Cat with Down Syndrome
As the internet continues to provide ways for people all over the world to share tidbits of their lives, we become more exposed to information, photos, videos, and stories that may lead us to question certain things. For cat owners who sense something “different” with their pets’ looks and behavior, for example, those questions could be: “Does my cat have Down Syndrome?” and “What do I do if my cat has Down Syndrome?”
These questions have been increasing after the circulation of social media posts featuring “different”-looking cats. Find all there is to know about these cats below.
What Is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs in a person who has an extra chromosome. While humans are typically born with 46 chromosomes, those born with an extra copy experience physical and mental obstacles.
Special classes and services are usually availed of to adapt to this lifelong genetic condition.
Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?
While unusual physical features and behaviors may be exhibited by some cats, they do not and cannot develop Down Syndrome. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes — cats only have 19. Therefore, having the “extra chromosome 21” found in humans with Down Syndrome cannot occur in cats.
Why Down Syndrome Cats Do Not Exist
Down Syndrome cannot be developed in cats, but there may be other causes of intellectual and physical incapacities normally associated with Down Syndrome. Such causes may be health and nutrition deficiencies, congenital disorders, or allergic reactions.
Abnormalities That May Resemble Those of Down Syndrome
If your cat exhibits any of the following traits resembling those typically attributed to Down Syndrome, it may be best to consult a veterinarian to address any underlying conditions causing these abnormalities. Such traits include:
- Hearing loss
- Heart problems
- Indifferent behavior towards other cats
- A flat, upturned nose
- Eyes abnormally set apart
- Loose joints
Cats with Physical and Behavioral Abnormalities
Cats with Down-Syndrome like abnormalities may have disorders that are not necessarily genetic. For example, if a kitten’s mother had gotten exposed to harmful chemicals, the kitten could suffer from congenital disorders that alter its capacities to move and function normally.
Additionally, any trauma suffered to the head or face may cause permanent damage to a cat’s facial structure and neurological system.
Expectations for Special Needs Cats
Even though cats cannot have Down Syndrome, they may still possess qualities that resemble Down Syndrome symptoms. If you find yourself seeing these qualities in your cat, it may be considered as a “special needs cat”.
Although it’s challenging, taking care of a special needs cat can be rewarding, especially when you see your cat thrive on the love you provide. Special care such as informing yourself of your cat’s disabilities and devoting yourself to giving what your cat needs is also a must if you make space in your home for a special needs cat.
Consulting a veterinarian will also be of great assistance in helping your cat navigate through its life.
Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms in Cats
Although rarely found in cats, the physical features mimicking those common to people with Down Syndrome include:
- “Squished” or upturned nose
- Clumsy walking
- Troubles with vision
- Reduced motor abilities
- Widely set apart eyes
- Poor muscle tone
While cats cannot develop Down Syndrome, they may still face these difficulties that would require attention from a veterinarian and special needs care.
What Causes Down Syndrome-like Symptoms in Cats?
A variety of issues can cause Down Syndrome-like symptoms in cats, ranging from environmental causes to neurological dysfunctions and trauma. For instance, cats suffering from the panleukopenia virus if they are infected in utero may develop physical difficulties similar to that of Down Syndrome.
In any case, what’s best to do is to take your cat to the veterinarian. Your trusted vet can conduct genetic testing, X-ray scans, and other diagnostic tests to determine if your cat is afflicted with any disorder.
How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has Down Syndrome?
Since Down Syndrome in cats does not exist, you can only look out for abnormalities that may resemble that of Down Syndrome. Even so, there is currently difficulty in conducting tests that definitively determine whether a cat has chromosomal abnormalities.
Nevertheless, it’s highly advised that you still consult with your veterinarian for any possible care your cat needs.
What to Do if Your Cat Has Down Syndrome Symptoms
Cats with physical and mental incapacities are “special needs cats” that require special care and attention from their owners and vets. Their reduced physical capacity may make them more vulnerable to injury than most pets and so may be best suited to staying indoors where you can keep an eye on them. Keeping them away from harmful or sharp objects and more playful pets around the house would also help make life more comfortable for your special needs cat.
Your cat may also be required to follow a special diet and may need to be brought to the vet more often compared to other pets.
What Animals Can Have Down Syndrome?
There are listicles posted online about animals having Down Syndrome simply for their physical deformities, but the truth behind these stories is rarely heard.
Tigers, giraffes, lions, and cats have been mentioned in these listicles, but the causes of their deformities are actually linked to inbreeding, hormone and genetic deficiencies, and so on.
Can Cats Have Mental Retardation?
Even though cats cannot develop Down Syndrome, they can still possess a side-effect of genetic disorders that results in reduced intellectual abilities. Mental retardation is one such side-effect that occurs in both humans and animals, causing mental difficulties similar to people who have Down Syndrome.
Cats with mental retardation will have troubles even in basic functioning, namely: toilet training, motor capacity, visual and hearing ability, and the like.
Maya the Cat with Down Syndrome
“Maya the Cat” is a tabby with a chromosome abnormality. As a special needs cat, she’s given extra care by her owner who has teamed up with Petzy — an app that allows pet owners to consult with a veterinarian completely online, allowing Maya to feel more at ease by staying at home rather than venturing all the way to a pet clinic.
In this way, Maya gets the love and care she deserves. Put best by her owner: “Because when you love your pets so much, it hurts your whole body to even look at them. You want to make sure they’re healthy. Every pet and every pet parent deserves that.”
Famous Cat with Down Syndrome
Known as “Willy the Beautiful Cat” on Instagram, Willy was adopted as a kitten when she was only five weeks old. Cared for by a special education teacher, Willy eventually grew to be a happy and healthy cat after healing from other health issues like fleas and intestinal parasites.
Willy serves as an online inspiration for kindness, inclusivity, and beauty — no matter what others may say!
Can Kittens Have Down Syndrome?
Kittens, like older cats, cannot have Down Syndrome. Younger cats may have trouble growing due to nutritional deficiencies, while older cats are more susceptible to developing muscle or motor issues.
It’s best to check in with your local vet to assess your cat and what they may have that caused Down Syndrome-like abnormalities.
With people’s increasing awareness of health issues such as Down Syndrome, it gives pet owners all the more reason to be concerned with their pets’ health…and that’s great! Being aware of your pet’s needs is a good step in ensuring that they live long and happy lives — all while they get the love and affection they deserve from you.