With the popularity of kitty photos online, there have been pictures of cats that appear to have Downs syndrome. In fact, you may have heard about a cat in the news about 2 years ago– Maya the cat with down syndrome. Because of their unique looks and some types of behavior, some fur babies are thought to have Downs syndrome. So, does Down syndrome affect cats? In this article, we’ll provide you with information on exactly what Down syndrome is, if cats can have it, and how to care of a special needs kitty.
What is Down Syndrome?
This is a birth defect that effects humans, which can affect people physically and intellectually. The congenital disorder is caused by a defect with chromosomes. Chromosomes pass on genetic information to the next generation; this includes plants, animals, and insects. The chromosomes are arranged in pairs, with each species carrying a specific number of chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes; however, those with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21. Sometimes when genetic material is passed on to the next generation, something goes wrong and causes a chance in one or more chromosomes. This leads to genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome. People with this genetic condition tend to have specific physical characteristics and usually have learning disabilities. So could the extra chromosome and other chromosomal abnormalities lead to a feline down syndrome?
Down Syndrome in Cats
Cats and kittens may exhibit some of the symptoms of Down syndrome seen in humans. However, cats have 19 pairs of chromosomes, so it’s not possible for them to have Down syndrome. They don’t have chromosome 21. However, cats can suffer from genetic disorders that appear to resemble Down syndrome.
Cat Down Syndrome Symptoms
A cat with a congenital disorder can show any of these signs and symptoms:
- Eyes set wider apart than usual
- Problems with vision
- Low muscle tone
- Hearing loss
- Flat/upturned nose
- Behavior that’s not typical for cats—may appear different or strange
- Heart problems
- May have the appearance of a sad face
- Upturned eyes
- Clumsy walk
- Difficult with going potty
- Motor dysfunction
Cats or kittens with a genetic issue may have developmental issues, and kittens may not reach their developmental milestones.
When can cats have down syndrome?
It’s important that each cat is unique and will have some different types of behavior or may look different. This is normal. Just because a cat looks or behaves differently doesn’t mean they have a genetic disorder. They’re just unique and deserve love and care as any fur baby does. Having said that, if your cat has some of the signs or symptoms mentioned in the list above, then she needs to see the vet. The vet will examine your kitty and may run some medical tests to determine the reason for her unique ways of being and doing. Tests may include x-rays, genetic testing, blood tests and others. If your kitty has a genetic disorder and special needs, don’t despair. She can have a good, long, and happy life in spite of the genetic disorder. These cats require extra care and like monty who you like have seen on social media, they are likely to have a broad nose and often require more care from cat owners. The chromosomal defect and other genetic defects tend to happen slightly more often in female cats. Poor muscle tone and an unstable nervous system are not uncommon.
What Causes Down Syndrome in Cats
There are various conditions that can develop due to genetic disorders; let’s take a look:
- Inbreeding: if the parents of the cat are closely related to one another (such as brother and sister, and other combinations), the result can be one or more congenital defects, some of which cause serious health issues.
- Infections: cats can be infected and develop the genetic disorder. For example, the panleukopenia virus can cause some of the symptoms and abnormalities that are similar to Down syndrome.
- Toxin exposure: mother cats exposed to different toxins may produce kittens that have congenital defects. These may affect a cat’s facial structure or her neurological system.
- Face or head trauma: kittens who have experienced head or face trauma may develop neurological issues, along with the physical injuries. The result can be a cat with a differently shaped face
Other Conditions That May Have Similar Symptoms
There are other genetic disorders may have some of the same symptoms as cat Down syndrome:
- Cerebellar hypoplasia: in this disorder, the cerebellum does not completely develop, or may be smaller than normal. In this case, the cat may develop metabolic disorders and other symptoms that resemble Down syndrome.
- Klinefelter syndrome: this is a genetic disorder in males cats who are born with an extra x chromosome. For instance, a male calico is extremely rare—he could have this syndrome. This condition also causes sterility.
- Distal polyneuropathy: this is a type of nerve damage that’s often seen in diabetes mellitus. It can cause pain or numbness of the feet. Other symptoms can include a clumsy gait, weakness, paralysis, seizures, tremors are the most common symptoms.
- Feline dysautonomia: this genetic condition causes issues with the autonomic system. Cats with this condition may have urinary and gastrointestinal issues. The cat may also have swollen, droopy eyes. Cats may exhibit weight loss, loss of appetite, a slow heart rates, depression and incontinence.
If your cat has been diagnosed as having a cat Down syndrome, then it’s a good idea to seek a second opinion. The reason is that cats can’t have Down syndrome, and the condition may actually be a condition in the list above. And this condition is also very rare, so it pays to get a second opinion, in order to determine the right course of treatment and care of your precious fur ball.
Down Syndrome Cat Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of a cat with Down syndrome-like symptoms will vary, depending on the severity of the defects. However, cats with this condition do tend to have reduced life expectancy. And they can develop more problems with their motor skills as they age.
What about Autism in Cats?
This is another condition that people wonder if cats can have. However, cats cannot have this human condition. Instead, they may suffer from anxiety, stress and some disorders that can cause similar symptoms to autism. Autism is actually a spectrum disorder, meaning there are different degrees and a range of symptoms that vary from mild to severe. It’s a developmental disorder that an include these symptoms in people:
- Difficulty relating to other people
- Avoidance of touch—they don’t like to be touched
- Sensory sensitivities (light, sound, taste, smell)
- Difficult expressing emotions and needs
- Aversion to eye contact
- Prefer being alone
- Need routine in their lives
The cause of autism in humans is not well understood; there seem to be various causes. Research has suggested there may be a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors that contribute to the development of autism in humans. If your cat is showing autistic tendencies, you may notice that her intelligence seems above normal. In addition, she may display these signs:
- Sensory sensitivity (light, smell, sound, taste)
- May not enjoy social interactions
- May vocalize more
- May not enjoy being touched
- May need a routine
Here, too, if your feline companion’s exhibiting any of these signs and symptoms, then it’s a good idea to have her checked by the vet. One note—cats can be especially helpful for children who have autism. Pets are less judgmental and love unconditionally, they also provide a stable relationship for the children. Kittens seem to be the best for adapting to an autistic child. In addition, cats that are affectionate, socially outgoing and have low aggression are the best companions for autistic children.
Down Syndrome Cats for Sale
You may find Down syndrome cats for sale or adoption. These precious felines need and deserve fur-ever homes. But keep in mind they may require additional veterinary care and special care at home. Don’t let their condition keep you from adoption or buying a wonderful, unique cat with special needs. You’ll love them for themselves—they are truly precious.
How to Care for a Cat with Down Syndrome-like Symptoms
Some cats with genetic disorders may not require any special care. In fact, they can lead pretty normal lives. However, if your kitty is a special needs cat, then there she may require some specialized care. This may well require extra time and effort on your part.
Here are some ways you can help your kitty with her special needs:
1). Ask the vet for advice and guidance on any medical treatment she may require. Make sure you understand the vet’s instructions on caring for your special cat.
2). Research can help you understand your cat’s disorder; even so, the best guide will be your vet.
3). Make sure has a balanced diet and receives all the nutrients she needs. You might also ask the vet if some vitamin supplements could be helpful to keep her healthier.
4). Watch over her, so she doesn’t hurt herself. If she’s clumsy, she may have problems jumping or managing stairs, for instance. Keeping a pet gate on the stairs can protect her. In addition, keep away from electrical appliance and wires.
5). Visit the vet for routine checkups. This is a great way to ensure your kitty hasn’t developed another health issue due to her condition. Early treatment can keep issue from worsening and causing her even more trouble.
6). Be sure to have patience with your precious fur ball. She will accomplish things in her own, unique time. Don’t lose hope, but do make sure she has a safe, secure environment. And keep her away from aggressive pets.
7). Accept your kitty for the unique fur baby she is. Focus on her accomplishments and success, rather than on her condition.
8). Give her plenty of love and affection. She may need to be close to her special people to feel reassured.
9). Encourage her to play and be active.
In conclusion, cats cannot have the human form of Down syndrome; however, they can have genetic disorders that result in similar symptoms to the human version. Even so, these cats and kittens are special and unique fur babies. They need and deserve a fur-ever home, with pet parents and family who are dedicated to their care and provide them with the love they need.