Home Birth Advocacy

My Cat Gave Birth at Home

15 Comments 21 July 2011

At my fourteenth birthday party, my cat, Maya, went into labor.

I found her in our basement, meowing differently and laying down on her side.She would get up, circle around, and lay down again. I was full of excitement and anticipation as I ran upstairs to tell my friends.

My mom followed me downstairs. We found a box and placed an old towel inside. Maya jumped in and laid down on her side with her head propped up in the corner. The meowing continued.

Although my birthday party was still in full swing, I couldn’t leave my cat’s side.

I just stared at her, occasionally petting her head.
Friends came and went, curious but mostly uninterested.

Maya gave birth to 6 kittens that night, and I watched each of them being born. At one point she stretched her paw up over the edge of the box and I held it gently (I’m not even kidding – it was magical).

I tell this story, almost 12 years later, after I have given birth to my two children at home.

My perspective has certainly changed since then.

While at the time I considered the event to be miraculous, and baring witness to the special moment to be an honor, the thought I keep coming back to is this:

My cat gave birth at home. And there was nothing special about it.

Our pets give birth at home all the time. In the dark corners of our basements, at night, under the deck or up in a haystack. There are few emergencies, very little commotion and no loud announcements.

Why the stark contrast between animal births and our own human birth experiences?

Why, a vast majority of the time, is birth considered an emergency? Can you imagine if we treated one our of pets the way we treat the women of our nation?

“Quick! Maya is in labor! Grab the kitty litter, her cat-nip! Hurry, get the carrier! OH MY GOD! She’s laying down. What if she gives birth right here in our basement?!

I’ll tell you what, if we would have behaved that way, Maya would have high tailed it outta there and hid somewhere where we couldn’t have found her. And knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have blamed her.

But we were never worried Maya would need an emergency c-section.

Or if the pain of giving birth would be too much for her to handle and she’d need some form of feline epidural.

In fact, just the opposite. We respected her. We honored her wishes. We trusted that she knew how to give birth. And so she gave birth in a calm, loving space and stayed with her babies from the moment each of them came into this world.

So my question is this: why should birth be so different for us?

Your Comments

15 Comments so far

  1. brenda says:

    I teach “do it like catsNdogs” in my Healthy Birth Class. It’s inspiring to watch the eyes of fear become eyes of confidence and empowerment as the parents to be reconsider their thoughts about birth. Had 2 in my last class switch to home/birthing center from hospital. So proud!

  2. Sunshine says:

    BRILLIANT!

  3. Catherine says:

    I love it when laboring and birthing women become animalistic! It is where they summon their powers from – deep inside their psych, or gut, their intuition.

    Thank you for such a heartfelt post. Our animals mean so much to us…

    Catherine

  4. Kirsty says:

    I read in a magazine article (a very ANTI-midwife magazine article) that “humans are the only animals that need assistance to give birth”
    What a crock! We’ve just been programmed by ‘experts’ to believe we need assistance, but really we could (most of us) do it by ourselves (with support)

  5. Emma says:

    I feel very strongly that I am just another mammal, and the respect shown to animals (especially precious zoo animals) should be extended to human mothers, too.

    Eg:

    http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2011/06/western-lowland-gorilla-baby-born-at-zoo-miami.html

    “Because the mother is so protective, zoo keepers don’t want to disturb the first critical days of bonding and nursing between her and her newborn, so the baby’s gender and weight has not yet been determined.”

    Zoo keepers and vets are so careful not to disturb zoo mothers in labour, birth, and shortly after, because they know how critical it is for bonding and survival. Nobody can go in and disturb her, things are kept dark and quiet, and she can find her own comfortable place. Keepers and vets are fiercly protective of their animals and make sure they are not disturbed while labouring.

    Sadly the polar opposite of what most women experience when giving birth.

  6. Sheryl says:

    What really shocked me when my cat went into labor is that she had to have me in the room with her. I always thought animals wanted to be alone under the stairs but she kept coming out of the other room and meowing at me until I followed her. She made me stay with her for a few hours until she delivered her babies. It was so special. I still have one of her kittens. :)

  7. Kathy Florcruz says:

    I was always happy when my young kids got to see a pet giving birth…how better for them to see the real thing? But unfortunately-mans manipulations into animal breeding for looks instead of function has caused this situation that’s extremely bad AND sad.Did you know that because of the bulldog being bred for show that over time they now have pelvic & hip sizes that have entirely taken their birthing of pups impossible? Yep- they have to have C-sections now for every birth. ..
    Personally, I think a hybrid dog like that should NOT be a show dog because it is an unnatural & man made beast. I think it is just as unethical as the brainwashing done to generations of mothers who over time-can’t even fathom giving birth like the real thing anymore.
    And have you seen what a mother cat/dog will do if one of her babies is removed from her side even if she is still labouring? She goes & looks for it & brings it back.
    Much of humanity needs to be reminded that nature KNOWS what needs to be done & interference with it results in catastrophe! {Pun unintended, but appropriate!}

  8. Michelle says:

    I think the answer is that our modern mostly unhealthy lifestyles and our all consuming fears (and consequent distrust) of the natural world. Even the most progressive minds who state they “trust birth” would think that a mother was taking a “unnecessary risk” if she chose and prepared to give birth (medically/professionally) unassisted but essentially this is what out mammalian ‘sisters’ do every single day.

    The interesting thing is that other mammals do not need “antenatal (prenatal) care” either which I think is where we do the most damage to women’s enjoyment of pregnancy and ultimately to her confidence to give birth. They say you birth as you live, and this so true for us humans, mechanical, technological and chemically dependent lives set the stage for our birth environments and thus predict our “unnatural” birth outcomes.

  9. Rachel says:

    I love that you were doula to your cat! So sweet.

  10. Jane says:

    “So my question is this: why should birth be so different for us?”

    I think one of the most compelling reasons it is different is because we place such a high value on babies and mothers in our society that we are unwilling to accept any injuries or deaths during birth. Injuries and deaths occur at higher rates when birth is allowed to progress entirely naturally, with zero monitoring or intervention. That is not to say that there isn’t wisdom to be found in observing how other mammals give birth, or that we couldn’t apply many of those lessons to make birth better for many women, or that the medical model doesn’t have negative consequences of its own. But the desire and need for medical monitoring and intervention will remain, because without it, more women and babies will die, and more babies will be injured (I think the high c-section rate is highly suggestive that the medical model probably results in more injuries to mothers than the natural model).

  11. Allie Chee says:

    Great blog! My first home birth “experience” was with kittens, too. My first grade teacher took us on a field trip to see her cat, deep in the corner of her closet, nursing her two-day old kittens. That image, and a few years later seeing a cow eat her placenta with her calf standing frailly beside her, were strong images in my mind as I pushed my baby into the world in our family room.

    I thought, if that mama cat and mama cow can do it, so can I! : )

    Thanks for your contribution to sacred births.

  12. I had both of my children at home as well. It indeed changed my life…and I say even my career! We need more people out there willing to share their positive stories. Thank you for posting yours!

  13. Ivy says:

    I had a cat who crawled in my bed early one Easter morning and gave birth to three kittens <3 I was about 13 at the time. I never thought about it before but maybe she helped put the idea in my head that that's where babies should be born!

  14. Alicia says:

    I grew up in the mountains of Utah and we had MANY litters of cats, dogs, foals, cows, etc. born all around us. It was a natural thing. We never interrupted them during the labor or birth. Everyone was quiet and almost reverant during these times. It never made sense to me how women give birth in hospitals when there isn’t a need for medical supervision. The lifestyle of these animals was always high on our list. Good food, hydration, plenty of exercise, and they all birthed without incident. I saw a video clip from Nat Geo once that showed how elephants give birth. The mother in the center and all the female elephants gathered around her. Protecting her, feeding her, comforting her. Fastforward 20+ years and I followed the same regimen. Good food, proper hydration, exercise, and I have birthed all three of my children at home. I do use a midwife because emergencies can happen and I don’t want the only person who can assist me to be my husband. That is a lot of pressure to put on him. I wouldn’t want him to be made to choose if it came down to it.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      Thank you SO much for your comment Alicia! I absolutely love it. My thoughts exactly. So cool that you experienced that growing up and went on to have the births you did. Hugs!


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