Does someone hog all the blankets at night? Do you hear growls or hisses whenever you make the slightest move in bed? Are you only allotted an inch of space to lie on? Ever feel that there is a presence just staring at you in the middle of the night? Wake up with bite or scratch marks? Is your sleep disturbed because your lungs are crushed by a furry animal and you can’t breathe? Do you feel that your bed is simply not yours anymore? Well, my friend, admit it, your pet is the new king of the bed.
Many of us pet owners sleep with our furry friends. They share our pillow, snuggle under the blankets with us, and snore alongside our heads.
A survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association concluded that about 62 percent of American dog and cat owners keep their animals in the house at night. Of that 62%, half of the cats and one-third of the dogs sleep with their owners on the same bed.
Many would ask why would we let our feline and canine friends share our treasured bed. Everyone has their own reason, but some say they feel more relaxed when their pet sleeps with them. Many pet owners feel such a strong bond with their pets and just as children sleep with their parents, pets sleep with their owners. Also pets are a quick fix to a cold bed. Use their body heat to warm up. (They especially make good feet warmers.)
But many critics say that pets shouldn’t sleep with their owners. One dog trainer says that a dog in bed is “a sign the dog is completely in charge. Get the dog off your bed. It can make a bigger difference than anyone can imagine.” How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, the dog obedience manual by the Monks of New Skete, recommends that dogs sleep on the floor in your bedroom instead of in your bed.
A study was done at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center with 300 patients. It was observed that many people with sleep problems were sharing their bedrooms with their cats and dogs. The study found the following:
- 157 of 300 patients (52 percent) had one or more pets, primarily cats and dogs.
- Nearly 60 percent of the patients with pets slept with their pets in the bedroom. When a dog was permitted to sleep in the bedroom, it had a 57 percent chance of being allowed to sleep on the bed.
- Of the pet owners, 53 percent considered their sleep to be disrupted to some extent every night, but only one percent felt that their sleep was disrupted for more than 20 minutes per night on average.
- Snoring was reported in 21 percent of dogs and seven percent of cats.
- Cats were more likely to be allowed in the bedroom and on the bed.
There is historical evidence that sleeping with pets is not necessarily aberrant behavior. According to The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, the xoloitzquintli, or Mexican hairless, was used in pre-Aztec Mexico as both pet and bed warmer. An account from a 19th-century explorer in Australia, as quoted in The Domestic Dog, describes how Aborigines were so devoted to their dingoes that the dogs were treated as members of the family and allowed to sleep in the hut.
Pets are not going to get any uppity ideas just because you’re all snoring together, they say. Dr. Marsha Reich, who has a private animal-behavior practice in Maryland, says she disagrees with the notion that your dog will try to dominate you if allowed in bed. “It has nothing to do with social status,” she says. The dog, like the owner, just likes being cozy and having a soft place to sleep. “Unless a dog growls when you roll over, I don’t have a problem with a dog in the bed.”
The most common problem with sleeping with cats, says Dr. Lynne Seibert, a behaviorist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in Lynnwood, Wash., is they don’t sleep. “Most of the issues I see are about exuberant play,” she says. “They’ve got a captive audience and end up pouncing and scratching.” The usual cause is that the cats have been home sleeping all day, leaving them ready to party all night. Seibert recommends getting the cats more daytime stimulation and engaging in a play session with them before bed.
Dog trainer Kathy Diamond Davis writes that there’s no reason a well-behaved dog shouldn’t sleep on the bed. However, she recommends having the dog trained to reliably obey a “get off the bed” command, to be used in particular for those moments when “people want to be intimate.”
Sleep tight and don’t let the bed pets bite.