Is There A Cat With Down Syndrome? How To Take Care Of Them

There are hundreds of thousands of diseases that have been discovered and studied about. Among those diseases, one common disease on genetic disorder is down syndrome. When we hear about down syndrome, we may not be totally familiar with it but it is often associated with humans. But is there a cat with down syndrome? 

What Is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a congenital disorder brought by a chromosomal defect. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each nucleus of the cell. The chromosomal abnormality from Down syndrome occurs when cell division creates a third copy of chromosome 21- either a partial or full one. 

This extra chromosome affects the person’s physical and intellectual capabilities and development. The common physical features are a flat nose bridge, small ears, almond-shaped eyes, and short height. 

There’s still continuous research and studies on down syndrome at the moment. But is a cat with down syndrome possible at all?

Down Syndrome In Cats

Because of the limited information about it, there are people who believe that a cat with down syndrome exists. They could be arriving at that conclusion as the explanation for their cat’s behavior and physical appearance. While this may sound reasonable, there’s the genetic factor that explains why down syndrome doesn’t exist among felines.

Do animals have down syndrome? The short answer is no. They can possibly have a chromosomal abnormality that is the same as down syndrome for humans, but down syndrome is a condition unique for humans caused by extra chromosome 21.

Because animals cannot have down syndrome, this answers our main question: if there’s such a thing as a cat with down syndrome? Cats only have 19 chromosomes, while humans have 23. Therefore, it’s impossible for cats to have a third chromosome 21 because they only have 19 chromosomes to start with. In addition, the structure of chromosomes among cats is different from that of humans. So when you see a cat that manifests behavior or physical features similar to down syndrome, it could be because of other conditions or abnormalities.

Cat Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms And Conditions

People may possibly associate cats with down syndrome with the following physical symptoms: short neck, wide nose, upturned eyes, protruding tongue, and tiny shaped ears. These are also the same facial features in animals that people believe to have down syndrome. Meanwhile, the common behavioral abnormalities they associate with down syndrome in their cats are improper posture, friendlier, difficulty in walking or running, and poor coordination. 

There are also disorders in cats that are often linked with down syndrome in humans.

Klinefelther Syndrome

Many vets believe that Klinefelter syndrome is common among tortoiseshell cats. Cats with Klinefelter syndrome have an extra chromosome like down syndrome. But for this condition, the additional chromosome is the XXY chromosome. 

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Down syndrome affects a person’s cognitive and intellectual capabilities. Similarly, cerebellar hypoplasia in cats is a disorder that affects a cat’s cognitive ability. Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia may also find it difficult to balance or walk properly- they tend to sway when they walk. In cerebellar hypoplasia, a cat’s cerebellum is affected, which is the part of the brain responsible for coordination and balance.

Distal Polyneuropathy 

Among felines, this condition is commonly found in Birman cats that are caused by defective genes. Distal polyneuropathy can be observed in a cat as young as 2 months old. Pet owners may mistake this condition for down syndrome because cats with distal polyneuropathy may struggle in standing on their legs.

Other than these disorders, physical and behavioral traits, the following are additional down syndrome-like symptoms in cats:

  • Heart issues
  • Odd behavior
  • Problems with vision
  • Hearing loss
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Struggling with defecation or urination
  • Low muscle tone
  • Difficulty in eating
  • Motor dysfunction

A Cat With Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms: Taking Care Of Your Feline Friend

While we know that a cat with down syndrome doesn’t exist, there are other conditions and abnormalities among cats that we need to know about. There are down syndrome-like symptoms in cats as well. 

  1. Give them extra attention and love. Your cat may need constant assistance- cleaning your cat’s ears, eating, drinking, giving a bath, and more. 
  2. Have regular consultations and check-ups with your vet. Work hand in hand with your cat’s vet to make sure your cat is getting the best treatment. 
  3. Get as much information as you need from your vet so you can learn more about your cat’s health.
  4. Use a live-streaming camera to keep watch on your cat when you’re doing other things. This way, you can keep a tab on your feline friend and know when your cat needs help. 
  5. Keep them away from hazardous objects and dangers like stairs, sharp objects, and wild animals. Make sure they are away from harmful objects especially when your cat has a loss of vision or hearing. 

If your cat behaves differently and manifests down syndrome-like symptoms, your cat could be a special needs cat. Special needs cats need extra care and attention and they should be kept inside the house. They can be taken outside but with supervision. 


While you may be seeing a lot of posts on the internet about cats with down syndrome, this condition uniquely exists in humans. Cats are free of the chromosomal abnormality in down syndrome- the extra chromosome 21. However, there are down syndrome-like symptoms and other conditions we need to look out for. Even though experts and researchers don’t have all the answers on down syndrome-like symptoms, this should not stop you from giving your cat the best life he deserves. And remember this rule of thumb- if you suspect something that is wrong with your cat, consult your vet right away.

At The Lovable Cat, we believe that every cat deserves to be loved and cared about.

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