can a cat have down syndrome

Cats have only 19 pairs of chromosomes, meaning 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.

Abnormalities That May Resemble Those of Down Syndrome

Some cats on Instagram have gained a lot of attention after their parents stated that their cats’ odd looks were caused by extra chromosomes. These cats then went viral. It’s unclear, though, if genetic testing has ever confirmed these claims of chromosomal disease.

In spite of the dubious assertions and biological truths, “feline Down syndrome” has gained popularity. It is noteworthy, nevertheless, that the veterinary profession does not acknowledge feline Down syndrome as a medical condition and does not support the adoption of human conditions in animals based solely on behavior or outward appearance. It might be seen as disrespectful to those who deal with these conditions to do so.

However, a few morphological and behavioral characteristics could mislead well-meaning individuals to mistakenly ascribe human conditions to cats. Typically, a “Down syndrome cat” will exhibit certain distinguishing traits, such as:

  • Broad noses
  • Upturned eyes (which may be set widely apart)
  • Small or unusual ears
  • Low muscle tone
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty with elimination (urination or defecation)
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Heart problems

Why Down Syndrome Cats Don’t Exist

Humans have 23 chromosomes. Cats have 19. Therefore, it is evident that cats cannot have an extra copy of chromosome 21. But that doesnt mean cats cant occasionally have extra chromosomes.

In fact, 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”), a color pattern normally only seen in female cats.

Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

Internet buzz notwithstanding, cats dont develop Down syndrome. In fact, they cant.

First, a little background on Down syndrome: it is a condition that affects one in every 700 human babies born in the United S. each year. It happens when the genetic material of the developing fetus is miscopied, leading to an extra chromosome 21 (or a partial chromosome 21). This condition is also called trisomy 21.

Chromosomes essentially divide each cell’s DNA into bundles so that the genetic material is passed on during cell division. People with Down syndrome share physical characteristics due to a variety of birth defects caused by an extra or partial copy of chromosome 21.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, people with Down syndrome tend to share some or all of the following traits:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Small stature
  • An upward slant to the eyes
  • A single, deep crease across the center of the palm

It’s crucial to remember that not everyone with Down syndrome has the same appearance.


How can you tell a cat has Down syndrome?

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.

What is the feline equivalent to Down syndrome?

Further, some cats have cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition that can cause some of the behaviors and traits of these “Down syndrome cats.” Cats whose mothers were exposed to certain toxins can suffer various congenital malformations affecting facial structure and the neurological system.

Can cats have autism and Down syndrome?

Cats can’t have autism, but they can be diagnosed with other conditions, and like humans and other animals, some cats have special needs. Some special-needs cats have mental impairments which may result from birth defects, illness, or accidents. Some cats even have Down syndrome-type symptoms.

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.