Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I am expecting my first child and have been in the early stage of labor for about the last three days. I’ve noticed recently that my eldest kitty is increasingly clingy, meows much more frequently, and follows me around the house like a shadow. She absolutely insists on being in whatever room I’m in now, including the bathroom. It doesn’t bother me at all; in fact I find it quite endearing because I feel like she’s worried about me. I’m curious if kitties can actually tell what’s going on with their humans in this regard though or if I’m perhaps anthropomorphizing her actions. Elsa is very healthy and active still, just much more ‘Mama’ oriented and demanding of attention. Is there anything I should be aware of as my labor progresses?
Siouxsie: We cats absolutely can tell when something huge is going on!
Thomas: As we’re sure you know, when a human is about to have a baby, there are lots of changes in your hormones, which produce subtle changes in your pheromones.
Bella: You can’t consciously sense those pheromones, but your cat sure can!
Siouxsie: Your doctor probably told you that as you start your labor, you’ll start producing lots of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone tells your body to start producing breast milk and it drives the labor process.
Thomas: Your body also starts producing more endorphins, which are the body’s natural opiates. These endorphins help you to manage your pain while you’re in labor.
Bella: Your body may also be producing a lot of adrenalin, which is the “fight or flight” hormone. If you’re feeling really stressed out or worried about the birth, or if there are stressful things going on in your home, your body will produce too much adrenalin. This can slow or even stop your labor, so you want to produce as little adrenalin as possible.
Siouxsie: I wonder if your eldest cat had some kittens of her own at some point. That would probably contribute to her desire to follow you around and protect you. Also, if you’re feeling stressed, she may be trying to make sure you’re as calm as possible.
Thomas: I’ve never met a pregnant kitty. I wonder what their pheromones are like.
Bella: I’ve never met one either. Mama, can we go meet some pregnant cats (and maybe some pregnant people)? Will you get pregnant so we can find out what it’s like?
Mama: Sorry to disappoint you, Bella, but I’m not planning to get pregnant any time soon — or any time ever, for that matter. If I did that, I wouldn’t have time to give you lots of affection and petties because I’d be so busy with the baby.
Bella: Oh! Okay, well, don’t get pregnant, then. I want you to take care of me!
Siouxsie: I’ve met a couple of pregnant people before. They do smell different when they’re pregnant than they do when they’re not, and I’m sure they smell even more different when they’re just about to have their baby.
Thomas: Long story short — even if you don’t believe in cats being able to telepathically sense what’s going on, we do respond to physical changes in your body chemistry, and on an instinctive level, I’m sure your eldest kitty knows it’s because you’re about to have a baby.
Bella: You know, cats can be trained to sense other biochemical changes, which can help them to be able to do things like detect seizures before they start or to sense if diabetic people’s blood sugar readings are too high or low. Cats have been known to wake their people if they have heart fibrillation. You hear a lot about dogs doing this, but there are plenty of medical-alert cats, too.
Siouxsie: We hope your labor and delivery goes smoothly, that you and your baby are super-healthy and form a wonderful bond that will last through both of your lifetimes. And we know your eldest cat will also get to be your baby’s buddy, too.
Thomas: Please let us know how everything turned out, and how your eldest kitty and all your furry friends react well to your new family member.
Bella: How about you other readers? Did your cats react when you got pregnant or when you were starting your labor? We’re really curious! And did your cats turn out to like the baby? Please share your stories in the comments; I’m sure Erica will be glad to hear them too.