Since a cat that was described as having Down Syndrome went viral on social media, cat lovers have been wondering about this unique feline. When a cat looks or behaves in a way that is different from how other cats look and behave, it is normal to wonder whether the cat has some kind of health problem. Vets are often asked if cats can have Down Syndrome regarding cats that look and behave in a similar way to someone living with Down Syndrome.
Cats that have unique facial features and unusual behavioral traits have become popular on social media, such as Lil Bub for instance. Cat owners with these unique cats start social media accounts for them on Facebook or Instagram and claim that they have a Down Syndrome cat, which has increased the belief that cats can have Down Syndrome.
Can cats actually have Down Syndrome?
Regardless of all of the internet buzz around cats with “Down Syndrome”, that truth is that cats cannot have Down Syndrome. It is impossible for a cat to have Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome is a condition that affects around 700 babies a year; it occurs due to a gene abnormality where the genetic material is copied incorrectly which results in an extra chromosome, giving the baby an extra 21st chromosome.
Chromosomes manage the DNA within each cell, helping to make sure that the right genetic information is passed on when cell bundles divide. Having an extra chromosome means that there are a variety of birth defects that tend to occur as a result, giving people with Down Syndrome the same shared physical traits.
Humans have 23 chromosomes, whereas cats have just 19 chromosomes, which means that having an extra 21st chromosome is not possible for cats. Therefore, a cat cannot have Down Syndrome. That being said, it is not impossible for a cat to have an extra chromosome - some cats are born with an extra chromosome.
In 1975 it was found that there was a rare chromosome abnormality found in male cats where they had one extra chromosome in some cases, which resulted in a similar condition to Klinefelter syndrome in humans. What made these cats important is the fact that the extra chromosomes affected coloration, allowing the male cats to be three-colored - tortoiseshell - a coloring normally only seen in female cats.
Do cats have abnormalities that resemble Down Syndrome?
There have been certain cats who have gone viral due to having some of the physical traits of Down Syndrome, have gone viral on social media, with their owners stating that their unique look is due to an additional chromosome. However, these claims have not been verified via genetic testing, so it is impossible to say what the cause of these conditions are and if they are caused by an extra chromosome.
Regardless of the potentially incorrect claims, the term ‘feline Down Syndrome’ has become an increasingly popular search term on the internet. However, the veterinary industry does not recognise feline Down Syndrome as an actual condition.