by The Pets Pampering
down syndrome cat

Imagine a little kitten. It scampers around the house, playing with its owner and generally being adorable. It does everything it’s supposed to do and is generally well-behaved…except for one thing. This may be a down syndrome cat.

Cats can’t have Down syndrome, but let’s talk about why you might be asking this question, what it means for cats, and how to manage it. Even so, some people are breeding special cats with illnesses like down syndrome to save them from being put down. In most cases, a Down syndrome cat is not a diseased cat or condition on its own. Rather, it’s an indicator that there is something wrong with the cat clinically.


Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when the embryo has an extra copy of the chromosome 21. This causes developmental and mental retardation.

Down syndrome cats are also known as “Feline Down Syndrome cats” or FDS cats. Despite their physical appearance, cats with FDS tend to be very loving and affectionate pets. They make great companions for people who can provide them with special care and attention they need.

The answer to the can cats has down syndrome query is no, cats can’t have Down Syndrome. The Down syndrome condition happens when abnormal cell development and a third copy of chromosome 21 in human beings. A cat could have an extra chromosome, but not the same one as humans.

Cats Can Have Extra Chromosomes 

It is possible for cats to have extra chromosomes. However, none of these extra chromosomes are like human chromosome number 21, which causes Down syndrome. When a cat has an extra chromosome, this is polyploidy. This results in lethargy, a poor immune system, kidney problems and sterility.  

It’s important to know that cats with an extra 19 chromosomes are not visually impaired and they do not suffer from any mental disabilities like humans with Down syndrome.

In most cases, these cats are just like any other cat, but they tend to exhibit some unusual characteristics, such as:

– Flattened facial features

– Slightly smaller size 

– Distinct eye shape (eyes may look close together)

– Pronounced nose bridge

– Smaller ears

Why Down Syndrome Cats Don’t Exist

There is no such thing as Down Syndrome cats. Cats have 38 chromosomes, and therefore cannot have an extra copy of one. Cats can, however, have other genetic disorders that cause mental retardation or physical deformities (though none are as common in cats as Down Syndrome is in humans). 

The only way for a cat to have Down Syndrome would be if it had some of its feline chromosomes replaced with human ones! 

Cat disorders that pet owners mistake as Down syndrome:

There are other genetic diseases in cats which cause abnormalities that may resemble those of a Down syndrome cat, including:

Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) – This is a rare genetic disorder. Cats with this syndrome have mental retardation, dysmorphic features and physical deformities.

Triploidy – This is a chromosomal abnormality that can result from an error during cell division. A triploid cat has 69 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. The main symptom is stunted growth and the kittens usually die shortly after birth. 

Trisomy 22 (Marker X syndrome) – This is a very rare genetic disorder that mainly affects female cats and was first reported in Maine Coon cats. 

Chromosomal translocation

Translocation describes when two chromosomes exchange parts resulting in rearrangements of DNA sequences on the chromosomes. Cats with chromosomal translocation have malformed internal organs, abnormal skulls and facial features, abnormal limbs and malformed eyes. 

They also exhibit neurobehavioral abnormalities such as lethargy, poor muscle tone, seizures, reduced activity levels and stereotyped behaviors (e.g., constant meowing). 

Craniofacial Defects – A condition in which the bones of the skull and face do not form properly. Cats with this condition can have flattened skulls, protruding eyes and lower jaw defects.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia – A neurological disorder in which the cerebellum is smaller than normal or not completely developed. Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia often walk with their head and body held low and their legs spread far apart, like a drunken sailor walking the plank! A condition also called Wobbly Cat Syndrome or CH for short. 

Feline Dwarfism – A genetic mutation that causes a cat to be small in stature, sometimes called “Munchkin Cat” after the short-legged Munchkin breed of cats. 

Zearalenone Toxicity – Zearalenone is a toxin produced by Fusarium fungi found in corn, wheat and other grains. The fungus can contaminate farm feed that isn’t appropriately stored or processed. When cats eat feed contaminated with zearalenone toxins, they may suffer from symptoms like those with down syndrome, including mental retardation, tremors and seizures.  

Cri-du-chat Syndrome – Caused by a deletion on the short arm of chromosome 5 and causes varying levels of mental retardation and delayed physical development in cats. Cats with this disorder may also exhibit a mewing cry like that of kittens. Additional symptoms include microcephaly (small head), low set ears, microphthalmia (small eyes), wide-set eyes, wide nasal bridge, cleft palate, heart defects and other congenital disorders. There is no treatment for this condition and the prognosis is poor for affected cats. 

Physical and Behavioral abnormalities in Cats 

There are several conditions that can cause physical and behavioural abnormalities in cats, but none are exactly like Down syndrome in humans. Some possible causes include:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congenital or hereditary eye defects
  • Cleft palate or other oral defects that interfere with nursing or suckling
  • Seizures and neurological abnormalities
  • Hip dysplasia – abnormal development of your cat’s hip joint
  • Bone deformities including curled toes or knuckling of feet
  • Stunted growth (shortened limbs)
  • Low muscle tone (hypotonia)

Expectations for Special Needs Cats

down syndrome cat
down syndrome cat

Cats are popular pets, cute, cuddly and playful. For the most part, they are low maintenance and require very little attention. But what happens when you adopt a cat that needs more attention than the average kitty? You can’t return a cat to the shelters because they’re displaying behaviors that are normal for cats but don’t fit into the adopter’s lifestyle expectations. These cats need a little extra love and attention.

The term “special needs” describes any pet animal that requires more care or extra understanding on the part of the owner. Some special needs animals are blind, deaf, amputees, have diabetes, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) or have diseases that resemble don syndrome.

Other cats may have behavioral problems such as aggression, house soiling and destructiveness may also require special needs. 

It’s not unusual for people to bring a cat home from a shelter in the hopes of giving it a second chance only to realize they’re not up to the task. If you’re considering adopting a cat with a disability or special needs, here are some things you should consider before making your final decision:


Some cats with disabilities or special needs will be fine if left alone for several hours while you work but others may need someone around to always watch over them. If you have a full-time job and no one else lives in your home to care for your cat, it may be wise to bring them to a pet day care if they will require constant supervision.


You need to make sure your home is safe for both you and your cat. If your special kitty has physical limitations, make sure there are no obstacles that could potentially hurt them in any way (i.e., stairs).

It is important to note that cats with special needs can sometimes be more prone to certain diseases and other conditions that can be difficult for them to live with. If you are not sure how your cat is doing, then it is best to call your veterinarian and ask about the issue before taking him/her in. This will prevent any further complications from occurring and will ensure that your cat’s health improves quickly.


While it is not possible for cats to have Down syndrome, they can have other genetic disorders that cause similar physical characteristics such as an extra part of the chromosome or shorter limb length. For this reason, schedule regular veterinary visits for your cat to ensure its wellbeing and health.


Are there Down syndrome cats?

Cats can’t have syndrome but they are able to suffer from some of the same physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome. They aren’t likely to be able to develop their muscles and their brains in the same way that children with Down syndrome however.

What care should I give to a sick cat?

No matter what is going on with your cat, the best way to ensure they recover is keeping them in a calm, safe and stress-free environment. Denying them a change in diet or meds, playing loud music or even saying their name (during an episode of acute illness) will only make them worse. Showing daily affection is always a good idea during the recovery stage and it will lift the stress levels of your cat just knowing they still have someone they can count on.

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