Can Cats And Kittens Get Down Syndrome?

by George Vezilich
Can cats and kittens get down syndrome?

Any cat lover would agree that cats are unique animals and each and every one of them is special in its own way. Cats are loyal, loving, and affectionate pets no matter what they look like or which cat breed they are. Even those that have a certain anomaly, more so often those cats carry more love than any other. Three-legged cats, cats with two faces, or some with four ears, there are so many different cats that make excellent pets. Seeing all these anomalies, we wondered whether cats can get down syndrome. So, we’ve made research on the topic to understand it this condition is common with felines.

In fact, this question is posed often by people because there are some cats that have these symptoms. In other words, they behave and look different than most cats do.


Definition of Down Syndrome

Before we answer this question let’s see what the definition of down syndrome is. In humans, this condition is a result of a chromosomal defect and it prevents them from developing normally in a mental and physical sense. To be more precise, individuals with down syndrome have a shorter stature, low muscle tone, and a specific flat nasal bridge. They also have a learning disability and impaired mental ability. On average, adults with Down syndrome have an IQ of 50 which equals that of an eight-year-old.

From a scientific perspective, people normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes, while individuals with down syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome which makes it a trisomy 21.

 Can Cats And Kittens Get Down Syndrome


Can Cats Get Down Syndrome?

Now, let’s get back to our topic - are there any cats with down syndrome? Above all, it’s important to point out that there are no scientific studies that indicate down syndrome in cats. Some cat owners that have noticed differences in appearance and behavior with their cats have called it Feline Down Syndrome. However, this term is not backed by science so it remains only a mystery and these are all only assumptions.


Bottom line is that in a technical sense cats can’t have down syndrome. First of all, due to the fact that the chromosomal structure of cats and humans is not the same. Specifically, cats have 19 pairs of chromosomes, while humans as we mentioned earlier have 23 pairs. Therefore, under any circumstances, cats can’t have this additional 21st chromosome.


Symptoms that resemble a Down Syndrome in Cats

Essentially, we have to ask ourselves why we are even wondering if a cat has down syndrome. In reality, many cats show some symptoms or have certain characteristics that resemble those of people with down syndrome. For instance, there are cats that have bad coordination and are clumsy in a way, have wide-set round eyes, and flat noses. In addition, they can have vision problems, low muscle tone, and heart problems, as well as an overall different behavior than normal cats.

Even though these symptoms can be compared to down syndrome, they can also be caused by other conditions. Your cat’s clumsiness can be a result of a neurological disorder. If that’s the case it’s always best to consult with a vet.


One of the most common reasons for the down-syndrome-like symptoms in cats is cerebellar hypoplasia. This is a condition when the cat has improperly developed cerebellum and although it isn’t life-threatening it does affect the cat’s quality of life. These cats usually have problems walking, keeping balance, running, or jumping, and often they can’t accurately approach their food bowls or litter boxes.


Other conditions that cause these symptoms are feline dysautonomia, distal polyneuropathy, or Klinefelter syndrome. All these conditions are mostly neurological hence the developmental problems in cats mentally and physically.

 Can Cats And Kittens Get Down Syndrome


How to Take Care of a Cat with Down-Syndrome-like Symptoms

Ultimately, we have to understand that cats with these conditions can still live normal lives. Most of their owners have reported that they have a loving nature and are happy to be taken care of in a loving family. All they need is for someone to give them a chance and a home filled with love.

Still, keep in mind that you need to consult with a vet to determine their condition and give you guidance on the best ways to take care of these cats.



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