Cats With Down Syndrome



Cat owners usually provide their feline friends with the same care they would show to their own family. It’s no surprise then that they would want to seek answers when their cats show “unique” physical characteristics and behaviors.


Although these traits would normally pass under the radar of most cat owners, a recent influx of popular Instagram posts of “Down Syndrome” cats puts a spotlight on other felines that share the same look and behavior.  If you’re wondering what could be causing this online ruckus (and if you should worry about your own cat, too), you can find all there is to know about these “special cats” below.



What Is Down Syndrome?

Humans born with an extra chromosome, apart from the normal amount of 46 chromosomes we have, suffer from a genetic disorder called Down Syndrome. It’s the presence of the extra chromosome that significantly alters a person’s appearance and intellectual capacity. Until now, there is no known definitive cause for this disorder.



Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Although cats can indeed look and act oddly and, for some owners, worryingly, they cannot develop Down Syndrome. Cats only have 19 pairs of chromosomes, whereas humans have 23 pairs. Therefore, the “extra chromosome 21” found in people with Down Syndrome cannot be found in cats.



Why Down Syndrome Cats Do Not Exist

Even though Down Syndrome cats are non-existent, the misconception that cats may have Down Syndrome can still be traced to the physical and behavioral traits they have that are normally linked to Down Syndrome symptoms. These traits may be caused by various factors like congenital disease, reactions to toxic chemicals, and nutrition deficiencies.



Abnormalities That May Resemble Those of Down Syndrome

If you’re worried about your cat and want to get answers straight away due to your growing concern for them, you can consult a veterinarian as soon as you notice some “unique” traits they have. Such traits include:


  • Motor dysfunction
  • Difficulty balancing while walking
  • Vision troubles
  • “Squished” nose
  • Set apart eyes





Cats with Physical and Behavioral Abnormalities

Genetic disorders are not always at the root of abnormalities found in cats that appear as and behave like humans with Down Syndrome. For example, if a cat had suffered trauma to its head and/or face earlier in its life, the impact may have caused permanent damage to its facial characteristics and impaired its neurological function. Additionally, immense exposure to harmful toxins may cause a cat to suffer from congenital disorders with symptoms that mimic Down Syndrome.



Expectations for Special Needs Cats

Just like any experience of taking care of a living being with special needs, this task would prove taxing to pet owners, but ultimately rewarding once they see their “special needs cat” live happily regardless of their condition. Special care for your pet may involve, taking extra precautions to make sure your house is safe if your cat has physical disabilities, and consult with the vet more often.


Giving your pet the love they deserve will rely heavily on these extra steps for special needs care. You also should provide them with high-quality cat food and beneficial cat treats.  


Related Article: National Hug Your Cat Day



Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats

Although cats cannot have Down Syndrome, they may still possess physical features that resemble Down Syndrome’s physical manifestation. These features include:


  • Loose joints
  • Shying away from socialization with other cats
  • Congenital issues 
  • Hearing troubles
  • Abnormally wide, set apart eyes
  • Upturned nose


What Causes Down Syndrome-like Symptoms in Cats?

Many issues can cause cats to show Down Syndrome-like symptoms. It can be anything from physical trauma to allergic reactions and congenital or neurological disorders. Regardless of the cause, you may want to pay a visit to your trusted vet. They can conduct diagnostic tests to tell you if your cat is suffering from any underlying conditions.



How Can You Tell if Your Cat Has Down Syndrome?

No cat can have Down Syndrome, but you can look out for certain characteristics that may remind you of Down Syndrome symptoms. Currently, there are no well-known genetic tests that can identify chromosomal abnormalities in cats. Even so, it’s highly advised that you still check with your local vet for any extra care your cat needs.



What to Do If Your Cat Has Down Syndrome Symptoms

“Special needs cats” need special care and attention because of their physical deformities and reduced mental capacities. Your cat may have to be in a less playful, crowded home of pets so it doesn’t get overwhelmed, and may need a special diet to tend to its nutritional needs. Veterinarians and pet owners must work together to assess what these special cats need, especially those most vulnerable to physical injury.



What Animals Can Have Down Syndrome?

Articles on various animals like chimpanzees, lions, tigers, and giraffes have garnered attention in the past for featuring animals with Down Syndrome-like facial features. Their physical deformities, however, are scientifically attributed to causes of hormone deficiencies, inbreeding, and so on — not because they have Down Syndrome! Just like cats, other animals cannot have Down Syndrome.





Can Cats Have Mental Retardation?

Unfortunately, cats can still suffer from reduced intellectual capacities even without having Down Syndrome. As a side-effect of other genetic disorders, mental retardation in cats can cause them to have difficulty moving properly, hearing and seeing, and basic functioning like toilet training.



Maya the Cat with Down Syndrome

“Maya the Cat” is a special needs tabby who doesn’t let her chromosomal abnormality stop her from being happy. Even though she doesn’t have Down Syndrome, Maya is known for loving her human friends who do!. After being adopted from the shelter, Maya now happily gets all the love she deserves in her new home.  Like her owner said while holding Maya in her arms: “This is what a shelter pet looks like. They deserve a chance too.



Famous Cat with Down Syndrome

Monty, another animal shelter cat adopted by a loving owner, was born without a nasal bridge. Although his cute face drew their attention, it’s his “rare as a diamond” personality that made him extra special and different from other cats!. His owner proudly boasts of him as “the handsomest cutie pie in town!”



Can Kittens Have Down Syndrome?

Just like in older cats, it is not possible for Down Syndrome to develop in kittens. Regardless, older cats can be more prone to lose muscle tissues, while younger cats might find it difficult to grow without proper nutrition. In any case, you may want to regularly visit your vet to make sure your cat is receiving the care it needs.



Final Thoughts

Pet owners are generally well-intentioned with their worry over their cats displaying Down Syndrome-like symptoms. It’s only right that they want the best for their feline friends and would want to do whatever it takes to make them happy and healthy! Taking the steps to be informed about your cat’s needs is a great way to promise your devotion to keeping them safe and glad to be in your care.


Read Next: Home Remedies for Cat Scabs



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