Does your pet know your pregnant?
If you’re newly pregnant, you may have felt like your cat or dog can sense that you’re pregnant. Is this really possible?
Yes! Although your pet won’t have a conscious understanding that in 9 months time, a new baby will be joining the household, they will be able to pickup on a range of changes in your body chemistry, mood, behaviour and routine that let them know something major is going on. Dogs and cats are excellent at reading human body language, so they’ll notice when your posture and the way that you walk, sleep and so on all change. Changes in daily routine like extra naps, shorter walks or changed work hours will all be picked up by pets, too. They will also notice if other members of your family are treating you differently – if your partner changes his body language, for example.
Many pregnant pet owners talk about their dogs becoming more alert and protective of them right from the start of pregnancy, even to the extent of growling and blocking entry to other family members. Dogs may become very attentive – staying by the side of their pregnant human and really wanting to follow her absolutely everywhere (which can be a problem when you’re trying to get into a toilet umpteen times a day).
Cats are less likely to demonstrate these kinds of obvious behavioural changes. In usual cat style, your cat may even not care less about your impending bundle of joy, other than finding a pregnant belly a great place to curl up on. Keep giving your cat attention, though, as cats who feel rejected or shut out can start playing up with bad behaviours (like urinating on beds or in cupboards, which is absolutely not what you want right now). (By the way, remember that pregnant cat owners should be taking care with cat litter, due to toxoplasmosis risks).
Keep an eye on messages you send through body language – obviously you need to protect your bump, but also remember that placing hands over stomach or stepping back can be interpreted as closing off and rejection by a dog. Just give your dog an extra pat so they feel secure.
There are now many hospitals and councils around Australia who provide specialised information on preparing your pet for your new baby.
Check out this video by Brisbane City Council. You can find more information here.
Life is inevitably going to change with a new baby, maybe drastically, and pets can adapt to these changes with more ease than you expect. If you can, try to keep up some of the routines your pet looks forward to, like walks (or have someone else do this if you need to). The key is to keep giving them some of your love. Your pet will be a wonderful friend and companion to your new baby. Having pets during your pregnancy and afterward can be a wonderful thing for you and your baby. Studies have shown that having a pet can boost mood, help you avoid depression, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system and reduce a child’s chance of developing asthma and even help you live longer. So enjoy!