Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome Cat

Can cats have down syndrome? It’s an extremely common question that vets and pet health professionals are asked. Though the short answer to the question is no, it is true that cats can possess down syndrome-like symptoms. Including unusual behavioral traits, to quirky (and loveable) physical appearances.

Here we’ll look into genetic mutations that can occur in cats to give them down syndrome-like qualities, and how you can help your fluffy friend if she exhibits these symptoms.

Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats

Feline down syndrome symptoms

Down syndrome-like symptoms in cats can be both physical and mental. The first thing to keep in mind is that all cats are different. That’s what makes them special and unique. Your cat will never 100% look like other cats of the same breed. Still, keep an eye out for the following down syndrome-like symptoms:

  • Squished or flat nose
  • Perpetually saddened face
  • Eyes are widely spaced on the face
  • Upturned eyes
  • Clumsy walking
  • Difficulty in excreting
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Heart problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss

If you cat does possess any of the symptoms we’ve listed, take her to the vet to find out the root cause. Though kitties cannot have down syndrome, they can have genetic disorders or illnesses which are similar in nature, which we’ll look into next.

What Causes Down Syndrome-like Symptoms in Cats?

In a nutshell, different genetic disorders cause different disabilities in cats. Physical and behavioral abnormalities of so-called feline down syndrome can be indicative of a host of other issues, from neurological diseases, infections, congenital abnormalities, and even trauma. 

For example, cats infected in utero with the panleukopenia virus can develop several physical and other abnormalities similar to down syndrome. Cats can also suffer from cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition that causes down syndrome-like behavioral traits.

cat with wide set eyes and flat face

Cats whose mothers were exposed to certain toxins can also show different congenital malformations. These toxins may affect the facial structure and the neurological system. Any kind of trauma to the face and head, especially at a very young age can cause permanent neurological damage and physical injuries that may appear to have been present since birth.

Your vet will be able to do an X-ray scan, run genetic tests, and other special tests if your pet needs that to diagnose if there is any genetic disorder or a disease. There have been cases where cats have been diagnosed with a genetic disorder which is very close in nature to so-called feline down syndrome. 

There’s one more thing you might want to consider. If your cat is diagnosed with a condition that requires surgery, she’ll need special accessories. For instance, if your cat just underwent surgery or has a joint problem on her neck and shoulder blades, you need to be careful with her collar. In such cases, ask your vet for help to choose the right type of collar for your feline buddy.

Why Cats Can’t Have Down Syndrome

Humans have 23 chromosomes, and it’s an extra copy of a chromosome in the 21st pair which causes down syndrome. Cats only have 19 chromosomes, meaning they can’t technically have down syndrome.

Nevertheless, cats can have genetic mutations. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that poor muscle tone, aloof behavior, and unusual physical traits have a correlation with an extra copy of chromosomes.

Dogs on the other hand have more chromosome pairings than humans, and there are chances that they also can have an extra chromosome copy in the 21st pairing. Even so, this doesn’t indicate dogs can experience down syndrome either.

Final Thoughts

Feline down syndrome isn’t possible due to cat’s genetic structure. But there are neurological and other genetic disorders that might be responsible for similar symptoms. In a nutshell, if you think your kitty exhibits any similar qualities to down syndrome, head to a qualified vet and get her diagnosed and treated.

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