Many pregnant cat owners find that their pets absolutely love lying on their tummies. Some cats seem absolutely drawn to pregnant women, showering them with extra snuggles and affection. It’s not unusual for a cat to take a keen interest in a woman’s “baby bump” and want to lie on or near it as much as possible. This leaves some pet owners in a quandary: is it safe to indulge their cats and let them lie on someone’s pregnant belly?
Broadly speaking, it’s safe to let most cats lie on your pregnant belly. As long as the cat is not too heavy and you’re comfortable, you should have no problems. Very large cats can cause discomfort if they are allowed to lie on your belly for too long and care should be taken with cats who are nervous or aggressive. Pregnant women should wash their hands after interacting with a cat.
As a cat owner with a baby on the way, you probably have a number of questions.
- Is it safe to pet and stroke the cat?
- Should the cat be allowed to interact with the pregnant woman?
- Do you need to have your cat fostered or adopted for the baby’s safety?
- Should the cat be allowed to lie on the woman’s pregnant tummy?
Read on to find out more about safe cat ownership during pregnancy.
Is it okay for a cat to lie and purring on your pregnant belly?
The short answer is “yes, as long as you’re comfortable with the cat lying there.” Cats are often remarkably solicitous towards pregnant women, wanting to sit with them, lie on and they often like purring on your pregnant belly. The family pet can often be found snuggling against the mother-to-be, purring to the unborn infant and nuzzling her tummy or kneading it with gentle paws.
One of the main fears that prospective new parents often voice is that the pressure from the cat lying on the pregnant woman’s belly will cause some kind of birth defect, or even trigger a miscarriage. This is highly improbable. Even the most enormous Maine Coon or mighty Norwegian Forest Cat is unlikely to be heavy enough to harm your baby, no matter how frail the mother is.
Another concern for some parents is that the cat’s body heat might cause problems for the baby. Again, though, this is not realistic. While fevers can be dangerous during pregnancy and pregnant people should avoid overheating, a cat’s body temperature is not high enough to raise a human’s significantly.
A slightly more realistic concern is the possibility of infection. Even here, however, the risks tend to be overstated. The main worry for a person with a baby on the way is toxoplasmosis, a common parasitic infection that is carried by cats. While it’s true that toxoplasmosis can be transferred from humans to cats, you can’t catch it simply from having the cat lying on your belly. Toxoplasmosis is present in the cat’s faeces. It is not usually dangerous — many people carry toxoplasmosis throughout their lives and never even know — but it can be dangerous during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, avoid being around the cat’s litter tray. It’s better to have a friend or family member change the litter. If you absolutely must change the kitty litter yourself, wear rubber gloves and handle the used litter with care. Be sure to scrub your hands carefully afterwards.
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There are various other infections that can be transmitted between cats and humans. If your cat has any kind of communicable infection, be careful about contracting it. Don’t put your face near the cat and wash your hands carefully after petting or playing with your cat. Scratches and bites need to be taken particularly seriously, as they can become infected or allow pathogens to enter your body. Clean them scrupulously and report anything more than a light scratch to a medical professional.
Another potential health issue is cat allergies. Hormonal changes during pregnancies can make you more sensitive to allergens than you usually are and cat dander is no exception. Many people report that they become temporarily allergic to their cats during pregnancy. Existing allergies may become more severe and pronounced while you’re expecting. Ask your doctor about appropriate allergy medication to reduce your symptoms and avoid having your cat in the bedroom with you while you’re sleeping.
Why do cats like to be close to you while you’re pregnant?
Some of my friends who’ve experienced pregnancy as cat owners report that their pets seemed to know they were pregnant. I’ve heard more than one expectant mother remark “she seemed to know before I did!” Some cats become unusually clingy during your pregnancy; one fellow cat owner reported that her formerly aloof rescue kitty refused to leave her side during the final months of her pregnancy, supervising all her activities and curling up as close to her baby bump as possible whenever my friend sat down.
Some cats seem to know that something is different about their pregnant owners but aren’t sure what. Others, though, appear to have a keen insight into the situation and may even go so far as to finding an appropriate “nest” for you to have your human kittens. My friend’s cat dragged a blanket under the bed and proudly showed her this comfy kittening spot.
There are various reasons why your cat might want to lie on your tummy or generally be close to you while you’re pregnant. One is simply that a heavily pregnant human is likely to be less active; you present a more tempting snuggle-buddy if you’re apt to spend more time in one place than if you’re rushing around as usual.
Another reason your cat may want to spend time with you is that your body temperature is higher during pregnancy. Many people run a little warmer than usual while they’re expecting and some cats find this appealing. You may learn that your cat appreciates having a soft, warm human heating pad to curl up with.
Cats are also highly sensitive to changes in a human’s physical state. To a cat, the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy are very obvious and intriguing. Why does this familiar human suddenly look and smell so enticingly different? Of course, as the family’s feline supervisor, it is your cat’s job to inspect the new bump and make sure everything is all right. Your cat may be able to feel your baby moving and hear the infant’s heartbeat some cats seem to enjoy feeling the baby kick.
Health benefits of cats during pregnancy
Far from representing a threat to your baby, owning a cat may actually be beneficial in some ways. One of the biggest threats to you and your baby during pregnancy is emotional stress; this can weaken the immune system and raise your blood pressure (something that may already be a problem when you’re pregnant). The soothing presence of your cat can help significantly here. Cats are known to reduce stress and promote physical and emotional well being, potentially preventing you from ill-health related to stress. The sensation of a cat purring on a pregnant belly may be just the thing to lower your stress levels.
Be alert to any odd or anxious behaviour you notice in your cat. They’re actually very sensitive to things like dropping blood sugar or low iron levels that can manifest in physical symptoms. A cat that seems fussy or clingy — particularly if they try to alert other people in the household and direct their attention to you — can be letting you know that you need to check in with your doctor.
I’m worried about my baby. Do I need to foster or adopt my cat?
Some pregnant cat owners find that their friends or family will try to make them give up their cat when there’s a baby on the way. The usual rationale offered is that mother or child may contract toxoplasmosis; some people still fall back on old wives’ tales about cats stealing a baby’s breath. Rest assured that unless there’s some very unusual issue, you do not need to give up your cat. If there is some specific complication you’re worried about or if you’re having a difficult pregnancy, consult your doctor about the advisability of pet ownership. In the vast majority of cases, there will be absolutely no reason you shouldn’t keep your cat.
Obviously, you will need to supervise any interactions between your baby and the cat. Little hands can be quite painful when they grab at ears and tails; you also don’t want the cat to lie in the baby’s cot, as there’s a risk of suffocation. In general, though, having a cat in the home will reduce the likelihood of your baby developing cat or other allergies in later life.
Whether or not you’re pregnant, proper hygiene is part of being a responsible pet owner. Anyone who pets or interacts with a cat needs to make sure they wash their hands well before handling food. Wash up to your elbows with hot water and soap, making sure you wash for at least three minutes. Keep babies and small children away from cat toys, food bowls, bedding and litter trays.