Sadly, there is little to no scientific evidence to support the theory that pets have an innate ability to “sense” when their owner is pregnant. With many pet owners with social and affectionate pets, such as cats and dogs, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that these animals seem capable of picking up on the changes in the people and the environment around them. Animals are very observant, so does it come as any surprise that they may notice a difference in their gestating owner?
Stories from Pet Owners
” I had a neighbor dog sense before I went into labor. He ‘camped out’ on my front porch for a week!” -Jessica
“ We have a sugar glider. When I was first pregnant, she stopped sleeping on my chest and moved down toward where my baby was quietly growing. She did this until he was large enough to move and disrupt her slumber and then she didn’t want anything to do with me at all.” -Lehia M.
“ Come to think of it, my dog always was by me more at first.” -Samantha D.
” My dog Chloe was very attentive to me. She gave me extra love, followed me around and sensed my emotions. Sometimes I felt she was the mommy. She definitely knew my baby was inside me. She had also never been that protective of me before.” -Heidi C.
“My 10 year old Rottweiler has always had a protective streak. She’ll stand with her body crossed in front of mine, silently facing down whatever she currently views as a threat, which, while I was pregnant included other dogs (who might jum p on me), anyone moving too fast, stairs. Labor (or in my case kidney stone and labor) pains were met with a sympathetic head in the lap… but she really blossomed after I had the baby! Her normal sleeping space was abandoned in favor of sleeping near the edge of the bed, just in case baby fell (or later, needed a step stool), always ready with a nose under the behind to assist with crawling or walking exploration, fistfuls of hair donated to the “learning to be mobile” stage, and kisses, kisses, kisses! she even plays lifeguard out by the pool, no running!” -Emily Z.
“ My neighbors dog walked in circles around me all morning. I kept telling the crazy dog to go home. When the owner left with the dog, I shut the garage door and my water broke.” -Jennifer W.
“ My cat was on my belly every second of the day. It was kind of strange for him. Then, after I had the baby, he stopped doing it, so it must have been because I was pregnant.” -Christi B.
“My cat, Cookie, had always been somewhat anti-social. She didn’t like strangers or new people, but she’d play and cuddle with my husband and I. When I got pregnant, she seemed like she hated me! She wouldn’t come anywhere near me and if I attempted to go to her, she’d dart off and hide! It was like she was mad at me.” -Trisha L.
” My dog was extra sweet and gentle with me” -Dixie J.
“I had a chihuahua for a few years. She was the sweetest thing ever, until I found out I was pregnant. All of a sudden she was having accidents everywhere (she had always been potty-trained, hardly ever any accidents) and she would growl and bare her teeth at me. We had to rehome her.” -Brianna T.
” My golden retriever became even more clingy, and he liked to nuzzle my belly. He would lay his head in my lap, when I was sitting, with his nose on my belly.” -Barbi C.
“ Our Lucy (American Bulldog) began trying to sleep under the blankets with her head on my belly or directly between my legs. I was on bed rest from 10 weeks and Lucy would bark from the bed (instead of running to the other room to check it out). She stuck to me and growing Maxx like glue!!!” -Regina M.
My Own Experiences
I didn’t have pets when I was pregnant with my first two children, but by the time I got pregnant with our third, we had two cats; a seven-year-old male named Blueberry and a one-year-old female named DeeDee. Blueberry was always extremely sociable and loved everyone and anyone who would pay attention to him, while DeeDee was more reserved, saving her social interactions for just my husband and I along with our two children. On normal days, both Blueberry and DeeDee played during the night, occasionally visiting our bedroom to check in on us while we were sleeping. Sometimes they’d lay at the end of our bed, which we didn’t mind! They were like little heaters for our feet on cold Alaskan nights!
When I was around ten to twelve weeks pregnant, DeeDee migrated from the foot of our bed at night, to right up under the covers and next to my belly. She would press her head on my stomach and just purr. I remember thinking it was strange, and I even mentioned it to her vet in conversation and her vet said it was possible that she might be able to hear the baby’s heart beat!
From that point on, both Blueberry and DeeDee became more possessive and protective of me; constantly wanting to cuddle. They would both take turns ‘guarding’ me at night, keeping their ears perked and eyes peeled at night for any signs of danger.
How Can Pets “Sense” Pregnancy?
There is little to no scientific proof stating that animals can sense their owners pregnancies, however, with this phenomenon happening to such a large amount of pet owners, very few dispute it’s validity. There is some debate on whether or not animals are able to sense the pregnancy in the sense that they know there will be a new baby, versus simply sensing changes in their caretakers. Here are some possible reasons animals may be able to ‘sense’ their owner’s pregnancy.
Scent & Pheromones
The sense of smell is much higher in animals, such as dogs or cats, than it is humans. While pregnant, hormone levels shift drastically from what they were prior to pregnancy. There hormone shifts affect the pheromones (scents) that the woman releases. Although we, as humans, can’t recognize or distinguish these scents, animals can and they may notice a change in your scent.
Posture & Body Mechanics
When a woman becomes pregnant, her posture and body mechanics change drastically over the course of nine months, however, these changes occur slowly, week to week. Pets are very observant creatures; they have to be or they wouldn’t ever survive in the wild. Because of their keen observation, they may notice changes in how their owner is moving, sitting or standing.
Animals are able to hear things that humans are not. This heightened sense of hearing is why high frequency whistles, that sound silent to humans, are able to be effectively used during the training of an animal; they can hear it and the noise is irritating to them. This same heightened sense of hearing may also allow them to hear the heart beat of a growing and developing baby through their owner’s stomach.
Animals know when someone or something is getting more attention than usual. Pregnant women often receive more attention than usual from family members, partners and friends. Pets may clue in that the woman is getting this attention and might join in in giving it to her, or conversely, they may be jealous and reject the woman.
Epimeletic behavior is described as a healthy individual of a group taking care of a sick or weakened individual in the group. This behavior has been seen in many groups of animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and even bottle-nosed dolphins. Many animals feel a need to care for one another, and when their owner is pregnant, a pet may feel that their owner needs ‘taken care of,’ and do just that.
The Bottom Line
If your pet seems to sense that you are pregnant, and is responding positively, enjoy it! Be sure to cuddle and play with your pet often and reward their loyalty and concern. It can be easy for your pet’s behavior to become annoying, or even aggravating, but they are concerned about you. They don’t intend to be bothersome; they just want to help you and care for you!
If your pet is displaying negative or aggressive behaviors, you may want to consult with someone who specializes in animal behavior. If your pet appears to feel rejected, or seems depressed, ensure that you pay attention to him or her and play with them often. Keeping to your pre-pregnancy routine as much as possible may help ease the transition for your pet, but if needed, don’t be afraid to seek help from a trained professional!
Pregnancy, Pets & Your New Bundle of Joy
Can Pets Sense Pregnancy?
Cats, Dogs & Pregnancy
Bottlenose Dolphin: Epimeletic Behavior
Do Cats Have Intelligence?