Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

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“Can Cats have Down Syndrome?” this is the most common question these days that veterinarians get asked of lately.

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Before knowing the answer to this question, let us feed our minds with “What is Down Syndrome?” It is one of the genetic and congenital anomalies in humans. Meaning, it is a disease that won’t develop over time but will be present right from birth. It is caused due to a chromosomal abnormality. Human DNA will consist of 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each one is responsible for specific characteristics and functions. If the 21st pair out of the 23 pairs of chromosomes gets affected by replication or partial deletion, it will lead to Down’s syndrome in humans.

 

There are many reasons for down syndrome in humans, the foremost out of them being the gene mutation. It is also proven that two individuals of the same family (who are likely to share a more or like common DNA characteristics) might give birth to babies with this anomaly. Humans with Down’s syndrome will have cognitive impairments, lack of socialization, fear and aggression, an improper shape of the head, flaccid muscle tone, delayed milestones, difficulty in motor activities, etc. The syndrome doesn’t have any permanent cure but has conservative management to improve the quality of life.

 

Now, coming to felines. Cat’s DNA will consist of only 19 pairs of chromosomes. Eventually, it means that there isn’t the 21st pair of chromosomes in a cat, which makes it evident that “Cats can’t have Down syndrome.” Then why is this question prevailing? It is because cats will not develop a Down’s syndrome, but they would exhibit symptoms mimicking Down’s syndrome.

 

It subjects the cat owners thinking if their cat is suffering from Down syndrome, ultimately leading to a false coined term “The feline Down’s syndrome.” But veterinarians claim that just because a cat is having symptoms as in Down syndrome, we can’t conclude it has the disease. Few even state that this term might be hurting for humans with this condition.

 

What are the Symptoms of Down Syndrome in Cats?

There are many abnormal symptoms, characteristics, and appearance a cat would have mimicking Down syndrome.

 

 

Here are such symptoms, which might be due to some other reasons also.

Abnormalities in cat

What might be the reason?

What can you do about it?

An upturned and wide-spaced pair of eyes Any genetic problem in the chromosomes of your cat might affect the shape, structure, and position of your cat’s eyes. You need not be cautious most of the time unless the cat shows signs of an irritated eye. If you still feel disturbed about that, visit a vet.
Improper vision It might be due to conditions like retinal detachment, glaucoma, etc. If you feel that your cat is having a problem with the vision, we suggest that you visit the vet for a proper diagnosis and then proceed with the correct treatment. Until then, please don’t fail to care for your kitten as it might get hurt because of poor vision.
Soggy muscles It might be due to hyperthyroidism and diabetic Mellitus, as these conditions will lead to muscle wastage, ultimately causing loose and soggy muscles to your cat. It can also be due to myopathies or a mere lack of essential nutrients or sometimes due to inactivity. In order to know the exact cause of the improper muscle tone of your cat, it is best to consult a veterinarian to diagnose correctly and treat it rightly. A cat with such muscle tone can’t be active, so don’t harass your pet to be active, thinking that you are contributing to its recovery unless and until you get a word from your vet.
Featureless and a broader nose The reason for this can be very simple. A certain breed of cat is prone to have a flat, featureless nose as in Persian cats. The other cause might be the maldeveloped nasal cartilage of your cat. Try to ignore it until you find your cat to be suffering because of this. You can still have a word about this with your vet during the usual check-ups.
Improper or lack of motor activities Your cat might suffer from any spinal cord injuries that paralyzed his limbs, or he might be having diseases like cerebellar hypoplasia or any other neurological condition that inhibited from moving. And sometimes, it might be mere laziness. Pay keen attention to your cat’s activities. Try to find the limbs that aren’t working correctly or not being mobilized at all. In such cases, you must visit a vet to provide proper treatment and minimize the sufferings of your pet.
Abnormal walking pattern It might be due to trauma, diabetic neuropathy, neurological, or orthopedic injuries, or just drowsiness. If you find your cat wincing or meowing loudly with pain accompanying a movement or in any posture, take it to the vet.
Characteristics of heart problems Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy quite common in cats, and there are few other feline heart disorders that may or may not show prominent symptoms. A regular vet visit and complete check-up will minimize the risks and complications.
Oddly structured ears It is a common characteristic in breeds of Scottish cat fold (often described as owl-like) and American curls. So, if your cat belongs to these breeds, don’t mind about the ears.  It can also be due to the developmental deformity of the ear cartilage. Unless you suspect a hearing loss or preliminary hearing in your cat, this is a negligible symptom. It is also vital to note for any abnormal discharges or infections in your cat’s ear, which will require a visit to your vet.
Introverts It might be a mere characteristic of your cat. Just like humans do – cats too will have a mood swing or a reserved nature. And in other cases, this might be due to neurological deficits also. Try spending more time with your cat to keep it happy and engaged. Teach socializing in a way or another. Reward your kitty every time it shows excitement and plays. Also, have a word with your vet regarding the same.

You can also try giving Consequen – a supplement suitable to aid in neuro and joint problems of cats.

Excretion difficulty It might be due to constipation or due to megacolon or even kidney diseases. An imbalanced diet might also cause difficulty in urination and defecation in cats. Observe the frequency of trouble. Try feeding the right diets and also consult your vet and get a customized feeding regimen along with the medications after an accurate diagnosis. Concentrate on the quality of food you provide.

 

 

Though these symptoms might be due to various reasons, close observation of the symptoms before visiting your vet is required to describe adequately because of a genetic disorder. Otherwise, the disorder is also termed as feline trisomy because there are many common genetic disorders in cats – each one of the different causes and a varying range of symptoms. Few symptoms are still not named and are devoid of cure too. Just like in humans, there are innumerable risk factors and possible gene mutations in cats also.

 

The mutations might lead to a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms. Unless you know the exact cause, don’t try any conservative remedies as that might worsen the condition. Instead of getting fixed with a false name, “Feline Down Syndrome,” it is better to know other possible genetic disorders that might have affected your pet. If you feel that your cat has abnormalities and can’t confine what it is, possibly broad knowledge on the feline syndrome will help you.

 

What are the different types of feline disorders that look similar to down syndrome?

 

Here are a few common feline disorders of this type.

Disorder

Symptoms and causes

Steps to be taken

Cerebral hypoplasia Your cat would suffer from improper balance and renal troubles, but socializing and behaviors would be fair. This disease is caused due to Feline Parvovirus infection in the mother.

It will lead to the underdevelopment of the cerebellum region of the brain in cats. And since the cerebellum is responsible for coordination as in humans, this primarily affects the gait pattern of the cats.

Avoiding the FPV vaccine to a pregnant cat will prevent this condition to an extent. Try the other supplements that work amazingly well for pregnant cats.
Klinefelter syndrome It is a neurological syndrome that will result in inheritance. And vets claim that it is common in cats with tortoiseshell color as tricolor cats have a different chromosomal pattern and hence won’t be affected by this. Unlike the fact that male cats having the XY gene and female cats having the XX gene, the cats affected with this condition will have an XXY gene pattern. There won’t be any disfigured appearance, but a male cat would behave feminine. It won’t cause any much trouble to the pet owners. Still, if you are not satisfied with your cat’s behavior or manners, spaying and neutering will help you to an extent. Your vet will eventually teach you the necessary remedies.
Distal Polyneuropathy This disease is caused due to neurological degeneration and is most likely to affects cats from the same parents. It is a recessive gene type of disease. The symptoms will become evident only around the age of 8 to 10. Kittens will feel it difficult to walk and even stand on their paws for a little time because of the poly-neuron abnormality. Their walking patter will be very in coordinative like a drunkard man. No real cure has been found for this disease yet. You can only improve the quality of your cat’s life with few steps as described by your vet.
Feline dysautonomia It is a rare neurological deficit, which is also known as Key-Gaskell syndrome. This disease will affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system of your cat. It is characterized by improper motor activity and frequent falling down. Kittens will also lack a certain amount of cognition and coordination, making it difficult for them to choose the direction they should walk, and so on. It can also cause excretion abnormalities and physical abnormalities like deformed eyes and eyelids. If your cat has a problem with the vision, take it to your vet. To know the exact reason and diagnosis if your cat showing these symptoms, you should consult a vet. A proper follow up would be much needed.

 

 

 

General care required for cats with such abnormalities:

  • Broad and accurate knowledge of the conditions of your cat and the primary reason behind it is much needed. It doesn’t just require a vet’s opinion but also distilled wisdom out of researches on the internet.

 

  • Pay keen attention to your cat’s behavior and note every change it brings up.

 

  • Visit a well-trained vet or even take a second opinion to have a proper diagnosis and beneficial treatment regimens.

 

  • A regular follow up is the key. Don’t skip the medications and suggested routines. Monitor progress and deterioration.

 

  • Don’t get disheartened as that would reflect on your poor pet who needs at most care.

 

  • Accept it & don’t fail to pamper your kitty often as this might cure half of the disease psychologically.

 

  • Diet plays a vital role. So focus on that properly and make sure you are providing the right food for your pet.

 

  • Monitor the health of your cat regularly.

 

  • Know the strategies from your vet while exposing your cat for mating.

 

  • Know all the dos and don’t before petting a cat.

 

  • Lastly, don’t fail to enjoy your still cute pet.

 

Just like in humans, we claim that appearances are deceptive; cats and any other animal deserves such love. Moreover, each creature is special and unique & the cat that looks and acts differently is undoubtedly more special and unique, even if it requires special attention and care. So, show some to your beloved pet too. Do whatever you can do to help it to maintain a healthy lifestyle and provide extra care to protect them from predators. Let your kitty enjoy the span it is gifted with you in the best possible way.

 

All the best!