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What is Cat Cry Syndrome?

Alex Tree
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Cat cry syndrome, also known as 5p minus syndrome or cri-du-chat, is a condition that results when some part of chromosome five is absent. This syndrome affects the physical features of people born with it, usually giving them low-set ears and wide-set eyes. Cat cry syndrome is also linked to delayed development, low birth weight, and low intelligence. While most cases of this condition are not genetic, the inheritance of cat cry syndrome is possible. The condition is so-called because affected infants have a cry similar to that of a house cat's.

Other common signs of the syndrome include excessive drooling, other distinct and unusual facial features, and severe speech delay. Dislocated hips, cleft lip, and rare kidney conditions are less common symptoms of cat cry syndrome. Due to the larynx and nervous system being affected, the cry of the infant or child sounds very similar to a meowing cat. Some grow out of the characteristic high-pitched cry, though most keep the cry in adulthood. The unusual facial features and small head may become less distinct as the child reaches adolescence and is normally not noticeable by a layperson.

This chromosome deletion syndrome is one of the most common that affects humans. Most often, it happens randomly when the egg or sperm is forming. Occasionally, cat cry syndrome is inherited from one parent who also possesses some type of chromosome syndrome. Girls are born with the condition slightly more often than boys, and any ethnicity can be affected. Even so, the condition is not common, though genetic testing can be carried out if a future parent is concerned about the possibility.

There is no cure or specific treatment for cat cry syndrome. The varying symptoms, such as mental retardation or speech problems, can be addressed. Many affected individuals may never be capable of fully functioning in society or caring for themselves. Some, however, are able to grasp their primary language well enough to verbally communicate. The severity of the cat cry syndrome heavily depends on how much and what part of chromosome five is missing.

Even though cat cry syndrome is very uncommon, numerous groups and charities have been founded around the world in support of those affected. Some organizations keep a database of members to regularly keep them informed of meetings and breakthroughs concerning the syndrome. The charities usually fund further research or support for families affected by the syndrome.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Aug 04, 2013

I can't believe how a small problem with one single chromosome can cause so many issues! We saw images of what chromosome 5 looks like in people with cat cry syndrome in class. Just the tip is missing, that's it!

By SarahGen — On Aug 04, 2013

@ZipLine-- Cri du chat syndrome is a very rare condition. I don't think exact numbers are known, but it is assumed that about fifty babies are born with it annually.

I'm sure there are support groups online but your neighbor might not be able to find anyone nearby. And sometimes it doesn't always help because genetic conditions affect every individual very differently. Your neighbor's daughter is not going to have the same exact needs and issues as another child with cri du chat syndrome. So I think it's more important to get to know the child and look for ways to make his or her life easier based on the child's specific situation.

By ZipLine — On Aug 03, 2013

Is there any information on approximately how many people in the world suffer from this syndrome?

My neighbor's daughter has just been diagnosed with this genetic disorder. They're trying to get more information about this condition and connect with other parents of children who have cat cry syndrome. But information is very limited and so far they haven't found anyone else.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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