Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats (2024)

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Years ago, several cats with strange facial features and special needs appeared on social media. Since they showed a couple of similarities to Down syndrome, cat owners wanted to know one thing – is feline Down syndrome a real thing? Here’s the truth.

The Features of Cats with Suspected Down Syndrome

Before we get to the answer, let’s have a look at some of the signs that can convince owners that their pet might have Down syndrome.

  • Small size.
  • An abnormally broad nose or muzzle.
  • Upturned eyes.
  • Wide-set eyes.
  • Ears that are too small or abnormally shaped.
  • Underdeveloped muscle tone.
  • Struggling to walk, eat, or use the bathroom.
  • A degree of deafness or blindness.
  • Heart problems.

Feline Down Syndrome Isn’t Real

To understand why cats cannot have Down syndrome in the same way that humans do, we need to understand the cause of this condition in people. Normally, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Unfortunately, some infants inherit an extra copy of a chromosome called chromosome 21. This gives them Down syndrome.

Cats only have 19 chromosomes, far fewer than humans. This makes it impossible for them to inherit an extra chromosome 21. Ergo, they cannot develop true Down Syndrome.

Related: 11 Amazing Litter Boxes Your Cat Will Love

Alternative Explanations for Feline Down Syndrome

Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats (1)

This chromosomal disorder doesn’t exist in cats. But that cannot hide the fact that there are cats out there with symptoms that are physically and neurologically similar to Down syndrome. So, what’s going on? If this is not feline Down syndrome, then what is it?

Thus far, nothing can explain with certainty why some cats develop these features. However, experts agree that feline cases that mimic Down syndrome probably result from a severe physical trauma the kitten suffered early in life or that something went wrong while the kitten was still in the womb.

1. Feline panleukopenia

Before the advent of effective vaccines, feline panleukopenia was the number one killer of cats. This highly infectious disease is also known as cat distemper or cat parvo. Thankfully, vaccines have made this disease uncommon in modern times. However, that doesn’t mean that cats no longer get it.

Kittens are hit especially hard. Those already born can suffer damage to their eyes and brain. When a pregnant cat becomes infected, the virus attacks the brains of the unborn kittens and damages the neurological regions that regulate movement. They are born with a condition called feline cerebellar ataxia that causes them to walk abnormally and suffer strong tremors.

2.Cerebellar hypoplasia

This developmental condition occurs when the cerebellum of the brain doesn’t develop fully or it develops abnormally. The good news is that a cat with this condition can live a life that is full and free of pain. But it can be tough to watch their shaky walks and slow learning. The main cause of cerebellar hypoplasia is feline parvo but it can also result from brain trauma or when kittens are born to a severely malnourished mother.

3. A Toxic Pregnancy

It’s also very plausible that kittens can develop problems in the womb when their mother is exposed to toxins. The latter is known for causing neurological problems and congenital malformations in fetuses, both of which are often seen in cats with “Down syndrome.”

Related: 10 Fun Facts About Cat Teeth You Probably Didn’t Know Until Now

Learn more about the top 10 household poisons that cats are exposed to.

My Cat Shows Down Syndrome Symptoms, Now What?

Schedule a Vet Appointment

Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats (2)

Considering that several things could be responsible for your pet’s condition, you need an expert opinion. A vet will thoroughly examine your cat and hopefully, give you a diagnosis. Even if they cannot pinpoint the cause behind your cat’s “Down syndrome,” they can definitely offer treatment, therapies, and advice.

Prepare for an Indoors Cat

A cat with challenges similar to Down syndrome cannot be left outside, or even be allowed to enjoy the outdoors without supervision. The latter is crucial to ensure that they stay safe from other animals, traffic, and other deadly mishaps. These cats are not nimble and this makes them extremely vulnerable. The safest way for them to live a good, rich existence is to have a happy life indoors with the occasional supervised trip outside.

Make Your Home a Safe Place

Educate small children to be gentle with the cat. Consider danger areas and cat-proof them, including zones like stairs, slamming doors, pools, ponds, full tubs, and open windows.

Track Their Health

If you’re a dedicated pet parent, get a special notebook. Every day, note their progress, food intake, and behaviors. If your pet has a problem or treatment, note that as well. This will create a record of your cat’s health that can help you to spot, very quickly, when something isn’t right with your pet in the future. Unfortunately, these cats are prone to developing additional medical problems and the sooner you catch them, the better.

Give Lots of Love

Some of these cats need help with basic things like eating or cleaning their fur. Although they might be “slow” they are fully aware and appreciative of the attention you give them, so don’t be shy. These amazing cats deserve all the love and pampering they can get!

Related: Your Guide to the Quality of Life Scale For Cats


Q: Can cats develop autism?

Owners have noticed that some cats do display behavioral characteristics that are similar to people with autism. However, there is no scientific basis or evidence that concretely proves that autistic cats are real.

Q: Is it cruel to keep my special needs cat indoors all the time?

Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats (3)

No, even normal cats can lead a completely happy life indoors. The only caveat, for both normal and special needs cats, is that their owner must make the effort to create a satisfying environment for them inside the home.

Q: My cat has cerebellar hypoplasia. How do I litter train her?

Lots of patience and gentle encouragement go a long way. Never lose your temper, as frustrating as cat “accidents” can be. A good tip is to get an extra large litter box that is very easy for your cat to enter and get out of.

Q: Can cats with cerebellar hypoplasia live happy lives?

Yes, they can! They require a little extra care, but when owners meet the special needs of these cats, they can live a surprisingly satisfying and happy life. Cerebellar hypoplasia is also not a painful condition, despite the physical challenges it presents.

Q: Will my cat’s cerebellar hypoplasia get worse as he grows older?

According to some vets, it might appear at times that your cat’s cerebellar hypoplasia is getting worse, but in reality, it cannot get better or worse. Very often, when your pet is seemingly getting sicker from cerebellar hypoplasia, it might actually be a related complication or a new health problem that must be checked out by a vet.

Q: What is the life expectancy of my cat with cerebellar hypoplasia?

Incredibly, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia has the same normal lifespan as a cat without the condition. Most of these cats learn to live with their disabilities and navigate the world in their own unique way.

Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats (2024)


Everything You Need To Know About Down Syndrome In Cats? ›

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.

What are cats with Down syndrome-like? ›

While it's not possible for cats to have Down syndrome, they can exhibit Down syndrome-like symptoms, including: Behaviour different or strange compared to that of other cats. Unusually small or oddly shaped ears. Problems with vision.

How are cats with Down syndrome different? ›

What does a cat with Down syndrome look like? Again, cats cannot have Down syndrome, but there are neurological disorders that exhibit physical symptoms such as: eyes wide apart, small or unusually shaped ears, flat or upturned nose, and low muscle tone, among others.

How rare is Down syndrome in cats? ›

Internet buzz notwithstanding, cats don't develop Down syndrome. In fact, they can't. First, a bit about Down syndrome: It's a disorder that affects one in 700 human babies born in the U.S. each year.

How can I tell if my cat is special needs? ›

Beyond physical disabilities, some special-needs cats have mental impairments. These conditions may result from birth defects, accidents, or illness. Some cats even have Down syndrome-type symptoms, including wide-set eyes, poor hearing, poor vision, unusual facial features, and uncommon behavior.

Can a cat be autistic? ›

The answer is yes, cats can have autism. While it's not as common as in humans, there are certain behaviors that suggest a cat might have autism. Cats with autism often exhibit repetitive behaviors like pacing or spinning, excessive vocalization and having trouble adapting to change.

What syndrome has a cat like cry? ›

Cri du chat syndrome is often diagnosed at birth. The symptoms in a newborn baby can include: a high-pitched, cat-like cry or weak cry.

Can cats have mental disabilities? ›

Like people, cats can suffer from mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Find out how you can tell if your cat is struggling emotionally and what you can do about it.

What is Turner's syndrome in cats? ›

Turner's Syndrome will result in a sterile female and either a genital defective male or lethality. When nondisjunction of the female cells occur in the cat and then joins with a male Y-gamete, we can see the calico color in males.

What is the life expectancy of a Down syndrome person? ›

People with Down syndrome can expect to live to 60

In the 1940s, a child with Down syndrome had a life expectancy of 12 years. These days, their life expectancy is 60 years and a baby born with Down syndrome could live into their 80s — in line with the general population.

What is the rarest cat disease? ›

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is one of the rarest feline diseases and also extremely fatal. FIP occurs because of a viral infection – the feline coronavirus, to be exact.

What syndrome do all cats have? ›

Book details

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome takes a playful look at Asperger Syndrome (AS), drawing inspiration from the feline world in a way that will strike a chord with all those who are familiar with AS.

Can cats have ADHD? ›

While some vets and animal experts seem to agree that cats can get ADHD, the condition isn't recognized by all. Cats can exhibit symptoms or personality and behavioral traits that are often linked to ADHD in humans, especially human children.

What is Pandora syndrome in cats? ›

Cats with Pandora syndrome are typically anxious cats whose anxiety is easily triggered and that take longer to recover from stressful events. They have a history of chronic concurrent (possibly transient) illnesses in various body systems and unremarkable test results.

Can cats be born with special needs? ›

Some cats are born with a disability, whereas others result from accidents, disease or the degenerative effects of old age. Cats are generally very good at adapting their lifestyle to cope with a disability, allowing them to still enjoy a good quality of life.

How can you tell if your kitten has Down syndrome? ›

Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats
  1. Squished or flat nose.
  2. Perpetually saddened face.
  3. Eyes are widely spaced on the face.
  4. Upturned eyes.
  5. Clumsy walking.
  6. Difficulty in excreting.
  7. Motor dysfunction.
  8. Heart problems.
Dec 27, 2019

Do cats have Asperger syndrome? ›

No, cats can't have asperger's syndrome.

What is my cats IQ? ›

The domestic cat is attributed a value of between 1–1.71; relative to human value, that is 7.44–7.8. The largest brains in the family Felidae are those of the tigers in Java and Bali. It is debated whether there exists a causal relationship between brain size and intelligence in vertebrates.

Is single cat syndrome real? ›

Although the scientific and medical community doesn't recognize Single Kitten “Syndrome,” there are behaviors sometimes seen in single-kitten homes, including: Clinging behavior towards humans. Vocalizing excessively and seeking attention. Suckling obsessively on clothing, blankets and other pets in the household.

Is cat depression real? ›

Yes, your cat can get depressed. Some possible situations that lead to depressive signs in cats include: Loss of a family member. Moving to a new house.

Can cats have schizophrenia? ›

However, there are no studies or research that proves cats have schizophrenia; we simply cannot get inside their minds enough to know. But, there is an unexplained disorder in cats called feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS) that can mimic a lot of the signs of schizophrenia.

Do cats get sad when you leave? ›

Short answer: yes. When their needs for companionship are not met, cats can become depressed. They can also get separation anxiety. Unfortunately, feline separation anxiety often goes unnoticed until it becomes severe.

Can cats be bipolar? ›

While having a bipolar cat is uncommon, felines can experience mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Your cat may even develop anxiety or depression as a result of you suffering from the condition. Cats can sense when their pet parents are nervous or sad.

What is hypertrichosis syndrome in cats? ›

Hypertrichosis is the manifestation of a hormonal imbalance that causes invasive hair growth all over the body. It can happen to both people and animals, and Atchoum has the most severe form, called Ambras Syndrome. The hallmarks are long, silky hair; a hardened face; and abnormalities in the face, teeth, and claws.

What is cat funnel chest? ›

Pectus excavatum, also called funnel chest, is a congenital condition causing the sternum and rib cage to be misshapen and sunken into the chest.

What are the 4 types of Down syndrome? ›

Types of Down Syndrome
  • Trisomy 21: About 95% of people with Down syndrome have Trisomy 21. ...
  • Translocation Down syndrome: This type accounts for a small percentage of people with Down syndrome (about 3%). ...
  • Mosaic Down syndrome: This type affects about 2% of the people with Down syndrome.
May 9, 2023

Can Down syndrome have kids? ›

Misconception: People who have Down syndrome cannot have children. Reality: It's true that a person with Down syndrome may have significant challenges in rearing a child. But women who have Down syndrome are fertile and can give birth to children.

What disease has no cure for cats? ›

Even cats with forms of leukemia that do respond to chemotherapy have an average survival rate of less than a year. Because there is no cure, the best way to keep your cat from contracting leukemia is by maintaining regular vet visits, getting her vaccinated, and keeping her away from infected cats and animals.

What is the mystery disease killing cats? ›

Pancytopenia occurs when a cat has very low white and red blood cell counts.

What is the cat disease that most humans have? ›

What is toxoplasmosis? Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. While the parasite is found throughout the world, more than 40 million people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite.

Can cats have middle child syndrome? ›

In other words, just like children of the two-legged variety, your fur-kids might feel a little sibling rivalry because of perceived additional attention given to another. Cats might choose to “miss” the litter box. In some cases, they may feel abandoned and, as a result, engage in unpleasant behaviors.

What is the most ADHD animal? ›

Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) were found to be the best characterized and also currently the most appropriate model of ADHD [45].

Can cats have PTSD? ›

PTSD in cats is an anxiety disorder that can develop following exposure to a terrifying event or situation in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. This disorder can cause cats to change their behaviors drastically.

Can cats have pineapple? ›

Yes, cats can eat pineapple, with a few stipulations. This tropical treat is high in fructose and contains several vitamins (A, B6, folate, C) and minerals (magnesium and potassium). Fresh pineapple is preferred over canned, which is often packed in a sugary syrup that may contain preservatives.

How do paralyzed cats use a litter box? ›

Your kitty's litter box may need some modification, especially in the front. A disabled cat needs a low entry point so that they can enter the box while in their wheelchair. A paralyzed cat may also need a wider than normal litter box to allow them to turn around when inside.

Are disabled cats less likely to be adopted? ›

As upsetting as it is, younger, healthier cats are more likely to be adopted from a shelter than elderly cats or cats with disabilities or diseases. The idea of more doctor visits or the extra attention needed in order to care for these cats is what scares people away from the possibility of an incredible pet.

How do you entertain a paralyzed cat? ›

A paralyzed pet cannot move normally and has no typical physical energy outlet, so you must keep them mentally stimulated. Ensure your pet has a firm, orthopedic bed in your family room for social interaction and play, such as a feather wand for your cat, or a gentle game of tug with your dog.

Can a cat be born with both genders? ›

A tiny kitten handed into Cats Protection turned out to be one of nature's rarest finds – a hermaphrodite puss with both male and female organs. Nine-week-old Bellini was part of a litter of kittens taken in by the charity's St Helen's Adoption Centre in Merseyside in February when they were just a few days old.

What is only child syndrome cats? ›

Single kitten syndrome is the idea that young kittens, when raised with other young kittens and cats and then adopted into a home by themselves, can become aggressive, anxious, stressed, and even develop behavioral issues like inappropriate chewing/scratching and inappropriately using the litterbox.

Can a cat recognize a human baby? ›

Most cats adapt to a new baby; they recognize that gentleness is required with this little human and react to him or her very differently than to older humans.

What is floppy cat syndrome? ›

Often referred to as 'wobbly kittens' or 'wobbly cats', cerebellar hypoplasia is an unusual neurological disorder as a result of interrupted development of the brain, leading to uncoordinated movement or ataxia.

What is alpha syndrome cats? ›

Some have an agenda of their own and seemingly refuse to take no for an answer. These are “alpha cats.” They are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and attempt to take charge of practically every situation. These cats like their food when they want it and the way that they like it … or else.

Is wobbly cat syndrome painful? ›

Wobbly cat syndrome is not painful, but it does cause a lack of coordination that results in wobbling when standing, walking, or trying to jump. However, the severity of the symptoms depends on when during development the kitten was infected with panleukopenia and how much of their brain was impacted.

Can you fix wobbly cat syndrome? ›

Unfortunately, there's no treatment or cure for wobbly kitten syndrome, so cats live with the condition their entire lives. While that might sound disheartening, think about it from the kittens' perspective.

How can I tell if my cat has autism? ›

There are several behaviors in cats that are similar to those found in humans with autism, including:
  1. Avoiding eye contact.
  2. Repeating the same actions.
  3. Not wanting to be touched or held.
Dec 22, 2022

What is wolf syndrome in cats? ›

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in cats is a rare heart disease that is characterized by ventricular preexcitation. This condition occurs when electric impulses in the sinoatrial node – the “pacemaker” in the heart – prematurely activate the ventricles of the heart without following the proper conduction pathway.

Can cats get sad syndrome? ›

Can cats get seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? It's unclear as to whether or not cats do suffer with SAD. Many owners have reported that their cats sleep more and can sometimes lose their appetite during winter, but this is more likely to be linked to our change in routine when it gets dark and cold, rather than SAD.

How do I show my cat I'm the Alpha? ›

1) Do not allow him on to your lap unless you are in control. Begin with very short stroking periods and then place him back on the floor and stand up. Then give him a small treat such as a short play session with a toy or a small amount of food. Try to recognise the warning signs and stop well before they appear.


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