As pets gain more and more footing as members of our families, they’re increasingly allowed into every aspect of our lives – even our beds. A 2010 Pets Best Insurance policyholder survey revealed that 27% of dogs and 8% of cats sleep on their owners’ beds all night, every night – with another 40% sharing sleeping space at least part of the time.
The image of multiple species curling up together as a source of warmth and comfort is a delightful one, but is it a good idea? Here are three points to consider before you open your bed to your fur family.
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between species, specifically from pets to humans. Any time close spaces are shared, the risk of spreading diseases is greater. If your pet is in bed with you, please be sure to have them up to date on deworming, flea prevention, and free of illness. Pets can transmit ringworm and scabies and even be a source of bacteria, to name a few examples. People with compromised immune systems and small children probably shouldn’t share sleeping quarters with a pet due the increase risk of contracting illnesses.
2. Sleep disturbances
A physician-conducted survey through the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center reported that half of people who admitted to sleeping with their animals said the animals woke them up nightly.1 Cats can be especially disturbing to sleep, since they generally sleep all day and can be more alert in the nighttime hours. Consider this before allowing a puppy into your bed, as once the habit is formed, it can be difficult to break! Encouraging kitty daytime play and activity might help keep him or her asleep through the night. If they wake you up too early in the morning, try these tips.
3. Behavioral disorders
There is some discussion that allowing pets in bed with you somehow undermines your position as alpha in the pack. Obviously if your dog or cat is exhibiting aggressive or dominant behavior in your bed, then cosleeping should be discouraged. However, generally speaking, if everyone plays nice, there is no reason that snoozing together should somehow cause hierarchy disturbances.
There is a case for discouraging bed sharing in pets with separation anxiety or other attachment issues. It is generally agreed that the more independence and self-sufficiency you can instill in dogs with separation anxiety, the better. Training these anxious pets to be comfortable alone and in a safe place, such as cozy crate or kennel through the night, will mean they will be more comfortable when you have to leave them for periods of time.
If the idea of banishing Fluffy from the comforter is disheartening to you, don’t sweat it! As long as you are healthy, she is clean and free of illness or parasites and you are both emotionally stable, sharing a nighttime cuddle should be just fine.
1 Yoffe, Emily. “Go Ahead, Sleep With Your Dog. And, no, we don’t mean it that way.” Nov. 8, 2004. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/heavy_petting/2004/11/go_ahead_sleep_with_your_dog.html