Cats can be the most wonderful companions to have around the home. Sure, they can be mischievous at times, or even behave in strange or funny ways. But they can also be extremely loyal and affectionate toward their owners – one of the biggest reasons we love and adore these beautiful creatures.
And, if you are expecting a baby soon, it is likely that your furry friend will show you more affection. You might notice a sudden increase in cuddles and purrs, which can be really heartwarming, and this will have you wondering whether your cat knows you are pregnant, or whether it is purely coincidence.
According to animal behavior experts, cats can indeed sense pregnancy. In fact, they can tell that a new life is forming inside you before you have even realized it yourself. And, with several changes happening in your body, your once aloof and solitary cat will start to be more loving and protective over you.
So, why do cats become more affectionate toward their pregnant owners? Let us dive in and find out.
How cats sense pregnancy
1. Cats can sense hormonal changes
When a woman becomes pregnant, she undergoes several hormonal changes, and that includes a dramatic rise in estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are present in the mother’s urine and blood, especially during the first trimester. As the body starts forming the little human, the hormones can take a rollercoaster ride and cause several symptoms such as mood swings and body pains.
All of these changes can be detected by our four-legged companions, because cats are highly talented sniffers – they are gifted with 200 million scent receptors inside their tiny, sensitive snouts. They can smell changes in a woman’s hormone levels that would go unnoticed by humans. Surprisingly, cats might even know you are pregnant before your pregnancy test result comes out.
2. Cats can sense behavioral changes
Cats are very sensitive to the slightest changes in your mood. If you are suffering anxiety, stress, and exhaustion due to pregnancy, your cat will know. Additionally, body pains and morning sickness can be all picked up by your furry friend, who will begin to sense that something is not right.
These gentle creatures may respond to your mood swings by being clingy and protective over you. And, when you begin to feel upset or depressed, your cat might even come to comfort you in the most adorable ways – he might lick your face, rub his head on your legs, or lie on your lap. He is sure to stay close by your side.
3. Cats can sense changes in body temperature
Due to the fluctuating hormonal levels, pregnant women experience an increase in their core body temperature. There will be elevated blood flow to the skin, making the body feel warmer and sweat more than usual. The body temperature can reach between 98.6 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. And again, these temperature changes can be sensed by our feline friends.
A cat’s body temperature is normally around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly higher than our normal body temperature, and they are naturally drawn to warmer temperatures – whether from a wood stove, room heater, or sunlight. So, if your body temperature increases due to pregnancy, your cat will likely enjoy curling up beside you.
4. Cats are sensitive to new scents
Cats form a strong emotional bond with their favorite humans through scent. They will weave between your legs, headbutt you, or rub their cheek against you as they try to mark you with their pheromones.
A curious cat will soon notice the changes in your scent as you are carrying a new human in your belly. It is likely to make him want to “update” the household scent by marking you once again. So, if you are pregnant, expect your furry pal to be more affectionate as he rubs his head on your legs and arms.
5. Cats can hear the baby’s heartbeat
Cats are gifted with extremely sensitive hearing, far beyond the human’s hearing range. That is why you see your cat dashing out of the house or under your bed whenever he hears loud noises such as fireworks, alarms, vacuums, or noises from a construction site. It is part of his survival response.
With this hearing capability, it is possible for cats to hear a fetus’ heartbeat during the third trimester. Again, humans will not be able to hear this unless they use tools such as a stethoscope.
How cats behave when you are pregnant
1. They can become more affectionate
Cats tend to be more affectionate and loving toward their pregnant owners, for many reasons. They will purr, cuddle, and stay beside them as they sense the new life forming inside the womb. Many people believe that cats do this because they are being protective and loving toward their caretakers.
Another reason cats become clingy is because they have sensed that your body has become slightly warmer. Sometimes, they come to you without realizing that you are pregnant – they simply love cuddling now that you are warmer and more available than usual.
2. They can become aggressive
Not all felines become affectionate during their owner’s pregnancy. In fact, it can be the opposite: cats can behave inappropriately by showing aggression, scratching your furniture, or eliminating outside their litter box. And, for a pregnant woman who is going through so much, this situation can cause further stress and frustration.
The most common reason cats show such destructive behavior is anxiety. Sometimes, it is inevitable that you will neglect your cat when you are so occupied with preparing the home for your baby. Or perhaps the cat’s routine has been changed – you suddenly forget to clean his litter box or feed him at his usual meal time. Again, cats are creatures of habit and they do not take well to too many changes.
To avoid a chaotic situation, especially when the baby arrives, try to ensure that you do not make abrupt changes in your routine. Shower your cat with love and affection, and do not forget to provide him with his basic needs. A cat raised in a loving family will be more likely to reciprocate the affection of his owners.
How soon can cats sense pregnancy?
There is no definite answer as to how soon cats can detect their owner’s pregnancy. Every cat is unique, as are women – not everyone displays the same symptoms or changes during pregnancy.
Based on the experience of most cat owners, cats can generally sense you are pregnant in the third or fourth week. At this time, your feline friend will likely sense the changes in your body before they become obvious to you.
Ways to help your cat adjust
1. Do not change your routine
Territorial mammals like cats depend on predictability and routine to make them feel safe and confident. Even subtle alterations can already cause them stress and anxiety. Since our feline companions do not do well with any environmental changes, it is best that you stick to your normal daily routines – the time you wake up, your cat’s meal schedules, and cuddle and play sessions, among others.
When the baby arrives, however, your usual routine may no longer work as you prioritize your little human’s needs. You need to deal with these changes, but so does your cat. It can be very difficult for him at first, but if you maintain these new household routines, he should be able to adjust and feel comfortable with the new baby and environment.
2. Do not lavish too much attention on your cat
Having a new baby at home can change your priorities. That means you will have less time to spend with your furry companion as you are overwhelmed with the demanding role of parenthood. As much as you want to play and cuddle with your cat, soon your baby will take most of your time. From this moment on, you need to teach your cat to be a bit more independent by gradually limiting the attention you give him.
3. Introduce the cat to loud noise
Babies can be really noisy. Newborns can cry frequently, throughout the day and the night. On top of the crying and screaming, babies also make other noises such as gurgling, playing with toys, yelling, and others. All of these loud noises can be unbearable for an anxious cat.
For a smoother transition, it is best to prepare your cat before the baby arrives. Help him get used to baby noises by downloading some of these sounds online. Let the cat hear the noises as you give him treats and love. That way, it will be easier for him to form a positive association with these new, foreign sounds.
Another way is to get your cat accustomed to the noise of the vacuum cleaner, television, or loud music. This way, when the baby finally arrives, he is less likely to be startled by the noises.
4. Introduce the cat to baby items
Aside from the new sounds and noises, having a baby in the house can also come with a lot of baby stuff such as toys, crib, clothes, and blankets. All this newness can also be stressful for your cat, so it is best to get him accustomed to the new objects.
Before the baby arrives, let your furry friend explore the baby’s room and take a sniff at the new items. Turn on the lights and sounds coming from the toys, if possible. The cat will eventually explore the new room with heightened curiosity, and it is best that you follow this up with positive reinforcement. Give him treats and pet him as he explores the new environment – this should help him feel safe and confident about the changes.
Is it safe to be with cats during pregnancy?
Cat lovers who are soon to be parents may be worried about whether having a cat at home could somehow affect their baby’s health. They could be concerned about the cat laying on their pregnant stomach, the cat’s excess body heat, or even hygiene. The good news is, most of these concerns are just myths. Pregnant women should be perfectly fine cuddling with their fur babies without worrying about their baby’s health. Moreover, a cat that is well-trained and showered with love will less likely show any undesirable behavior throughout their human’s pregnancy.
However, there are two things you need to be cautious about when having cats at home while pregnant. These are:
- Toxoplasmosis – a parasitic infection that can be found in cat feces. If ingested during pregnancy, the parasite can lead to brain damage and birth defects in the unborn baby. To avoid infection, you must avoid cleaning the cat’s litter box if possible. Instead, ask a friend or family member to do it for you.
- Cat allergies, which can worsen during pregnancy due to a compromised immune system. If you are experiencing a mild allergy to cat dander, it is highly advisable to consult your doctor about the best treatments or solutions. Avoid taking medicines such as antihistamines without your doctor’s approval.
The bottom line
Cats are highly sensitive creatures and can easily pick any changes around them, whether it is the routine, the new scents, the baby’s faint heartbeat, or your body’s posture. With all of these changes going on, your cat can become more loving and protective, which feels amazing for a pregnant owner. They can become really clingy and will not tire of following you around the house. Take advantage of the moment and enjoy your kitty’s love!
However, it is important to try to gradually introduce the pregnancy to your cat. Start acclimatizing him to baby noises and baby stuff so that he does not get startled by the arrival of the new family member. If you have a loving relationship with your cat, he will likely show the same love and affection to your new baby.
Image: istockphoto.com / Marina Troynich