Cats, Dogs and Human Pregnancy ….

“Do pets have a sixth sense that can detect pregnancy before humans do?” is a question that has been asked many times. Animal behavioural experts would say yes, but rather than it being down to a sixth sense, it’s more attributable to their astonishing sense of smell.

Humans have about 5 million olfactory receptors, the things that let us detect smells; cats have an impressive 45-80 million of these receptors, which puts our noses woefully to shame. However, the title of champion nose has to go to the Canine world, paws down! Fido averages a mind boggling 149-300 million olfactory receptors in his snozz; impressive or what?! Little wonder that dogs are being increasingly trained as medical detection professionals.

A woman’s hormones change drastically during pregnancy;

her body produces significantly more Oestrogen, Chorionic Gonadotrophin, and Progesterone than in its non-pregnant state. Research suggests that it is these higher levels of hormones (biological chemicals) that your pet senses, much like the medical detection dogs I mentioned above that can detect tumours or an impending crisis in diabetic individuals.

 

Your pet will also be very aware of the normal rhythm of the house it inhabits; like us, cats and dogs have routines and habits of their own, and notice subtle changes to them. It may be trivial things such as who cleans and changes the litter tray, or it can be bigger things like “mum” not walking the dog so much, or letting their pet on their lap anymore.

Dogs especially have been noted to be on “high alert” and become their pregnant owners 24/7 personal bodyguard;

which is all well and good if it’s a stranger around, not so great when it’s their partner/spouse.

Cats are more independent creatures generally, but changes to their behaviour have been documented too. Moggies that have previously been noted for their aloofness suddenly become their pregnant owners best furry bud, and some have found that the growing baby bump makes a great place to indulge in a cat nap – pun intended 🙂

It is important to note however that cat faeces should be avoided at all costs by pregnant ladies. Diseases such as Toxoplasmosis may cause problems with the pregnancy. Pregnant ladies should always wash their hands thoroughly after handling their cats.

A friend of mine was the centre of her dog’s world; a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a breed that have the nickname of “Nanny Dog” thanks to their affinity with their small human charges. “Spike” seemed to know she was pregnant early on (before she started to show), and would follow her incessantly as if to make sure that she was always ok. This progressed to lying with her on the sofa in the later, heavier stages of pregnancy when she needed more rests. On one occasion the baby moved in response to the pressure of Spike’s muzzle on mum-to-be’s belly, and apparently the look of surprise on his face when baby kicked was priceless!

On a more serious note, it is important to consider your pets’ feelings ahead of babys arrival into the family. Nobody likes to feel left out, do they? Think back to when you were young and your school friend went to play with someone else, and you felt pushed out. Maybe you said or did something to show your hurt and displeasure? Well, if you don’t prepare Kitty or Fido, they could display some unwanted behaviour too. Tiddling inside the house, scratching or chewing at soft furnishings, and aggressive traits such as hissing, barking or nipping can all be signs that your fur-baby is less than impressed with the current situation.

If you have any worries or concerns that your pet won’t adapt well or that you don’t know how to help them, just give the team at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre a call.

Many of the SLVC staff members have experienced this for themselves first-hand, and we are more than happy to pass on tips and guidance.

The key to reducing stress for your pet is to keep routines as normal as possible, and involve them as much as you can; letting them see the nursery and the associated furniture, for example. When you’re enjoying baby snuggles, stroke Kitty or Pooch too if you can. The dogs in this scenario are going to be onto a winner purely because new baby = pram/buggy, which equates to more walkies; great for the new parents and baby, great for Fido. Win-Win.

At the end of the day, this is a period of change for all members of the family, whether they have fur or not, so any efforts to smooth into the transition can only be good. Having a dog or cat in our lives has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure, and balance our moods – all of which can improve our health and life expectancy. Growing up with a pet provides children with a companion, unconditional love, and compassion for other living souls; who wouldn’t want to give their loved ones that?

If you have any tales of your pets’ behaving differently during your pregnancy then please feel free to share them with us, we always love to hear your stories.

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy  🙂