Can a cat tell if you are pregnant?
Can Cats Sense Pregnancy?
Mother’s Day is around the corner, which made us wonder: Can cats sense pregnancy? It may sound like an old wives’ tale; indeed, there is no reliable scientific evidence to validate this odd sort of sixth sense. However, many a cat mom can offer her own anecdote about how a pet’s behavior changed after she became pregnant. Let’s explore why that might be, and how you can help your cat adjust to your pregnancy.
How can cats sense pregnancy?
They pick up on body language and mood
Even with all their napping, cats are characteristically alert. Some would call them experts at reading body language and mood, especially when it comes to their “preferred” (read: favorite) human. As one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is fatigue, your cat will probably react to the fact that you’re resting more often (hello, cat naps!) and that you’re—understandably—a little moodier or more emotional. Even a slight change in body posture may attract your cat’s attention.
They have an excellent sense of smell
Cats have an even stronger sense of smell than many dog breeds do. As Flo Health explains, “During pregnancy, [a woman] experiences profound changes in her hormonal levels, when her body begins producing more progesterone, estrogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormones. These changes in her hormonal levels can affect her personal scent.”
In fact, this keen sense of smell has shown that sometimes cats sense pregnancy even before women do. For instance, an anecdote featured on The Dodo relays how a woman named Lisa adopted a cat that much preferred her husband’s company over her own—until one day the cat began meowing at her, seeking her affection, and constantly curling up with her as she slept. Days later, Lisa found out she was pregnant.
They seek out warmth
During the first trimester, a woman’s basal body temperature may rise slightly. As cats’ internal body temperature is a toasty 102 degrees Fahrenheit, they have to compensate for greater heat loss than us humans. So, cats tend to seek out heat—especially if it’s radiating from someone with whom they already enjoy cuddling.
Help your cat adjust to your pregnancy
Cats are creatures of habit, so it’s important to give them the same love and attention during your pregnancy. Sometimes when cats sense pregnancy, they may even act more protective toward you. Stick to your regular routine for as long as you can to avoid your cat developing behavioral problems. If a cat feels neglected, he may act aggressively or begin urinating outside of the litter box. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, talk to your partner or enlist a friend’s help to maintain an ideal routine for your cat.
Due to toxoplasmosis concerns, you shouldn’t scoop the litter box while pregnant. If you were primarily the one who cleaned the litter box before and are concerned your cat will negatively react to this, you can hover in the same room as your partner, friend, or child takes over the litter box duties. Or, if you have a self-cleaning Litter-Robot, you don’t need to worry about scooping at all! Just make sure someone else empties the waste drawer when it becomes full.
Before the baby arrives, start acclimating your cat to the idea of a baby in the house: Help him get comfortable with a baby’s crying and other sounds by playing recordings online, and introduce him to a friend’s or family member’s baby if possible.
Finally, when the day comes for you to officially introduce your cat and baby, be calm. Being an astute reader of mood and body language, your cat is more likely to react well to this strange bundle of joy if you remain patient and encouraging. In all likelihood, you’re in for a beautiful relationship—read more about why cats are the best pets for kids!
How to Tell if My Cat Is Pregnant?
Pet parents are often curious about how to tell whether or not their cat is pregnant, and what to do if she is. Today, our Redmond vets discuss how you can tell if your cat is pregnant and how to prepare for kittens.
Pregnancy in Cats
Did you know that if your kitten is unspayed, she can go into heat and become pregnant as young as 4 months old? This can be dangerous for the young queen (the term for a pregnant cat) and the kittens. If your kitten or cat is not spayed and left unsupervised or lives with intact (unneutered) male cats, she can become pregnant without you knowing.
If you do not wish your cat to have litters of kittens, our vet team strongly recommends having your pet spayed. This prevents unwanted litters of kittens, and can also help to prevent several health conditions in your cat.
How to Tell if Your Cat Is Pregnant
- If your cat tolerates it, gently palpating (feeling along) your cat’s belly can sometimes be helpful but isn’t always correct
- The cat’s belly will grow bigger and rounder about a month after mating, and their nipples will also become darker and redder
- Fatigue, though this should pass after a few weeks
- A sudden increase in appetite, especially when combined with the above signs
- Although unusual, some cats experience ‘morning sickness’ as human parents do; this can appear in the form of nausea/lack of appetite
For a more accurate look at your cat’s pregnancy status, your veterinarian has access to several diagnostic methods and tools. They can use ultrasound to confirm the presence of kittens 16 days into gestation, though it cannot determine how many kittens your cat is carrying.
X-rays can give an idea of the number of kittens, but isn’t always accurate and isn’t safe for the unborn kittens until 42 days into gestation — at earliest. Ideally, X-rays aren’t taken of pregnant cats until they are past 55 days of pregnancy.
How Long Cats Are Pregnant For
As mentioned above, kittens can get pregnant as young as 4 months old. Unspayed female cats can go into heat every 2 — 3 weeks from springtime through the autumn, which means that they can get pregnant and birth kittens rapidly — and they can start having litters as young as 6 months old themselves.
Cats are usually pregnant for about 2 months (63-65 days), but further diagnosis (e.g. an examination from a veterinarian) may be needed to determine how far along she is, how many kittens she is carrying, and identify any potential health risks or problems.
Preparing for Your Cat’s Pregnancy & Her Kittens!
Like many other species of animal, your pregnant cat will likely need extra food to remain healthy and strong until she gives birth, which means more access to healthy calories. Expect your cat to eat about 1.5 times as much as they usually would, especially nearer to when your vet has determined she may give birth. It’s also likely that your vet will recommend you feed your cat kitten food or food for pregnant and lactating cats, both during the pregnancy itself and while they are feeding their kittens.
Like newborn babies, new kittens are vulnerable to viruses and conditions that can spread from the mother, so it’s important to keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date. Check with your vet to see if scheduled vaccines or other preventive medicines are safe for your pregnant cat.
Getting Ready for the ‘Big Day’
Although the following are useful tips for making your home a comfortable and inviting place for your cat to have her kittens — cats will ultimately do what they want. If your cat decides to give birth in your bathtub, under your bed, or in your laundry basket, being ready to support the new mother and her tiny kittens are going to come in handy.
If your cat is indoor and outdoor, keep her indoors closer to her due date to ensure that she doesn’t go into labor somewhere unsafe where you can’t find her.
About 2 weeks before the kittens are due, your cat’s behavior might change into ‘nesting mode’; you can help by finding cozy areas around the house that could be a good birthing spot for your cat. The selected areas should be quiet, dry, and clean.
You can place a medium- to medium-large box with walls low enough to contain the new kittens and allow you to observe your cat and kittens without disturbing them too much during their first days. To make the box or nesting area cozy, ‘furnish’ it with newspapers, old towels, and soft blankets to create a relaxing area for the mother and kittens.
You should place the nesting box in a quiet corner of your house. Let your pregnant cat visit it often, before the birth, so they get used to the area and feel comfortable.
For more experienced cat owners, some more hints that their cat may be getting ready to go into labor includes a cessation in eating about 24 hours before and their temperature drops under 100ºF. Get ready to greet some tiny bundles of joy — our vet team can’t wait to see them for their very first check-ups!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.