Taking Care Of A Cat Diagnosed With Down Syndrome


Max, a nine-year-old ginger cat, has been diagnosed with the feline equivalent of down syndrome. His owner wonders if there is anything that he can do for his cat as he gets older. When cats get older, he may become less coordinated and his symptoms may worsen.

Max’s owner says that his cat does well for the most part. But his coordination and balance have gotten worse as he has gotten older. He says that Max has never been able to focus, so when he goes to a window, he will walk into the glass.

From ABC Regional Online:

Vet and President of the Albury RSPCA Branch Dr Arthur Fruaenfelder says Glen’s descriptions of Max are typical characteristics of a cat with Down Syndrome.

“Down Syndrome is a very rare condition among cats. Down Syndrome is a deficiency in the development of the lower brain and what you have got is basically incoordination.”

“One way to consider Down Syndrome, is that you have got a spinal cord it comes up into the back of the brain and then it gets relayed all through the brain and the messages go back. What is happening here is that ‘relayed box’ is not working properly.”

“Max has got it to a minor degree and is actually able to co-ordinate to some degree. You will see more of the aging process as he gets to that nine to 12 years and more age bracket and more so then you see in other cats. The reason being as we age, we lose some of our nerve fibers or neurones, as Max hasn’t got as many of these he will show less and less co-ordination earlier on.”

“I would hope because he is nine and has been fairly good so far, at this stage I wouldn’t expect him to be totally incapacitated hopefully for a few years yet.”

Dr Fruaenfelder says with Down Syndrome there is not a lot you can do. “It is one of those things that just progresses and is very slow. I’m a great believer in keeping down the additives in foods so keeping him on natural foods and also a varied vitamin preparation.”

13 Responses to “Taking Care Of A Cat Diagnosed With Down Syndrome”

  1. Holly says:

    Huh — it sounds like what this vet is talking about is cerebellar hypoplasia, or a similar disorder. It means the cat has an underdeveloped cerebellum, most likely because the mother cat had distemper.

    My 13 year old cat Grover has it. I picked him up as a stray kitten, and it was obvious right away that he had some neurological issue — he has a very stiff gait and has always been uncoordinated. As he’s gotten older, his biggest challenge has been arthritis decreasing his mobility even more. We got him some kitty stairs so he can get on our bed, and he’s smart enough to use the orthopedic pet beds in the house.

    I don’t worry too much about it; Grover is a really happy, affectionate cat. And that’s all you can ask for.

  2. Debra says:

    Yes, I believe that this is cerebellar hypoplasia, not “Down Syndrome”. Down’s Syndrome is a specific chromosome disorder in humans that causes distinct physical signs and usually some form of cognitive impairment, the degree of which can vary widely.

    Holly is correct that cats can be born with cerebellar hypoplasia if the mother has distemper (more accurately FPV). However, vaccinating the mother cat against FPV–a part of one of the routine vaccinations administered to cats–while she is pregnant can also cause the kittens to be born with this condition. So if you have any suspicion that your cat is pregnant, wait until after the kittens delivered and are a month old or more before having this vaccine given, or follow your vet’s recommendation. Of course, the best thing to do is spay your cat in the first place so this will not become an issue.

  3. deej says:

    what a love! Where did I just read about an elderly cat using a cookie sheet with sides for a litter tray? I thought that was a great idea - maybe useful down the road.

  4. Cat Mental Birth Disorders . Downs? Autism? says:

    […] Someone else asked this question about a cat who she thought had Down’s Syndrome. There is supposedly a feline equivalent to Down’s Syndrome. I do not know how this can happen because human chromosomes are different than cats. Wouldn’t the cat need to have the same defect of the 21st chromosome? There are those who say cats even can cause Down’s Syndrome in humans, when the expectant mother is around a cat. Check this site out: Taking Care Of A Cat Diagnosed With Down Syndrome | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats […]

  5. saz says:

    Hi my 2 females who have just turned 1 have both had kittens and the father being there brother and 2 kittens died looked to me as though they died due to organ failure it was hard watching them slowly die in pain i bet to, but yeh the others seem healthy at the moment but i have noticed one of them has extra laurge eyes and a flat long face with a slight domed head looks exactly like a down syndrome person so i dunno and it cant walk propoly it sota drags its right back leg and wobbles all over its so tiny aswell and so sweet it comes up to everyone and lickes them non stop and she can just lie there in your hands and she wouldnt even notice unlike the others they cry and strugle to get down from you she is 4 week nearly 5 week old i dont know what to do either should i keep her give her to somone who will want her? thanx for replying if u do.

  6. Feline Down's Syndrome? says:

    […] Hopefully that will provide some helpful information. Here are a few other links I ran across: Taking Care Of A Cat Diagnosed With Down Syndrome | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats kitten with Down’s syndrome? - Ask a Vet (Pet Health) - […]

  7. Mother May I says:

    I have an 8 year old cat who was preliminarily diagnosed with something resembling Downs Syndrome. He has poor balance, butt the primary difference are some physical abnormalities such as his ears are only about 1-1/2 inches apart, his eyes slant, he has a cleft upper lip and a small head. His personality is the real tell tale, he asks just like a Downs child, he is happy, happy, happy and then something will frighten him or make him mad and he will curl up and hiss like the cat in Pet Semetary. He does some smart things though, he knows what “no food for you” means and he really knows what “food for you” means and comes running. We love him dearly and he loves us too.

  8. ashlyn says:

    I had no idea there was a feline equililent if I showed you a picture would you be able to tell me if she had it. She has the eyes like a down syndrome human would have. Shes in a good place shes at a vet tech school. shes cute.

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  11. Betty says:

    My dog has this disease what can i do, he stopped maturing at 4 months old

  12. Sissy says:

    Hi Holly,
    “Huh — it sounds like what this vet is talking about is cerebellar hypoplasia, or a similar disorder. It means the cat has an underdeveloped cerebellum, most likely because the mother cat had distemper.”

    I hate to tell you but my cat had a litter and out of 5 only one is like this. Would it be safe to say if the mom has distemper then ALL the kittens would turn out this way NOT just one of them????

  13. Jimbob says:

    this thread delivers

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