Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Is it possible for cats to be born with a condition known as Down syndrome? You may be surprised to learn how often veterinarians are asked this question. When a cat’s appearance and behaviour are like those of a person with Down syndrome, this question is often asked.


In recent years, social media has seen a rise in the popularity of cats with odd face traits and aberrant behaviours. The assumption that Down syndrome may arise in cats has been bolstered by some pet owners who have set up social media profiles for their “Down syndrome cats.”

Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Cats do not develop Down syndrome, despite the widespread belief on the internet. In reality, they are unable to.


An explanation of Down syndrome: One in every 700 human newborns is affected by this condition, and Trisomy 21 is the medical term for this disorder.


The DNA in each cell is organised into bundles by chromosomes, which aids in transmitting genetic material between cells during cell division and division. An additional chromosome 21 (or a portion of chromosome 21) causes a range of birth abnormalities responsible for persons’ physical characteristics with Down syndrome.


According to the National Down Syndrome Society, persons who have Down syndrome are more likely to exhibit any or all of the characteristics listed below:


  • Weak muscles
  • Small in height
  • The eyes are angled upwards.
  • Palm with a single, deep wrinkle along its middle


Note: Persons with Down syndrome don’t all look the same physical appearance.

Why Aren’t There Any Cats With Down Syndrome?

The human genome consists of 23 chromosomes, with cats having a total of 19 chromosomes. Being born with an additional 21 chromosomes is impossible for cats to achieve. This does not rule out cats having additional chromosomes on occasion.


It was discovered by researchers in the American Journal of Veterinary Research in 1975 that male cats may have one extra chromosome due to a rare chromosomal mutation that causes a disease comparable to Klinefelter syndrome in humans. Because the additional chromosome contains genetic information that influences the colour of these cats, they are fascinating. Male cats with this ailment become tricoloured (“calico” or “tortoise-shell”), a colour pattern that is generally only seen in female cats due to the effects of this disorder.

Anomalies That Could Be Related to Down Syndrome

Several especially notable cats on Instagram have become online celebrities after their parents claimed that an extra chromosome caused their cats’ odd features. While these claims of the chromosomal disorder have never been proven, it is unknown whether or not they have ever been validated by genetic testing.


Despite the lack of scientific evidence and questionable assertions, the term “feline Down syndrome” has been frequently utilised in the pet market. Since Down syndrome is not recognised as a veterinary illness and is not supported by the veterinary profession, it is impossible to transmit a disease from one species to another. Doing so may be perceived as insulting to individuals who deal with these issues daily.


It’s also possible that well-meaning people may wrongly assign human ailments to cats because of their anatomy and behaviour. A “Down syndrome cat” has several distinct characteristics, including the following:


  • Wide noses
  • eyes cocked up (which may be set widely apart)
  • Ears that are unusually little or small
  • Muscle tone is low.
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Difficulty removing waste (urination or defecation)
  • Loss of hearing or vision
  • Problems with the heart

Physically and Behaviorally Disabled Cats

According to the veterinarian, the physical characteristics and behavioural problems of so-called “Down syndrome cats” suggest a different ailment that may or may not be hereditary.


Infections, neurological ailments, congenital disabilities, and even trauma are among the many causes of cats with unusual looks and behaviours. 


Cats born to mothers who had the panleukopenia virus while still, fetuses may have a variety of physical and behavioural abnormalities. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, cats with cerebellar hypoplasia may exhibit the same “Down syndrome animal” behaviours and features.


Cats whose mothers were exposed to certain toxins when pregnant may be born with facial and nervous system malformations. This may lead to permanent neurological disability and facial impairments that seem to have been present from birth in those who have suffered head and face trauma.

Expectations for Special Needs Cats

If your cat displays any behavioural and physical anomalies, she may qualify as a “special needs cat,” a term used to describe a cat with special requirements. Special needs cats often exhibit a wide range of characteristics that, to the untrained eye, seem to be similar to those associated with Down syndrome, even though cats cannot acquire the disorder.


Exceptional circumstances Cats demand specialised attention. Their pet parents must take additional precautions to keep them safe from potential risks like swimming pools and stairwells and predators, and other threats to which they are exposed when they are young. They may need assistance with basic activities (cleaning themselves, eating and drinking, etc.) and navigating life when they have visual or hearing impairment.


Whatever you do, be sure to seek the assistance of your veterinarian. Anyone whose cat needs particular attention should get familiar with the complete spectrum of available medical choices.


Can Cats Have Mental Retardation?

Mental retardation is a developmental disability that may affect people and animals, including cats. In addition to genetic defects like Down Syndrome, it may also be caused by head trauma, oxygen deprivation, and exposure to poisonous or dangerous chemicals. 


Cats with mental retardation will be unable to learn the essentials, such as toilet training, due to a reduced intellectual capacity. But they’ll also be troubled by their motor dysfunction. Another sign is that the cat is less friendly than the other cats in the home and has vision and hearing problems.


A chromosomal defect that mimics the symptoms of Down Syndrome may be seen in cats, although they are not capable of developing it.

Which Animals Can Be Affected by Down Syndrome?

Besides humans, animals, including tigers, giraffes, and chimpanzees, are susceptible to Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence that cats are predisposed to Down syndrome.


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