Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cri du chat syndrome

3-minute read

Cri du chat (‘Cry of the cat’ in French) is so named because of the strange, cat-like cry made by newborn babies with this condition.

What is cri du chat syndrome?

Cri du chat syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes delayed physical development, a small head size and intellectual disability.

Some children will be only mildly affected; in others, the condition is more severe. All children are different.

Most children with cri du chat syndrome have:

  • a weak, cat-like cry when very young
  • intellectual disability, ranging from mild to severe
  • a small head (known as microcephaly)
  • a small receding chin
  • widely spaced eyes
  • weak muscles

Children with cri du chat syndrome might also have:

  • feeding difficulties
  • speech and language impairment
  • delay in or problems walking
  • eye problems
  • deformities of the skeleton, such as a curved spine
  • dental problems
  • hyperactivity or challenging behaviour

A few babies with cri du chat syndrome are born with other serious congenital problems that affect their heart, kidneys or bowel. Other babies are only slightly affected and reach their normal developmental milestones.

Cause of cri du chat syndrome

A child with cri du chat syndrome lacks some genetic information on chromosome 5. (Chromosomes are the microscopic parts of the human body’s cells that carry genetic information.) Other names for the condition include 5p syndrome, 5p minus syndrome and cat cry syndrome. Doctors don’t know why it occurs.

Sometimes, testing will show that a child with cri du chat syndrome has a parent with some form of chromosomal abnormality. But most of the time, the abnormality is not inherited. If you have a child with cri du chat syndrome, it is still a good idea to see a genetic counsellor.

Cri du chat syndrome diagnosis

The syndrome is usually diagnosed at birth, with doctors alerted by the distinctive cry. A doctor will examine the baby, talk to the parents and do some genetic tests. The child may also need a skull x-ray.

Cri du chat syndrome treatment

The right medical treatment and early intervention therapies can help. The particular treatment depends on what physical and intellectual problems your child has.

The child will usually be treated by a team that includes a paediatrician and allied health professionals.

Early intervention that can help your baby or child reach their full potential might include:

Children with a confirmed diagnosis of cri du chat syndrome can get support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Where to go for help

Last reviewed: February 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cri du Chat syndrome in children: a guide | Raising Children Network

Cri du Chat syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes health problems and intellectual disability. Early intervention can help children with Cri du Chat.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Cri du chat syndrome - Better Health Channel

Most children born with cri du chat syndrome have moderate intellectual disability, with varying degrees of speech delay and some health problems.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cri Du Chat syndrome | Genetic and Rare Disease Network

Cri Du Chat syndrome results from the loss or deletion of a significant portion of the genetic material from the short arm of one of the pair of number five chromosomes.

Read more on Genetic and Rare Disease Network website

Carers Victoria - How can we help?

Carers Victoria provides carers with information, advice, counselling, education and training, and access to systemic advocacy.

Read more on Carers Victoria website

Microcephaly: symptoms, diagnosis, support | Raising Children Network

Children with microcephaly have smaller than usual heads and brains. They often have intellectual disability. Early intervention can improve quality of life.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Better Start - Carers Queensland | Carers Queensland

Better Start - Carers Queensland | Improving the quality of life of Queensland's carers

Read more on Carers QLD website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo