Do you have a kitten at home? Surely you have heard about Grumpy Cat, Monty or Maya, three pet influencers who became famous on social networks for their peculiar physical appearance of cats with Down syndrome.
However, in the case of Grumpy Cat, who died in 2019 at the age of seven, it was only a problem of dwarfism; while Monty or Maya have different features due to their separate eyes and the absence of a nasal bridge.
But this is a genetic abnormality that has nothing to do with Down syndrome. This is one of the most widespread myths about cats in this article.
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Are there cats with down syndrome?
The answer is NO. Mainly because Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that affects only humans and primates.
Because humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and Down syndrome occurs when a trisomy occurs, that is, an additional chromosome in pair 21.
Kittens have a completely different genetic makeup than humans. They only have 38 chromosomes grouped in 19 pairs, which makes it impossible for them to suffer from this alteration.
In other words, cats do not have enough chromosomes for what is scientifically known as Down syndrome to occur.
Cat with down syndrome: understand more about trisomy
Down syndrome is an anomaly that only affects humans and occurs when the individual is born with an extra chromosome in the body, in this case, the pair of chromosomes 21. When we talk about the domestic cat, this condition has another name and occurs in the pair of chromosomes 19.
“This anomaly is present in the genetic code of the feline species, but it is incorrect to talk about the down syndrome in cats. After all, it is a chromosomal anomaly exclusive to human beings ”, explains the veterinarian.
There are many types of Trisomy in cats and not just that of chromosome 19. This condition can also appear in inbreeding, that is: when there is a crossing of parents with children or between siblings. It is also possible to occur trisomy in pregnant cats affected by some virus, which can cause a deformation in the fetuses.
My cat is different, why is it?
In humans, Down syndrome can cause growth delays and physical characteristics such as wide-set eyes, a flat nose, a protruding tongue, or shorthands.
Many people believe that their cat suffers from this genetic abnormality due to its physical appearance, behavior, lack of balance or immaturity. However, these are peculiarities that can appear for other reasons or pathologies, such as inbreeding, which can cause physical and mental abnormalities in cat’s malnutrition, or even being part of the character of the pet.
Other disorders that can be diagnosed in cats and have characteristics similar to Down syndrome are:
Cerebral hypoplasia: A neurodevelopmental disorder where young are born with an immature cerebellum.
Klinefelter syndrome: Chromosomal abnormality in which the male cat is born with three sex chromosomes (XXY) and they are sterile.
Distal polyneuropathy: Produces decreased or absent reflexes and muscle tone, weakness or paralysis.
Feline dysautonomia: A degenerative disease that affects the Autonomous Nervous System, with ocular and digestive symptoms.
Just because your kitten has different features and “strange” behavior, it doesn’t mean that she has Down syndrome.
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Famous cats with Down syndrome
Kittens like Monty or Maya, who have become true stars of social networks and accumulate millions of followers on Instagram or Facebook, attract attention for their curious physical appearance, however, in terms of behavior, these cats lead a similar life to the rest of the cats.
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Their owners have taken advantage of the physical peculiarities and the character of these pets to start fundraising campaigns and raise awareness about genetic diseases and pathologies of cats, publish books and even lines of clothing and accessories for animals.
Even so, you already know that these kitties do not suffer from Down syndrome, but that other pathologies are what make them different.
In conclusion, the different chromosomal structure of cats means that they cannot have the same type of alterations as humans, which is why cats with Down syndrome do not exist. If you notice any strange behavior in your pet, the best thing you can do is take him to the vet for a full diagnosis through genetic tests, blood tests, or X-rays and, if necessary, seek a second opinion.