Cats sense human pregnancies based on changes in body temperature, body odor, and behavior.
Besides picking up on these signals, cats can also hear a baby’s heartbeat inside the womb.
Some cats that know you’re pregnant may become more affectionate, but others may distance themselves from you if you change their environment or routine.
Slowly get your cat used to your pregnancy and the baby by exposing your pet to baby products and playing recordings of baby sounds.
Risks of keeping a cat when pregnant include allergies, bites and scratches, and toxoplasmosis.
Can a cat tell that their pet owner is pregnant? If they do, how exactly do they tell? Does your cat’s behavior change if they notice you’re pregnant? The answers to these questions, and others, are in this article — so keep reading!
How Can Cats Sense Human Pregnancies?
Pregnancy influences women differently based on such factors as their age and whether it is their first pregnancy. As an extremely intelligent animal with almost super-powered senses, cats pick up on a number of clues that even you might not notice. In fact, they may know you're pregnant before you do.
Everything changes when you’re pregnant, and your cat picks up on these signs as early as three to four weeks into your pregnancy. Not only does a woman's body odor change when she is pregnant, she also behaves differently. From morning sicknesses to preferring to relax rather than engage in overly strenuous activities. These changes in routine help a cat tell that their human is pregnant.
Cats have approximately 200 million odor senses — 100 million more than dogs. On average, a cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than a human's. This means they are able to understand when there are chemical changes inside a pregnant woman's body.
Some hormone levels change in people when they become pregnant. These include progesterone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), prolactin, relaxin, and estrogen.
Progesterone levels increase to allow the uterus to maintain the pregnancy after the egg is fertilized. The hCG hormone, used to detect pregnancies in rapid urine and blood tests, stimulates a part of the ovary to continue producing progesterone throughout the pregnancy.
Relaxin and prolactin are essential hormones for future labor, delivery, and milk production. Estrogen ensures the baby develops normally, balances other hormone levels, and regulates blood flow. Estrogen is essential for the development of the milk ducts.
Body odors change when so many hormones increase or decrease, so this is the first sign your cat picks up on.
Changes in Body Temperature
While the average human body temperature is 98 degrees F, females can be slightly hotter or colder at specific times during their pregnancies. At about 12 weeks into the pregnancy, most females have a body temperature of 99.5 degrees F. By the 33rd week, many have a dip in body temperature to just 96 degrees F.
It might seem strange that this subtle change alerts your cat to a much bigger change on the horizon. If your cat glues themselves to your body when you watch TV together, they notice a change in your body temperature.
Daily Routine Changes
Pregnancies are notorious for morning sickness. Nausea results from fast-rising hCG levels. This means you’re more likely to be in the bathroom around your cat’s breakfast time.
If you’re making plans for your delivery and the baby, you’re likely changing your decor, baby-proofing your home, and adding a range of new items to your house. These things don’t escape a cat’s keen sense of observation.
Pregnant people don’t tend to clean their cats’ litter boxes, either because they’re too sensitive to the smell or because they want to protect themselves and their babies from toxoplasmosis — an infection from a parasite in cat feces that can be passed to the baby in the womb. This is another change in routine that your cat notices.
Cats Can Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat
According to a 2023 article by Hidden Hearing, a cat's sense of hearing is about three times more powerful than a human's. Humans and cats share the same low-frequency limit of 20 Hz, but while people hear sounds of up to 20,000 Hz, their feline companions hear up to a frequency of 64,000 Hz.
This means that if the doctor can hear your baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope, your cat probably hears it too — with no 'scope needed.
How to Tell if Your Cat Knows You’re Pregnant
Every pet is different, so their reactions may differ greatly depending on their feelings about your pregnancy. In most cases, female cats tend to become more affectionate and start to appreciate spending even more time with their owner.
It’s also possible that your cat becomes more protective of you, trying to shield you from any potential attack. Cats think differently than us, so even a hug or a kiss from another human may be interpreted as aggression if your pet knows you’re pregnant.
Some cats become more clingy, following their guardians from one room to the next — sometimes not even giving them space to use the bathroom without causing a scene. The concept of personal space is no longer known to these cats.
Not all cats react in a positive way when it comes to pregnancies. Due to the multiple changes in their routines, they may become stressed or develop destructive behaviors such as attacking the furniture, refusing to use the litter box, or neglecting to drink or eat.
Is It a Good Idea to Be Close to Your Cat When You’re Pregnant?
Spending time with your cat during your pregnancy is just as healthy as owning and caring for any pet. If you are a cat person and you’ve had them for some time, you know they depend on you for their health and well-being. Now is not the time to avoid them.
Yes, you must take your cat to the vet’s for a check-up before getting pregnant and after, just to be safe. If everything is fine, try to keep your cat close to you as much as possible. Pregnant women experience many hormone level changes, so they’re sometimes emotional, sad, or overwhelmed. Caring for a cat improves your mood, reduces the frequency of depressive episodes, and lowers your blood pressure.
There are risks associated with caring for a cat when you’re pregnant. They include:
Allergens such as pet hair and dander
Bites and scratches
Unpredictable cat behaviors
Toxoplasmosis and other parasites
Carefully consider these factors and understand whether or not you are able to circumvent them — for your sake, your baby's, and your cat's. Something as relatively minor as a bite or a scratch means a lot when you are pregnant because cats carry dangerous microorganisms in their mouths. To be safe, avoid rough play with your cat unless you want to deal with a potentially severe infection when pregnant.
Getting Your Cat Adjusted to Your Pregnancy and the Baby
Cats are creatures of habit and love having the same things in the same places. They love to change things up a bit now and then, but not in a dramatic way and almost always on their terms. Sudden changes lead to anxiety or stress, which cats experience very quickly.
To get your pet used to the idea that there’s a baby on the way that will share the same living space with them, here’s what to do:
Gradually introduce baby products into your environment so the cat takes note and is accustomed to them before your baby is born.
Play recordings of baby sounds so your cat learns the frequencies and isn’t shocked when they hear them for the first time.
Isolate the baby’s room from the rest of your home to prevent the two from making an acquaintance too early. It’s possible to use sticky tape for this purpose.
After the baby is born, slowly introduce the two to each other, ensuring the cat is supervised and doesn’t react unpredictably.
Bad Cat Reputation – Toxoplasmosis
It’s unfair that cats are the only animals known to carry toxoplasmosis. Believing that only cats transmit the disease is a common misconception. They're responsible for around 50 percent of human infections. The other 50 percent come from eating undercooked meat contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii or from other animals carrying the parasites that humans come in contact with.
Toxoplasma is eliminated through a cat’s feces, so handling your cat’s waste by cleaning their litter box is the primary source for contracting the parasite from your pet.
Because of the very real threat of this parasitic infection, if you’re planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, you must test your pet and yourself for toxoplasmosis. An infection can lead to a miscarriage or fetal health issues and disabilities.
Even if your cat tests negative, avoid handling their litter box in any form. This is even more important if you allow your cat to go outdoors because of the chances of them getting the parasite from other animals. Indoor-only cats have much lower risks, so consider keeping your cat inside the home during your pregnancy.
How Bad Is Toxoplasmosis?
Contracting toxoplasmosis during the first trimester poses the highest risk because this is when the most important fetal development occurs. However, there’s a lower chance of the infection crossing the placental barrier and actually reaching the fetus.
If you get toxoplasmosis in the third trimester of your pregnancy, you have a 60 to 80 percent chance of passing it to your baby through the placenta. In this case, the risk for the baby is lower because most important organs have already developed.
How Common Is Toxoplasmosis?
A 2023 article by HealthNews.com reports the likelihood of getting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy in the U.S. is 2-10 in 1,000. The odds of having a baby affected by the parasite infection are 1-2 in 10,000. While it isn’t a certainty your cat may give you toxoplasmosis when you’re pregnant, be as careful as possible.
Some of the most common clinical signs experienced by people with toxoplasmosis are:
Inflammation of lymph nodes
Keeping the Bond Strong
Here are the major "fun facts" and the "not so fun fact" in this article. Cats sense human pregnancies as early as three to four weeks following conception through changes in your body odors and behavior and by hearing the baby’s heartbeat. Toxoplasmosis is a potentially serious infection transmitted through handling cat feces, so you must get your cat tested for this parasite before and during your pregnancy. Avoid handling their litter until after delivery, even if they test negative.
As a pet owner, you have a connection with your cat that only you truly understand. Pregnancy is a major event in any person’s life and calls for many significant changes in your life and household — but your cat can be right by your side, supporting you.
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