With their big, round eyes and sweet expressions, Scottish Fold cats have the kind of face that says "Pick me up."
Their folded-forward ears only add to their endearing looks and make them a sought-after member of the feline family.
Gary Kirchmeyer and Martie Yates, a North Kansas City couple, were struck by the breed's unusual appearance at a cat show about 15 years ago.
"When Martie and I got together, she had an American Shorthair. And the people that she had originally got him from begged us to put him in a show ring. So we did, and we saw Scottish Folds at the show hall and thought they were just really spiffy," Kirchmeyer said.
"We got a Scottish Fold just to show and then decided, gosh, we'd like to help improve the breed."
From that decision has grown LeBaron Cattery, a Scottish Fold breeding program the couple operates out of their home. They now have about a dozen Scottish Fold cats underfoot.
Kirchmeyer and Yates take a few of their cats to 20 to 25 competitive shows across the Midwest each year. They've bred many grand champion cats since they started their cattery.
There's just something about the folded ears and big eyes of the breed that predictably melt people's hearts.
"They look just like a little barn owl," Kirchmeyer said.
Wide variety of breeds
Two or three Scottish Folds belonging to Kirchmeyer and Yates will be among dozens of pedigreed cats representing more than 20 breeds at the Sixth Annual Kansas City Midwest ACFA Cat Show on June 22-23 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Last year's show drew 80 exhibitors and 120 entries who traveled to Lawrence from across the nation, according to Jody Lawson, president of the Kansas City Midwest Cat Club.
The club has 16 members from the Kansas City area, Lawrence, Topeka and DeSoto. It has been a part of the American Cat Fanciers Assn. one of the oldest cat registry associations in the United States since 1960.
The club moved its annual show to Lawrence in recent years to provide the city with an opportunity to view and learn about a wide variety of pedigreed cats.
The theme of this year's show is "Purr-oud to be American." Aside from Scottish Fold cats, the show will feature unusual breeds like Norwegian Forest Cats, Singapuras and Bengals.
Scottish Folds like those raised by Kirchmeyer and Yates belong to a fairly recent breed.
In 1961, a shepherd named William Ross spotted the first known Scottish Fold cat on a farm near Coupar Angus in the Tayside region of Scotland, northwest of Dundee.
Ross asked the owners if he could have one of the kittens and proceeded to develop the breed from the original, Susie, a white barn cat.
The unique aspect of Susie's appearance was that her ears folded forward and downward on her head, giving the appearance of an owl or teddy bear.
Scottish Folds come in two types: folded ear and straight (or normal) ear.
The folded ear is produced by an incomplete dominant gene and is the result of a spontaneous mutation. The function of the ear is unaffected.
Scottish Fold kittens are born with straight ears. At about three to four weeks of age, the ears of some kittens begin to fold. It usually takes 11 to 12 weeks before a breeder can determine the quality of a kitten either pet, breeder or show.
Only folded-ear cats of Scottish lineage are permitted in the show ring and, naturally, every breeder wants to produce show cats. But the straight-ear progeny of Scottish Folds are invaluable to the breeding program.
"I like their look and their soft, easygoing disposition," Kirchmeyer said, explaining why he's sold on the breed. "You can think of them as a dog that has to use a litter box. They follow you around, and the majority of our cats will come when you call them. They're mellow, laid back and comfortable to be around."