It’s the middle of the night, and you feel someone warm and fuzzy snuggling up to you.
Do you lift the covers and let your pet get close to you for a cozy night’s sleep, or send them back to their own little bed on the floor?
If you’re like half of pet owners, you can’t resist sleeping with your pet at least some of the time. But you might have reservations about it – aren’t those grubby paws covered in bacteria? Is it really safe to share your bed?
Learn the facts, risks and benefits of sleeping with your cat or dog and decide whether it’s right for you.
How Co-Sleeping Affects Behavior
In the past, dog trainers and behaviorists believed that allowing your dog certain privileges would cause bad behavior. They once believed that you had to assert your dominance or your dog would take over the “alpha” role in your home. Now, modern trainers realize that this is not true. There is no evidence that dogs need to be dominated, and they excel when they’re treated with kindness. Sleeping with your dog will not make them believe they are “alpha.”
In fact, a stronger bond can help your dog feel closer to you. A better bond means better training. Sleeping with your puppy at night calms them, and allows you to wake up when you feel them stirring to take them out in the middle of the night during potty-training.
Unless your pet tries to bite or scratch you when you need them to move over, or you worry that they’ll have an accident, there’s no behavioral fallout of sleeping with your pet.
Diseases You Can Get If You Sleep With Your Pets
‘Zoonoses In The Bedroom‘; a report released by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), details many illnesses that people have contracted from close contact with cats and dogs. It includes strange cases of people with bacterial infections after allowing dogs to lick their open wounds, and a woman who contracted meningitis from feeding her dog by transferring food from her mouth to the dog’s mouth.
Gross, but notable – the report showed that contracting a zoonotic disease is “uncommon with healthy pets.”
While you can get fleas, mites and worms from your pets, that’s only possible if your pets are affected to begin with. If you’re the type of pet owner who does or is considering sleeping with your pets, you probably schedule regular check-ups and have them treated for parasites, so this is not likely to be a problem for you.
Infants, senior citizens and others with weak immune systems should not sleep with pets. Children should never be around pets unattended. If you’re generally a healthy person, however, the risk to your health is pretty low.
Diseases You Can Prevent If You Sleep With Your Pets
According to a study from the Center Of Sleep Medicine, more than half of pet owners allow their pets to sleep in the bedroom. While 20% of participants said their pets were disruptive to their sleep schedule, 41% said they were not disruptive, even beneficial to getting a good night’s sleep.
Whether your pets can help or harm your sleep really depends on the size of your pets, the size of your bed, and you and your pets’ sleeping habits.
A better night’s sleep means you’ll have better memory function, better decision-making abilities, fewer cravings for junk food and a stronger immune system.
Owning a pet decreases your risk of having a heart attack, lowers your cholesterol and prevents and treats depression. So, it’s not a stretch to say that sleeping with your pet provides an extra dose of health benefits.
Tips For A Better Co-Sleep
Don’t Squish The Dog!
Small dogs and cats can get injured if you roll over on top of them in your sleep. If you’re a very deep sleeper, you might want to avoid sleeping with your pets. You can also spare a specific corner of your bed for your pet.
By placing a blanket at the foot of your bed and moving your pet there, you can teach them to stay away from your flailing arms and legs in the night. You can also make sure your pet stays at the edge of the bed instead of against the wall, where they could get cornered. Avoid letting your pet burrow deep underneath the covers by your legs, where they could get tangled, overheated or may find it hard to breathe.
If your pet spends a lot of time in bed with you, you should bathe them frequently to cut down on the dirt and grime they bring to bed. Frequent brushing removes dead hair that can build up in your pet’s undercoat, so they’ll shed less in bed.
Wipe Those Paws
Dogs and outdoor roaming cats pick up bacteria, fecal matter and allergens on their paws and all over their bodies. Wipe your dog’s paws every time they come inside, or, at the very least, before bedtime. You can use paw wipes made specially for animals, or use a homemade solution of 50% diluted apple cider vinegar. It’s not safe to use baby wipes to wipe your pet’s paws.
Wash Your Bedding
You will want to wash your sheets, pillowcases and duvet more often if you sleep with animals to get rid of visible hair and dirt and to cut down on dander and allergens.
Give Your Pet Options
Once your pet develops a habit for sleeping in your bed, a flat, lumpy pet bed just won’t compare. Make sure your pet has other suitable resting places, and that they’re just as comfortable.
So, Should You Sleep With Your Pets?
Millions of people safely sleep with their animals every night. Singles, married couples, cats, small dogs, and giant dogs alike.
In the meantime millions of other pets sleep in their own beds, and they’re just as happy to have their own space.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what is best for you and your family.
Image source: Brendan Bell
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