent large-scale survey of cat owners Scottish folds make up 3% of Britain’s 10.6 million cats – representing more than 300,000 cats in total – up from less than 1% in 2021.

“We are not saying that Taylor herself is at fault for owning them,” said Sarah Elliott, the organisation’s central veterinary officer, adding that for most owners, “the breeders are not really giving them the information that they need. This is something owners find out later, and often it’s quite devastating to find out that your cat has this condition that can’t be cured, and that they’re going to be in pain for life.”

Swift is devoted to her cats, even saying they were the reason she agreed to appear in Tom Hooper’s movie of the musical Cats, which was critically savaged.

The cats have appeared with the singer in multiple adverts, with one estimation suggesting that one of them, Olivia Benson, is herself worth $97m (£76m) alongside Swift’s personal wealth estimated at more than $1bn.

Fellow singer Ed Sheeran owns a Scottish fold, named Calippo, and the breed featured in the recent film Argylle, leading to a group of cat welfare charities speaking out about the problems associated with it.

Scottish folds are often heralded as an ideal pet cat because they are docile and enjoy cuddles; a recent survey by a pet nutrition firm named them the UK’s “top cat” for this reason. But, according to Elliott, owners do not realise that the reason Scottish folds are less active may be because of underlying pain.

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For these reasons, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, which registers pedigree cats in the UK, does not recognise the breed, which originated from a single female found with the genetic mutation in Scotland in 1961.

The GCCF chair, Steve Crow, says: “There is no intention to recognise this breed because the gene which produces the folded ears also causes skeletal abnormalities, producing stiffness of the limbs and tail, which increases with age. We strongly advise members of the public not to try to acquire cats of this breed.”

Elliott said: “Our message is really to think twice and do a lot of research before you think about getting a cat. Don’t just look at TikTok and influencers [but consult] a vet or an animal charity who can give you a more scientific recommendation about a breed.”