Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have two cats, an 8-year-old female and an 8-month-old male. I am pregnant and due in less than 2 weeks. Since I’ve become pregnant, my female cat tended to avoid me; it got a little worse when we got the male. They’ve since gotten used to each other. The male kitten play fights a lot with the female, but in the past week the male kitten has started acting out with me. Shortly after his outbursts, the female attacks him. They are both acting aggressively out of character toward each other. The male kitten sniffs me obsessively and won’t let me go to the bathroom alone, but then he runs from me when he usually jumps in my lap and lets me pet him. What could the problem be? Can they sense I am going to go into labor real soon?
Siouxsie: Well, Melody, it wouldn’t surprise us if your cats could sense that you’re about to have your baby. But your cats could be getting agitated for other reasons, too.
Thomas: First of all, you smell different.
Dahlia: As you know, your body is changing as you get ready for labor and delivery. You may be starting to secrete colostrum, and perhaps having a small amount of vaginal discharge. Your cats, with their incredibly sensitive noses, can smell these secretions even if no human can.
Siouxsie: It’s quite possible that the pheromones you emit are changing in character and your body chemistry is changing as you get ready to have your baby. Again, humans can rarely detect these things, but we cats can.
Thomas: Your female cat might be fighting with the male because she’s having an instinctive reaction to another female’s pregnancy. Even spayed females have some wiring in their brain that relates to labor and delivery. She may be “defending” you against the male cat because in the wild, that behavior is necessary in order to keep kittens healthy.
Dahlia: Your cats might also be reacting to the changes in their environment. You’ve probably brought in new furniture, such as a changing table or a cradle. You may even have redecorated an entire room for use as the baby’s nursery.
Siouxsie: You might have more friends and relatives coming over as you prepare for the birth, and if you had a baby shower you may now have piles of diapers, baby soaps and powder, baby clothes, and the like. You may also have made that nursery room off-limits to the cats.
Thomas: Cats are just as sensitive to changes in their environment as they are to changes in their humans. Environmental changes are extremely stressful for cats; they don’t know what’s going on, all they know is that all this new weird stuff is going on.
Dahlia: If the amount of attention and affection you and your family have been giving your cats has changed, this could be another stressor.
Siouxsie: The best thing you can do is to keep your cats’ life as consistent as possible given the major upheaval all of you are going to be experiencing very soon. After the birth, you’re probably not going to have the time and energy for much beyond taking care of the baby, but try to pay as much attention to the cats as you can. Encourage your family to do the same.
Thomas: A feline pheromone diffuser might help your cats to stay calmer through this major transition. These are available at pet stores, vets’ offices, and online pet supply outlets.
Dahlia: Best of luck to you and your kitties as you enter an amazing new stage of life. Please let us know how the new baby is doing and give us an update on how the cats are acclimating to their life with their new baby brother or sister.