Does your cat seem to have physical anomalies? Does she have a poor muscle tone? Does your furry friend have droopy ears, squished nose, slanted eyes, and social abnormalities? Has your cat been experiencing difficulty walking? Are you worried that it might be the Down syndrome cat?

You must be dying to know if cats can have Down syndrome. If not, why do Down syndrome cats not exist? And why does your cat seem to have Feline Down syndrome?

If you are worried that your feline friend is a Down syndrome cat, you should keep on reading. Below we are going to address all about cats having Down syndrome.

What Is Down Syndrome?

To understand can a cat get Down syndrome, we need to first understand what Down syndrome is.

Typically, the nucleus of each human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome occurs when the individual has an extra copy—full or partial—of chromosome 21. This additional chromosome interferes with the course of development and results in the development of Down syndrome.

In the United States, one in every 700 human babies is born with Down syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meaning that around six thousand babies are born with Down syndrome.

Can Cats Get Down Syndrome?

No, cats cannot get Down syndrome—it is not biologically possible.

While cats may develop certain health issues like poor muscle tone, droopy ears, slanted eyes, and difficulty walking, etc., that may make cat owners worry that their four-legged fella is a Down syndrome cat. But the truth is, while your cat might be exhibiting the Down syndrome cat symptoms, there is no way she has Down syndrome.

Why Can’t Cats  Get Down Syndrome?

In humans, Down syndrome occurs due to the presence of a copy—partial or full—of chromosome 21, as discussed above. Where humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, cats have only 19 pairs of chromosomes. If cats do not have chromosome 21, so how could they have an additional copy of it?

Can There Be a Down Syndrome Kitten?

Ok, cats cannot have Down syndrome but can there be a Down syndrome kitten? No, the number of chromosome—19 pairs—are the same in adult cats as well as kittens. So there is no possibility of the existence of a Down syndrome kitten. It is biologically not possible.

What Are Down Syndrome Cat Symptoms?

Given that cats cannot have Down syndrome, they cannot develop its symptoms.

However, certain feline health issues lead to the development of certain symptoms that often look like Down syndrome symptoms. Below, we have discussed several health issues that may make your cat look like a Down syndrome cat.

Distemper in Cats

Distemper in cats is not much common as most cats are vaccinated against feline infectious enteritis (FIE), the virus responsible for causing distemper in cats. It is only endemic in unvaccinated cats. Cats with distemper will experience a lack of coordination, weight loss, depression, and many other symptoms.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

This is a development issue in which the concerned cat’s cerebellum—a portion of the brain responsible for maintaining balance, control motor skills, and coordination—is not fully developed. The condition is not painful or life-threatening, but it dramatically impacts the quality of the life of the cat, according to VCA hospital.

Trauma to the Head or Face

Trauma to the head or face can result in neurological damage, causing intellectual impairment in cats. Such cats may face difficulty in balancing and coordination.


After coming into this world, kittens go through a plethora of changes. Throughout this period of rapid development, kittens need their nutritional requirements to be met. Otherwise, they will suffer from development issues—developing neurological issues.

Feline Dysautonomia

Feline Dysautonomia is the degeneration of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling the heartbeat of cats. A cat suffering from this devastating feline disease would develop signs of illness, such as mental dullness, loss of appetite, unresponsive pupils, and drooping eyes. Cats with feline dysautonomia would also have a lower heartbeat—the normal heart rate of cats is between 140 to 220 beats per minute.  

How to Help an Apparently Down Syndrome Cat?

So now we know that a Down syndrome cat is not biologically possible, but what if your cats keep showing the symptoms of Down syndrome. Well, in that case, you should look into the above-mentioned feline health issues and disorders often mistaken as feline Down syndrome.

If your cat is showing symptoms of down syndrome, or other behavioral and physical anomalies, my friend, your four-legged fella is what is called a “ special needs cat.” Special needs cats behave in such a way that observers confuse them with Down syndrome cats.

These special needs cats would be requiring special care. Take your special needs cat more frequently to the vet and never miss a regular vet checkup. Only the vet can suggest the best course of care for your special needs cat. Just do as the vet say and your cat will live an amazing life.

Considering Adopting a Cat? How About a Special Needs Cat?

Due to anomalies they suffer from, the quality of life of special needs cats is greatly reduced. Many of these special needs cats are often abandoned—because they look and act a bit differently. Two of the Insta-famous special needs cats that we came across while writing this blog are ‘Willow the Beautiful Cat’ and ‘Maya the Cat.’

Willow Cat

Willow the Beautiful Cat was found abandoned on Willow Avenue in Tampa, Florida. At that time, she had fleas, a bloody nose, an eye infection, and was weighing only 10 ounces. When taken to the vet, the vet said that she is healthy but advised the lady not to take the cat to the shelter, fearing that she would probably be put down as she has a ‘funny looking face.’

The lady took willow home, and now she is living a wonderful life as the Insta-Queen with 247K followers at the time of writing this article.

Story of Willow the Beautiful Cat

Maya the Cat

Maya cat was found behind a Chinese restaurant and was brought to a kill shelter, where she was put on death row. However, before this action was taken, the Odd Cat Sanctuary learned about it and found a foster home for the cat. The foster parents shared the picture of the special needs cat on Facebook from where she found her ‘furever’ family. Now she is living an amazing life with 488k cat lovers following her on Instagram.

You can read the story of the Maya cat by ordering a copy of Meet Maya Cat: A story about acceptance.

Down Syndrome Cat: Final Verdict

Down syndrome cat is biologically not possible, so you do not have to worry about it. However, if your cat has been exhibiting the signs of a Down syndrome cat, you should take her to the vet as there could be some other feline behavioral and physical anomalies underlying your cat’s condition.

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