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Can Cats Have Down Syndrome? Lets Find Out

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We might have seen many cats with different facial features, However, some cats look like they are suffering from a certain condition, similar to what humans go through.

Can Cats Have Down Syndrome

The condition that some humans go through is called Down Syndrome, while this is not what the cat is suffering from. Although it might look the same, it is a completely different condition. The fact is that cats cannot suffer from Down Syndrome.

Let us take a deep dive into this matter.

Can Cats Have Down Syndrome?

No, cats cannot have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is caused when then there is an abnormal division of chromosome 21. Humans have 23 chromosomes, whereas in cats there are only 19 chromosomes. Hence, it is impossible for cats to get Down Syndrome.

This doesn’t mean, a cat cannot get Down Syndrome-like symptoms. There are various other diseases or conditions where your cat might look like he has Down-Syndrome.

Physical and Mental Abnormalities

The physical features and abnormalities in the behavior of so-called Down Syndrome cats are an indication that the cat is suffering from some kind of problem, which may not be genetic in origin.

These changes in appearance and behavior can indicate many issues like neurological disorders, physical trauma, infections, etc.

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a condition in which the cerebellum of the brain fails to develop properly. This part of the brain is responsible for motor control coordination, motor skills, and balance. Highly contagious panleukopenia virus can infect a kitten in the uterus, this can also lead to physical and mental abnormalities.

Physical and Mental Abnormalities

Some characteristics in cats that are kind of similar to Down Syndrome symptoms are, small or oddly shaped ears, problems with vision, eyes set abnormally wide apart, motor dysfunction, heart problems, low muscle tone, hearing loss, and a flat and upturned nose.

If a cat has any of these symptoms, it is a sign that indicates the cat is suffering from some kind of issue. This issue can be anything, except for Down Syndrome. Some kittens exhibit these facial features because of face trauma in their past, or they could have an abnormal face structure by birth.

Exposure to toxins when a cat is pregnant can hinder the development of the baby kitten in the uterus and can be the reason for abnormal growth.

If the kitten is not able to fulfill his nutrition requirements, and calories can result in abnormal development of his nervous system.

What Causes Down Syndrome-Like Abnormalities in Cats?

Various factors can cause Down Syndrome-like Symptoms in cats. Let me explain some of them,

  • Panleukopenia virus: It is also known as “feline distemper” when a kitten is infected by this virus in the uterus, it can damage the cerebellum a part of the brain, and impede the growth of rapidly growing cells. This can cause difficulties in walking and unstable movements.
Panleukopenia virus
  • Cerebullar hypoplasia: A condition where the cerebellum, part of the brain that controls motor function, and coordination, fails to develop properly. This results in difficulty in movements.
Cerebullar hypoplasia
  • Feline dysautonomia: It is also known as Key-Gaskell Syndrome, It is the dysfunction of the autonomous nervous system in cats. Symptoms of this condition are mental dullness, dilated and unresponsive pupils, protruding or drooping eyelids, loss of appetite, upper respiratory signs, mega-esophagus, constipation, and dry mucous membranes, decreased tear production. The cause of this disease is still unknown.
Feline dysautonomia
  • Distal Polyneuropathy: Damage to peripheral nerves, which are spread out in the body, can cause Polyneuropathy. This nerve damage is associated with diabetes mellitus. It can be diagnosed through electrophysiology, blood work, or urine sample. Cats with congenital polyneuropathy are not expected to live long.

What Should I Do If My Cat Has Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms?

Just like us humans, if our cat is suffering from something, and she can’t help herself, we would have to provide extra attention and extra care to her when compared to other cats. If your cat is suffering from a problem that has similar symptoms to Down Syndrome, you would want to consult your vet and diagnose it.

 What Should I Do If My Cat Has Down Syndrome-Like Symptoms

Some causes for these symptoms can be treated easily, however, there are some which can’t be treated. Chances are, the kitten may be suffering from a neurological disorder of some kind, which cannot be treated.

If there is a condition where your cat undergoes surgery, you would have to purchase unique accessories which can help your cat with her normal activities.


Why does my cat look like it has Down Syndrome?

Cats do not have chromosome 21, which is responsible for Down Syndrome. Therefore, cats can’t get this disease. However, cats can have some other condition that has symptoms similar to Down Syndrome.

How would Down Syndrome affect cats?

Cats, cannot have Down Syndrome, however, the problem causing down syndrome-like issues can impact our cat’s physical characteristics, they can have difficulty in walking, problems with vision, odd-shaped ears, and they would have low muscle tone and short stature.

Does the behavior of cats with Down Syndrome differ from other cats?

Yes, the behavior of normal cats and the cats suffering from Down Syndrome like disease will differ. The cat suffering will remain aloof and slightly depressed. He will also have difficulties with normal activities like eating, walking, urinating, and excretion. Some cats do suffer from constipation and vomiting. Some cats won’t be able to see or hear properly, so sometimes they may not respond to your calls.
Their health and behavior abnormalities might differ, and also it depends on what kind of condition they have, which makes them look like they have Down Syndrome.


Since you are still reading this, I would like to wish your cat a very healthy life. If your cat shows even minor symptoms or any abnormal behavior. I suggest you consult a vet immediately.


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