The result of my research indicates to me that there is a tendency for domestic cats to change their behaviour and become more loving or clingy towards the woman who is their owner when that woman is pregnant. That’s the general trend that I get in my research from reading all of the forum entries on this very topic on the mumsnet.com website together with the advice of an obstetrician and gynaecologist.
I don’t think I could have chosen a better website for this research. Although it has to be said the picture isn’t clear. On some occasions there was no difference to domestic cat behaviour when their owner became pregnant. It does appear though that domestic cats sense a change and it may be because the woman smells different when pregnant. My personal opinion is that this is a major factor (see more below). Domestic cats have incredibly sensitive smell and, for example, they can sense when a person is dying or that appears to be the case. Sorry to bring in a morbid topic which is at the other end of the spectrum since we are talking about giving birth rather than the end of life.
But once again people who are dying smell differently it seems to me and cats pick this up. One woman said that her cat originally belonged to her husband and was antagonistic towards her but became friendly when she was pregnant. She believes that it must be a “pheromone thing”. I get that. What she means is that it is to do with the scent emanating from her which transformed her cat from one who hated her to becoming “very friendly even just [after being] a few days pregnant.”
Another said that, “cats definitely sense something, probs the hormones”. She wondered whether it was just female cats who were able to sense this difference. I can’t answer that question. I would doubt it though. Another lady said that, “My cats definitely knew what was going on, they are all girls and some had kittens previously so pregnancy, birth and babies are nothing mysterious to them.”
It seems that being ‘clingy’ is one behavioural change. I saw this word used quite a few times on the forum. One woman said, “my cat was very clingy when I was pregnant. Loved my bump. Other cats were the same around me.”
That said, another woman remarked, “My cats weren’t really any different through pregnancy or when I had a new baby.”
The scent of pregnant women
There is an interesting Independent newspaper article about how husbands react to their pregnant wife’s smell when pregnant. This confirms that pregnant women smell different and they state that, “It is possible that the smell that is given off by pregnant women may make their partners more engaged fathers.”
Miriam Greene, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at New York University Langone Medical Centre said on the parents.com website, “Your whole aura changes when you’re pregnant, and that includes your personal aroma”. She puts this down to sweat glands being more active which intensifies body odour. She believes that the pregnant woman is the only person who notices it but it would be surprising if cats didn’t as well.
A pregnant woman’s breath can smell different because the configuration of the oesophagus and stomach changes which allows the smell from gastric juices to rise up into the mouth. The pH balance of the “lady bits” changes altering the scent which is no doubt picked up by domestic cats.
Another factor as to whether the cat reacts will be the character of the individual cats concerned. I think it’s quite reasonable to believe that individual cats will have a different responses to the change that is taking place within their cat caretaker. Some may be interested and some might not. It’s probably fairly certain that everyone of them will see and smell the difference.