A Sixth Sense?! How Cats and Dogs React To Pregnancy

Young pregnant women with a sweet golden retriever.

You may have heard this story from other moms or experienced it yourself during your first pregnancy:  On what was otherwise a normal day, the family pet suddenly starts acting weird. For some reason, the dog won’t let anyone else around its human mom – not even her husband. Meanwhile, the cat is being uncharacteristically affectionate, curling up on the female owner’s belly – yet she still hisses when the man tries to pick her up. What’s going on?

The man and woman in this story realize they’re expecting a few weeks later, and that’s when the theories start flying. Do Rover and Mittens know mom is pregnant? Do they have some sort of sixth sense?

It’s not uncommon for pet owners-turned-parents to suspect their furry child has a psychic link to mom’s womb, clueing them into the presence of a baby before anyone even thinks of a pregnancy test. Here, we’ll delve into the science behind this phenomenon and share some cute stories of pets and newborns.

A pregnant woman holding a pet dog next to her belly.Pets can have a variety of reactions to your pregnancy.

Can dogs sense pregnancy?

Man’s best friend is surprisingly aware of changes in the human body. Some studies show dogs can be trained to detect cancer based on the smell of a human’s breath or urine. They also may be able to detect an oncoming seizure, although the research is inconclusive.

But can your pup double as a pregnancy test?

Turns out, your dog may be able to sense one pregnancy-related change before you can: your scent. Changes in your body chemistry alters you natural odor – a smell your dog knows very well. A slight shift tells your canine that something is up, although it may not know what exactly has changed.

In fact, most behavior changes occur after mom starts experiencing the visual and physical effects of pregnancy. This may cause the pup to change in kind. It may get more impatient with shorter walks or become overprotective – possibly to the point of being overbearing – of you and your developing child. Most dogs simply become more supportive, making sure you don’t exert yourself and eagerly anticipating the new baby.

Can cats sense pregnancy?

We expect unconditional love from dogs, but what about finicky felines? Cats can have an attitude about a different brand of food, so surely a new human in the home will shock their system.

While cats are more likely to vary in their reactions to pregnancy than dogs, they don’t necessarily become more aggressive.

“It’s harder to pinpoint the cause of behavior changes in cats.”

Is your cat more affectionate because you’re pregnant, or did it just take her seven years to realize that she loves you? Is she upset over the new baby or because you were late feeding her this morning?

As it turns out, cats learn that you’re pregnant the same way that dogs do: changes in your hormones. Some cats, like many dogs, become more protective and affectionate. Others act less rambunctious, as though they know that the last thing you want to deal with is claw marks on the couch. Your cat might even curl up on your belly while pregnant, though this may just be because you’re warm and comfy.

That said, cats may also get jealous of your incoming baby and start acting out.

Keeping pets calm during pregnancy

A pet can make pregnancy even more difficult, but there are steps you can take to make the situation as smooth as possible.

Your best course of action is to stick to a familiar routine as much as you can. Keep up the daily dog walks, and make sure your cat still gets lots of love. Pets are creatures of habit, and routines keep them comfortable even when other things change.

If this doesn’t work, you may need the help of a pet behaviorist. Check out some local mom forums or veterinarians for trainers with experience introducing pets to new babies.