Does My Cat Know I'm Pregnant?
He'll cuddle up to your belly for the most interesting reason!
If you’re pregnant, you might have noticed your cat starting to act a bit differently when he’s around you.
You’re actually not crazy to notice this since cats are very aware of any changes that happen in the household (or to their human!), which can lead them to believe that something’s up.
Though “whether they can interpret this as pregnancy is highly unlikely,” Dr. Jonathan Roberts, a remote veterinarian from Excited Cats, told The Dodo.
The Dodo spoke with a few veterinarians to learn more about how cats can sense pregnancy, how they typically react and how you can prepare your cat for the baby’s arrival.
Cats notice a change in routine and behavior
Your cat is probably well aware of a lot of changes that are likely happening due to your pregnancy.
“Cats do pay attention to us — more than we give them credit for,” Dr. Sabrina Kong, a veterinary writer at We Love Doodles, told The Dodo. “And they can sense the change in our routine, behavior and movement, which can signal [to] them there’s something different about you.”
If you’re pregnant yourself, you might have had some changes to your routine, like a different work and sleep schedule. And you’re probably spending some time getting the baby’s room ready. Well, there’s a good chance your cat is noticing all of this.
“Cats are believed to rather pick up on new daily changes that alert them to something new,” Dr. Roberts said.
Your cat might also notice that you’re not acting like your usual self.
“Another possibility that can clue a cat in [on] a pregnant woman is a change in mood and behavior,” Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, told The Dodo. “During the early stages of pregnancy, a woman's mood and behavior can change due to the changing hormones, alerting a cat to a new change.”
All of these changes might not mean your cat knows that there’s a baby human inside of you, though — unless this has happened before.
“Cats notice the difference in smell and mood but most likely do not fully realize that a woman is pregnant unless this is a subsequent pregnancy,” Dr. Burch said.
Cats notice a change in your temperature
Another change your cat can pick up on is your physical temperature.
“Since pregnant women are warmer than usual, cats can sense it, and they might be more ready to cuddle and snuggle up with you,” Dr. Kong said.
According to Dr. Maureen K. Murithi, a veterinarian working with Hepper, your metabolism increases by 20 percent when you’re pregnant. “This increases the body temperature, which may make your fur baby want to snuggle up more. You may find them wanting to lie on your belly or sit next to you more often.”
Can cats smell pregnancy hormones?
Whether or not cats can sense hormonal changes once a woman becomes pregnant is still up for debate. Some vets are confident that cats have this ability, while others aren’t convinced.
“Contrary to popular belief, changing hormonal levels during pregnancy does not change a woman's smell or odor, and therefore pregnancy cannot be detected by a cat’s nose,” Dr. Roberts said.
According to some vets, the high levels of certain hormones produced during pregnancy can change the way you smell, which is noticeable to cats.
“Cats have a good sense of smell,” Dr. Murithi told The Dodo. “During pregnancy, hormonal changes take place with the body producing increasingly high amounts of progesterone, estrogen and human gonadotropin hormone, which can affect the body scent. Cats can pick up on this even before a confirmatory pregnancy test.”
How soon can cats sense pregnancy?
If your cat can detect hormonal changes, then he’ll be able to pick up on it pretty early on in a pregnancy. (Maybe even before you find out yourself!)
“The earliest that cats have [anecdotally] had behavioral changes around a pregnant woman is within the first few weeks of conception,” Dr. Burch said.
Signs your cat knows you're pregnant
Not all cats will act any differently if their human’s pregnant. But if your cat does have a reaction, the type of reaction he has will basically depend on your cat’s personality and how pregnant you are.
“Cats can react in several ways depending on your stage of pregnancy,” Dr. Roberts said. “Early mothers that are experiencing morning sickness or severe fatigue may notice their cats acting overly protective, while other cats can become extremely clingy as they sense a change in the household.”
“Behavioral signs that you may see in your cat when you become pregnant include increased affection for the pregnant woman or increased protection,” Dr. Burch added.
Some cats might go the opposite direction and act out a bit, which is possibly due to some feelings of FOMO.
“Sometimes cats can become extra annoying and destructive if they start to feel left out during the pregnancy,” Dr. Roberts said.
“Pets may also start to have inappropriate urination in the household,” Dr. Burch added.
How to prepare your cat for the new baby
There are some ways you can prepare your cat for your baby’s arrival to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Make any changes in advance
First, you’ll want to “slowly introduce new baby items and furniture to the house,” Dr. Roberts said, since any big, sudden changes might freak your cat out.
Also, “start closing doors or create barriers to rooms where you do not want your cat to roam or sleep when the baby arrives,” Dr. Roberts said. That way, he won’t be totally overwhelmed having to deal with being locked out and a new human sibling all at the same time.
“I recommend before the arrival of the newborn to the household [that] any changes to your cat's housing or schedule are made well in advance,” Dr. Burch said. “During these changes, be sure to use positive reinforcement to decrease any stress or anxiety your pet may be experiencing.”
So if you plan on locking your cat out of certain rooms before the baby’s arrival, for example, give him some treats when he tries to enter the room so he can have positive feelings about the change.
Another way to prepare your cat for a new baby is by desensitization (aka getting him familiar with babies) so he’s not as shook when the real thing comes.
One way to do this is by “playing recordings of different baby sounds to prepare them for the real thing,” Dr. Roberts said.
“If your cat suddenly hears these new noises when the baby comes home, this can create anxiety and stress,” Dr. Burch added.
If possible, getting your cat familiar with the new baby’s scent can also help. “After the baby is born but [while] mother and child are still in the hospital, have someone bring home a blanket or outfit the baby has worn or touched to your cat,”
Dr. Burch said. “Introducing your cat to the smell of the new baby will help make an association with the strange creature when it arrives in the house.”
Give your cat attention
“It’s important to focus on your cat during your pregnancy,” Dr. Kong said. “They can feel neglected and become anxious and frustrated, which can result in them peeing all over your house followed by a wide array of strange and unusual behaviors.”
If you give your cat adequate attention, he’ll most likely respond with loyalty to you and the new baby. “Chances are she’ll give you and your baby her full attention and protection,” Dr. Kong said.
You should also keep your cat physically and mentally stimulated by refreshing his supply of cat enrichment toys. “Such additions can include new interactive toys, a cat wheel, puzzle toys and cat trees,” Dr. Burch said.
Cats and pregnancy risks
There are some health risks associated with interacting with cats while pregnant, like toxoplasmosis and infections from cat bites. Here’s what you should know as a pregnant cat parent:
“While pregnant, there is a risk that toxoplasmosis contracted from your cat can harm your unborn baby,” Dr. Roberts said. However, “the risk of contracting this disease from your cat is actually relatively low.”
“Toxoplasmosis is transmitted from cat to human by fecal-oral transmission,” Dr. Burch added. “Accidental ingestion of the parasite can occur from cleaning a cat's litter box, touching or ingesting anything which has come in contact with infected feces, or accidentally eating contaminated soil.”
If you contract toxoplasmosis while pregnant, it can pose the following risks:
- Congenital disabilities
- Problems after baby is born
“To help prevent the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis, a pregnant woman should not be responsible for cleaning the litter box,” Dr. Burch said. “If a woman must clean the litter box, I recommend wearing gloves and washing their hands immediately after cleaning. Also, keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of transmission of the parasite to your cat.”
Cat bite infections
Cat bites can pose another health risk to pregnant women. “Cat bites are dangerous to all humans but can be especially dangerous to pregnant women who are limited with the medication they are allowed to take,” Dr. Burch said.
A bite from a cat, if deep enough, can create an infection that can be deadly if not treated.
“Cat bites create deep puncture wounds, which rapidly seal over and trap bacteria from the cat's mouth under the skin,” Dr. Burch said. “One of the more common and highly pathogenic bacteria found in a cat's mouth is Pasteurella multocida, which can lead to redness, swelling, pain, cellulitis [aka an infection] and septicemia [aka severe cellulitis].”
“To help prevent cat bites, I recommend that a pregnant woman not handle an aggressive, feral or unknown cat,” Dr. Burch said.
If your cat starts becoming aggressive during pregnancy and has a tendency to bite, you should discuss behavior modification with your vet.
“Suppose during pregnancy a pet starts to become more agitated or aggressive towards the owner,” Dr. Burch said. “In that case, I recommend a veterinarian visit to discuss potential options to decrease this behavior and keep the woman safe.”
While there’s no scientific proof that cats can detect pregnancy in humans, it’s still very possible. Just be sure to pay lots of attention to your cat during pregnancy and introduce any new changes as slowly as possible for a smooth, stress-free transition for your cat.