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If you’re a cat lover, you’ve probably come across online information from fellow feline enthusiasts about a cat that has Down syndrome. Many of these declarations base their conclusions on physical characteristics and specific symptoms they observe in their pet. These symptoms include clumsiness, vision and hearing problems, a flat nose and wide-set eyes, and small ears.

While it’s true that on the surface, the issues may appear to be Down syndrome-like, cats aren’t born with this chromosomal rarity. However, other feline chromosomal imbalances cause similar symptoms. The good news is, cats can live happy, healthy lives despite these genetic mutations.

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1. Down syndrome is a uniquely human syndrome

Cats have 19 pairs of chromosomes, while humans have 23 pairs. Each year, around 6000 children are born with a trisomy, a condition where an extra chromosome develops in the chromosome 21 pairing. This anomaly is called Down syndrome. Because cats only have 19 pairings, they can’t develop the trisomy in the chromosome 21 pairing. Cats exhibiting behaviors or unusual physical characteristics need an examination from a veterinarian who can run tests to identify any chromosomal abnormalities.

A girl with down syndrome is in a classroom with her teacher. She is happily playing with a tablet computer while being watched by her teacher. FatCamera / Getty Images
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