Genes come in structures called chromosomes stored in the nucleus of each cell. Most humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but in some cases, this turns out to be not the case. For example, Down syndrome happens when someone has an extra part or even an extra chromosome in the 21st pair of chromosomes. As a result, this changes the course of their development, thus causing a wide range of characteristics that include but are not limited to stunted growth, low muscle tone, and mental impairment. However, it is important to remember that each person with Down syndrome is unique, meaning that said individual may or may not express all of these characteristics to the same extent, if at all.
Can a Kitten Have Down Syndrome?
A kitten cannot have Down syndrome for the simple reason that it is something that happens in humans. In fact, cats have no more than 19 pairs of chromosomes, meaning that it is impossible for a kitten to have a problem with a nonexistent 21st pair of chromosomes. With that said, cats are not exempt from experiencing problems with their genetic information, meaning that it is not impossible for them to suffer from something that can seem like a feline version of Down syndrome. Unfortunately, our understanding of such problems is still poor at the moment, meaning that much of what will be stated here should be considered uncertain at best.
Regardless, some cat owners believe that their cats suffer from a feline version of Down syndrome based on a combination of their physical appearance and their behavioral issues. For example, they claim that their cats have eyes that are rounder and more wide-set, stunted ears that droop instead of standing up straight, upturned noses that resemble buttons rather than graceful points, and other facial oddities. Furthermore, they claim that their cats have bad coordination compared to other cats, which can cause them to fall and bump into things on a regular basis, as well as a friendlier disposition that comes at the cost of a lack of responsiveness to either calls or reprimands. Finally, they even claim that their cats suffer from higher incidences of heart problems, impaired vision, low muscle tone, and other health problems that are common in people suffering from Down syndrome.
What Can Cat Owners Do for Their Cats?
Unsurprisingly, these claims are uncertain at best, not least because all of these problems have potential explanations other than a condition that has not been confirmed to exist. For example, old age has been known to cause behavioral issues in cats because it does damage to their mental faculties. Likewise, inbreeding has been known to increase the chances of cats expressing all sorts of undesirable recessive genes, which cause all sorts of undesirable issues. As a result, cat owners should make sure to bring their cats to their veterinarians for a proper diagnosis if they suspect that something is wrong with their cats. Furthermore, they should make sure that their veterinarians check in with other resources before making a final diagnosis because knowing what is wrong with their cats provides the best chances of providing them with the care that they need to flourish.