The short answer to your question “Can Cats Have Down Syndrome” is no. If you are a cat lover and own cats, you might be wondering why there is a lot of discussion in social media about down syndrome in cats. You might also have a lot of questions like why such cats mentioned look different physically and behaviourally?
Continue reading and most of your questions will be answered.
What Is Down Syndrome and Why Is It Popular Among Cats?
Down syndrome is a genetic mutation that occurs in humans. Humans have 23 chromosomes and due to a partial copy or an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, down syndrome occurs.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, people with Down syndrome have certain unique traits such as small stature, eyes that slant upward, low muscle tone to name a few.
Now coming back to the topic, cats only have 19 chromosomes, and it is not possible for them to have an extra 21st chromosome. Therefore, Down syndrome doesn’t occur. However, other genetic mutations occur in cats. Also, due to certain other factors, cats look different physically and behaviorally.
Monty cat became an Instagram sensation with its unique characteristics such as lack of nasal bridge bone. It has further added to the buzz about Down Syndrome.
Such viral cat content has also raised awareness about cats with special needs which are different and have down syndrome-like symptoms. You can check the list below to see if your cat has any of down syndrome-like symptoms. If your answer is affirmative, then you have to consult a vet to provide extra care for your cats.
Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats
- Ears which are unusually small or of different shape
- Vision and hearing issues
- Motor dysfunction
- Heart problems
- Nose without nasal bridge
- Low muscle tone
- Behaviour which is different compared to other cats of similar breed
What Causes Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats
If your cat exhibits some of the above symptoms mentioned, one or more of the following reasons could likely be the causes for such symptoms:
- Panleukopenia virus: This virus can affect the cerebellum – a part of the brain – which leads to a lack of coordination and unbalanced movements.
- Cerebellar hypoplasia: This disorder also targets the cerebellum region of the brain.
- Feline dysautonomia: This causes slow heart rate with depression in cats.
- Head trauma or accident: Blunt head trauma can cause intellectual impairment as well as coordination problems along with facial injuries.
- Exposure of mother to toxic substances during pregnancy: This can result in neurological abnormalities in kittens.
How to handle cats which has Down Syndrome-like Symptoms
Since cats that look and behave differently are more vulnerable to the external environment, special care should be taken by cat owners. You can check the following guidelines to have a general idea on the type of care that might be needed:
- Consult the veterinarian – discuss and understand the needs of your special cat.
- Some cats might have difficulty cleaning themselves, eating, or using the litter box. During such situations, you might have to provide extra care.
- Ideally such cats shouldn’t be left alone outdoors because they might get attacked easily or not return home. It is better to stay with them while walking outdoors or keep them indoors.
- If your cat has serious health issues such as heart condition or diabetes, consult your vet and provide medications to your cat as prescribed by the vet.
It is finally clear that cats can’t have down syndrome as humans do, but at the same time, they can have similar symptoms due to other neurological disorders or past trauma. As cat owners and lovers, it is our responsibility to provide extra care for our special needs cats so they will enjoy life and get the privilege they deserve like every other cat. Always consult your vet to know better ways of serving and keeping your cat happy and healthy!