Can cats be affected by Down syndrome?
Is it possible for cats to have Down syndrome? This is a question that veterinarians are asked more frequently than you might expect.
People generally inquire about it when their cat appears to be acting and looking improperly, in a manner that appears to be similar to Down syndrome.
Kittens with odd visual characteristics as well as certain behavioural defects have grown more popular in social media communities.
Some pet parents created social media accounts for their cats, claiming that they had a “Down syndrome cat,” so spreading the myth that Down syndrome can occur in cats as well as humans.
What is Down Syndrome and how does it manifest itself?
Every cell in the human body contains a nucleus, which is where genetic information is stored in the form of genes.
Genes are responsible for all of our inherited characteristics and are organized into rod-like structures known as chromosomes to carry the codes for those characteristics.
A typical cell nucleus includes 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent, with the remaining half inherited from the other parent.
Down syndrome develops when a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21 on either one or both chromosomes.
This extra genetic material has the effect of altering the course of development and causing the traits associated with Down syndrome to manifest.
Low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the centre of the palm are just a few of the physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome – through each person with Down syndrome is an individual and may exhibit these characteristics to varying degrees, or not at all.
What is the prevalence of Down syndrome?
It is estimated that approximately one in every 700 newborns born in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common chromosomal abnormality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States is home to around 6,000 babies with Down syndrome each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Can cats be affected by Down syndrome?
Cats do not develop Down syndrome, despite the widespread belief on the internet. In reality, they are unable to.
First, a brief explanation of Down syndrome: One in every 700 human babies born in the United States is affected by this condition each year.
It arises when the genetic material of the growing baby is copied improperly, resulting in the formation of an extra chromosome 21. (or a partial chromosome 21). Trisomy 21 is the medical term for this disorder.
The DNA in each cell is organized into bundles by chromosomes, which aids in the transmission of genetic material between cells during cell division and division.
An additional chromosome 21 (or a portion of chromosome 21) causes a range of birth abnormalities, which are responsible for the physical characteristics that are shared by persons with Down syndrome.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, people who have Down syndrome are more likely to exhibit some or all of the characteristics listed below:
- Muscle tone that is too low
- Eyes with an upward slant
- Small size body structure
- A single deep creases that run across the centre of the palm.
It’s crucial to remember that persons with Down syndrome don’t all look the same in terms of physical appearance.
Down syndrome cats do not exist, for a variety of reasons.
The human genome consists of 23 chromosomes. Cats have a total of 19. Being born with an additional chromosome 21 is, however, impossible for cats to achieve.
However, this does not rule out the possibility of cats having additional chromosomes on occasion.
It was really discovered by researchers in the American Journal of Veterinary Research in 1975 that male cats can have one extra chromosome due to a rare chromosomal mutation that causes a condition comparable to Klinefelter syndrome in humans.
Because the additional chromosome contains genetic material that influences the colour of these cats, they are particularly interesting.
Male cats with this ailment become tricoloured (“calico” or “tortoise-shell”), a colour pattern that is generally only seen in female cats due to the effects of this condition.
Abnormalities that may be similar to those associated with Down syndrome
There have been several particularly notable cats on Instagram who have become online sensations after their parents claimed that their cats’ odd features were caused by an extra chromosome.
While these claims of chromosomal disorders have never been proven, it is unknown whether or not they have ever been verified through genetic testing.
Despite the dubious claims and scientific facts, the phrase “feline Down syndrome” has become widely used in the pet industry.
Note that the veterinary profession does not accept feline Down syndrome as a veterinary ailment and, therefore, does not support the transference of human diseases to animals based on their physical appearance or behaviour.
It is possible that doing so will be interpreted as being disrespectful to those who live with these problems.
Nonetheless, there are several anatomical and behavioural characteristics of cats that may lead well-intentioned individuals to incorrectly attribute human illnesses to cats.
A so-called “Down syndrome cat” is characterized by a number of distinguishing traits, which include the following:
- Broad noses
- Upturned eyes (which may be set widely apart)
- Difficulty with elimination (urination or defecation)
- Hearing or vision loss
- Small or unusual ears
- Low muscle tone
- Difficulty walking
- Heart problems
Exceptional Cats with Physical and Behavioral Disabilities
The physical characteristics and behavioural problems of so-called “Down syndrome cats” are suggestive of a different ailment, one that may or may not be hereditary in origin, according to the veterinarian.
Cats with odd appearances and behaviours are often the result of a range of issues, including infections, neurological illnesses, congenital anomalies, and even trauma.
Cats who have been infected with the panleukopenia virus while still in the womb can acquire a number of important physical and behavioural problems.
Some cats also have cerebellar hypoplasia, which can result in some of the behaviours and characteristics associated with these “Down syndrome animals,” according to the ASPCA.
Some congenital deformities affecting the facial structure and the nervous system can be seen in cats whose mothers have been exposed to specific chemicals during their pregnancy.
Furthermore, trauma to the head and face, particularly at a young age, can result in lifelong neurological impairment as well as facial injuries that appear to have been present from birth.
Cats with Special Needs Have Different Expectations
If your cat exhibits any behavioural and physical anomalies, she may qualify as a “special needs cat,” which is a term used to describe a cat who has special needs.
Special needs cats frequently exhibit a wide range of characteristics that, to the untrained eye, appear to be similar to those associated with Down syndrome, despite the fact that cats cannot develop the disorder.
Exceptional circumstances Cats require specialized attention. Their pet parents must take extra precautions to keep them safe from potential risks like swimming pools and stairwells, as well as predators and other threats to which they are exposed while they are young.
They may require assistance with basic functions (cleaning themselves, eating and drinking, and so on) as well as navigating life when they have vision or hearing impairment.
Whatever you decide, make sure to enlist the assistance of your veterinarian. Anyone whose cat requires particular attention should get familiar with the complete spectrum of available medical choices.
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