A recent study by the American Pet Products Association found that more than half of dog owners let their dogs sleep with them. Cat owners are even more likely to allow their cats to sleep in their bed. According to this same study, nearly 62% of cat owners let their cats sleep in bed with them. So it appears this notion of pets sleeping in our beds is a a popular one, but is it a good idea?
Research from Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that sharing your room with your dog may actually improve your quality of sleep. Though the study did not include cats, Lois Krahn, M.D., study coauthor and a sleep medicine specialist, believes most pet owners wish to maximize their time with their pets. Because for many of us who work outside our homes and are away from our pets for much of the day, sleeping with our pets provides us the welcome opportunity to spend more time with them. However, for many years pet experts advised not to sleep with our pets for fear it would cause them to behave inappropriately and lead to potential serious illness in pet parents. I am happy to report these myths have been debunked.
Today, many veterinarians feel the exact opposite from pet experts of yesteryear. They believe pet owners who allow their cat or dog in their bedroom receive significant benefits. For many of us, sleeping with our pet is a ritual we enjoy. Many veterinarians believe if both owner and pet are healthy, then it is a ritual which should be continued. A significant benefit to sharing our bed with our pet is that it can reduce anxiety and provide us with a strong feeling of safety and comfort. Just be sure your pet is on top of the bedcovers, not underneath.
What about the concern some have that allowing our pets to sleep with us creates potential behavioral difficulties in our dogs or cats? This belief that allowing pets in our beds could promote aggression or dominance issues was proven false long ago. If your pet can be aggressive, you may not want them in your bed. However, aggression is often rooted in fear. It is not caused by permission to be on our furniture or sleep in our bed.
The more important question to ask yourself if you are considering letting your dog or cat sleep in your bed is one about your lifestyle. Are you comfortable with pet hair on your furniture and in your bed? Are you a light sleeper? Dogs average three sleep/wake cycles per night. Humans have one sleep cycle. Dogs also tend to be more alert to sounds even when they sleep. If you are a light sleeper, your pet may disrupt your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Your dog may be territorial and growl or bark to protect his or her spot on your bed. However, this is unrelated to co-sleeping and more about unnecessarily defending their space. An alternative may be to consider placing a comfortable pet bed in your bedroom. Place one of your t-shirts on their bed so they can smell your scent which will help them enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Another concern some have about sleeping with pets is it could result in illness. It is extremely rare for a human to acquire a disease from their pet, if both the pet and person are in good health. Good health for our pets means up to date vaccinations, no fleas, ticks, or parasites, and regular vet check ups. So make sure your pets stay healthy by scheduling annual exams with your veterinarian and giving them preventives on a regular schedule. Doing so will be of great benefit to your pet and provide you with many, wonderful nights of warm snuggles with your dog or cat.