Signs & Abnormalities Linked To Down Syndrome In Cats

Cats indeed suffer from many of the same disorders as humans. Down syndrome is a congenital disorder in humans, affecting the people that have it both physically and intellectually. It arises from a chromosomal defect. The nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes in humans.

Down Syndrome is a disorder that affects one in 700 human babies born each year, commonly in the U.S. It occurs when the developing fetus’s genetic material is copied incorrectly and then results in an extra 21st chromosome (or a partial 21st chromosome). This condition is also called trisomy 21.

Chromosomes essentially organize the DNA in each cell into bundles, helping cells to pass on this genetic material when they divide. An extra 21st chromosome (or partial 21st chromosome) causes a variety of birth defects which give people with Down syndrome their shared physical characteristics.

Cats that exhibit unusual facial features and certain behavioral abnormalities have become popular in social media circles. Cat keepers typically ask whether down syndrome cat exists, especially when their cat seems to look and behave abnormally, in a manner that resembles Down syndrome. There are several genetic facts to dispute this claim, cats don’t develop Down syndrome. In fact, they can’t. Although the physical and behavioural symptoms of some cats may look like Down syndrome, it is impossible for them to truly be Down syndrome, as this is something that exists solely in humans.  

The Likelihood Of Down Syndrome In Cats

Genetically, Humans possess 23 pairs of chromosomes. Cats possess only 19. Therefore, having an extra 21st chromosome is clearly not possible for cats. Other genetic conditions may increase the chromosome count of the cat. Since cats possess only 19 pairs of chromosomes. It means that it is technically impossible for Down syndrome cats to exist. That does not mean, however, that they cannot have similar symptoms for one reason or another.

It will interest you to know that a 1975 paper published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research identified a rare chromosomal abnormality in male cats that allows for one extra chromosome, resulting in a condition similar to Klinefelter syndrome in humans. These cats are especially noteworthy because the extra chromosome carries genetic material that affects their coloration. This condition causes these male cats to be tricolored (“calico” or “tortoise-shell”). It’s a color pattern that is normally seen only in female cats.

Abnormalities Close To Down Syndrome In Cats

Despite the questionable claims and biological realities, Feline Down Syndrome has become a popular term. It is, therefore important to note that, nevertheless, the veterinary community does not recognize feline Down syndrome as a veterinary condition and in fact, does not advocate the transference of human conditions to animals on the basis of physical appearance or behavior. Doing so may be construed as disrespectful to people who live with these conditions.

Still, there are some physical and behavioral traits that may lead well, meaning people to mistakenly assign human conditions to cats. A so-called Down syndrome cat typically manifests some distinctive traits.

This means that while it’s impossible for cats to have Down syndrome, they can exhibit Down syndrome-like symptoms, which include:

  • Behaviour different or strange compared to that of other cats
  • Heart problems
  • Unusually small or oddly shaped ears
  • Problems with vision
  • Difficulty with elimination – urination or defecation
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Eyes set abnormally wide apart
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Broad noses
  • Upturned eyes (which may be set widely apart)
  • Heart problems
  • Low muscle tone
  • Hearing loss
  • Small or unusual ears
  • Low muscle tone
  • Difficulty walking
  • Flat or upturned nose

Although these symptoms are certainly comparable to down syndrome, the true cause may be another genetic disorder, poor health or nutrition, inbreeding, or trauma.

If one’s cat is very clumsy, it may be a sign of a neurological disorder. Whatever the symptoms, it is important to get one’s cat examined by a veterinarian. If one’s cat is particularly clumsy, it is recommended that one speaks with a vet as soon as possible to help one work out what’s going on and what needs to be done.

Also, anyone who believes that their cat has one or more of any of the above symptoms should consult their vet in order to find out what is causing them. While cats cannot have Down syndrome due to the fact that they have no chromosome 21, they can have genetic disorders or illnesses that may cause symptoms like the ones above.

Furthermore, cats with down syndrome-like symptoms also require extra care. They might actually need a special diet, as well as a few more visits to the veterinary than most other cats. They’re also less independent than your average kitty and ill-equipped for dealing with hazardous situations, like crossing the road. Therefore, these cats are best suited to indoor life, where their owners can keep a watchful eye over them.

Behavioural Pattern And Physical Attributes Of Cats

Cats are special and unique in appearance. They may possess some natural unique features or disorder such as Monty, a cat with a chromosomal abnormality that does not possess a nasal bridge bone. This makes the cat unique with little or no effect in its behavioural pattern.

The unique or abnormal behavior and appearance of some cats may result from a wide variety of problems, such as infections, neurological diseases, congenital abnormalities, and even trauma. Cats infected in utero with the panleukopenia virus can develop several of the relevant physical and behavioral abnormalities. In addition, some cats have cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition that can cause some of the behaviors and traits of these Down syndrome cats.

As expected, cats whose mothers were exposed to certain toxins can suffer various congenital malformations which may affect the facial structure and the neurological system of the kitten. What’s more, trauma to the head and face, especially at a very young age, can cause permanent neurological damage and facial injuries which may appear to have been present since birth.

It is therefore usually recommended that prior to adopting a cat, one must consider the physical attributes of the cat to make sure that one is adopting the right cat for oneself and one’s lifestyle. Cats with special needs may need a little extra care and attention that their owner must be able to give them to enhance their companionship.

Care and Welfare of Special Needs Cats

The physical features and behavioral abnormalities attributed to the Down syndrome cats are indicative of some other condition. This condition may not even be genetic in origin. If one’s cat exhibits some behavioral and physical abnormalities, then such a cat may be called a special needs cat instead of a Down syndrome cat.

Special needs cats usually exhibit several traits that might resemble those associated with Down syndrome, even though it has been genetically proven that cats cannot develop the condition. These unique types of cats require special care and affection; the use of inappropriate terms to identify special needs cats such as syndrome should be avoided.

The cat keeper must take extra care to protect them from the hazards, predators, and potential dangers to which they’re vulnerable. They may need help performing basic functions such as cleaning themselves, eating and drinking, etc. or navigating life with vision or hearing loss.

Whatever one does, one needs to be sure to enlist one’s veterinarian as an ally. Anyone whose cat requires special care, therefore, needs to learn about the full range of healthcare options.

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