The simple answer is no. Although there are genetic disorders that can mimic the appearance like Cerebellar hypoplasia (causes in utero by either severe malnourishment, a toxoplasmosis infection, or most commonly Feline panleukopenia.) In pets conditions that look like down syndrome or other retardation affects pets physically not developmentally as we think of down syndrome as humans.
What is Down Syndrome?
First of all, what is down syndrome? Simply put it is a genetic abnormality. In humans, it is defined by having extra or partial makeup of chromosome 21. A Cat has fewer chromosomes than we do, to begin with, so technically by definition, they can’t have down syndrome. Cats only have 19 chromosome pairs. However, they can have abnormalities that resemble the affliction.
Abnormalities in cats
However, cats can have genetic abnormalities that make them appear to have retardation or a “delaying or slowing the progress or development”.
Eyes noticeably far apart
Small or misshaped ears
Small or misshapen head
Unusually flattened noses
Lack of coordination
Poor Muscle tone
Other less noticeable physical issues include lack of hearing, poor eyesight, or heart problems.
All of these issues are a result of genetics and form in utero. It is crucial if your cat is pregnant that her health is monitored for her and the health of her kittens. Many diseases causing these issues are preventable. For instance, Feline panleukopenia in cats is a common disease that can cause genetic abnormalities in kittens. It is both, highly contagious among felines, AND also preventable by vaccination.
Another culprit that can affect the development of kittens is exposure to toxic chemicals. Often a pregnant cat experiencing malnutrition can also cause developmental issues in kittens. Genetic issues are also evident in bad breeding practices.
If you suspect your cat or kitten has a genetic disease, it is best to get them checked out by a veterinarian. It is not always evident at first, however as your kitten matures sometimes issues become more clear your pet has special needs.
What can I do if my cat is special needs?
Most of the time, pets that show signs similar to down syndrome or other genetic issues can learn to adjust. It is amazing how cats and dogs can overcome disabilities. Just because a cat suffers from physical abnormalities doesn’t mean they can’t live a normal fun-filled active life.
Some issues do cause poor muscle tone or a predisposition to seizures, or other balance or coordination problems in cats. However, these are not contagious to other pets and with extra care can be managed.
Meet Monty from Denmark
Like all cats and pets, a high-quality diet, and spending time together, help foster happy healthy cats. If there are balance, sight, or hearing issues, it may be necessary to have a safe place for your furry one to play where she can’t get hurt. Regular veterinary visits are important also. Although your furry one, can live a healthy life, sometimes genetic conditions may require more visits to the veterinarian. Fortunately, like for us humans, there is pet insurance. Many offer comprehensive coverages for both genetic conditions and aging pets.
Although a cat can not have down syndrome, it can have special needs that require dedicated pet parents. But there is no reason an animal with disabilities can’t live a long happy.
I’m a busy blogger pet parent to my senior-aged cat Pizza. We have traveled all over Los Angeles, endured several moves, jobs, roommates and now global pandemic together. Today we write, learn, and share information and our favorite products, in hopes you can experience your best life with pets too, We currently live with other humans and their beautiful dog.