Bed-sharing with your pet, is it okay?

This post is brought to you by our Brie Brie Blooms contributor Kristen.

Pet owners often have strong feelings one way or another about bed-sharing with your pet, most commonly a cat or dog. There are those of us who wouldn’t dream of allowing their furry companion to invade the bedroom, and there are those of us who can’t imagine not snuggling up with our animal pals.


Is bed-sharing with your pet okay?

In our household, it’s more of a family affair. Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., will snuggle up in whatever bed we’re reading bedtime stories in, but, ultimately, she ends up in bed with me. I almost always hit the hay hours before my husband does. Although I think N.A.S.H.A. is partial to men and boys, in general, I seem to rule the roost when it comes to bedtime. So she and I turn in together, followed by my husband, and more times than not, a kid or two during the night. We have a big bed and a small dog, so it works (mostly) for us. My philosophy: If everyone in the bed is comfortable having the pet in the bed, it’s fine!

Web M.D. states:

according to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, nearly half of dogs sleep in their owners’ beds. The survey found that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs, and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners. The survey also found that 62% of cats sleep with their adult owners, and another 13% of cats sleep with children.

It is actually a compliment to you if your pet likes to sleep with you. Dogs and cats will only sleep with people and animals they trust. There can be benefits and drawbacks to sharing a bed with your pet.

What are some of the drawbacks? When might your pet not be a good candidate for sharing your bed?

An aggressive dog should never be allowed to share your bed until the problem can be resolved. This may include growling or biting, and often occurs when one spouse enters the bed after the other when the dog is already occupying the bed. The dog feels possessive over either the person or the territory. This situation is one that can be fixed with training.

One needs to be very cautious about allowing a dog or cat who startles easily into the bed. bedmates, whether human or animal, inevitably touch or sometimes kick one another during the night. If your pet startles easily and is reactive, this may lead to unintended aggressive behavior, such as biting or scratching.

Babies in cribs should not sleep with animals. The animal may feel trapped, or the baby may not be able to move out of the way for safe breathing and sleeping. Babies and animals should never be left alone.

Pet owners with allergies should probably not allow their pet to sleep in the bed. Although it’s not quite as critical of a case as an aggressive or reactive pet, but still poses a health risk. Even if the allergy sufferer is not triggered by the animal, itself, pollen and other environmental substances the pet brings in from being outside can exacerbate allergies.

If cleanliness is a concern to you, you may not want your pet in the bed. Pets can track in dirt and often shed fur and dander. If you have a particularly smelly or oily dog, this might be more critical. But, if you don’t mind, then go for it! Some people even have a special blanket for their pet in the bed. Your pet can be trained to stay on his own blanket.

A puppy who has not yet been house trained is not a good candidate for sleeping in the bed. Puppies will often get off the bed to eliminate somewhere in the house, or–even worse–someplace in the bed that they deem far enough from their snuggle spot.

If you share the bed with your partner and having a pet in the bed interferes with intimacy, the situation may need reevaluation. Some couples don’t mind the pet in the bed during these private moments, while some will kick the animal out or provide a distraction, such as a chew treat. Regardless, both partners should be in agreement about whether the pet sticks around for the show. Since I’m not a marriage counselor, I’ll leave it at that.

If you have a particularly large breed dog such as a Mastiff or Great Dane, you may want to provide an alternative sleeping space. Remember that large breed dogs don’t start out as big as an adult human. As puppies, their size is completely manageable in the bed. But if you allow the puppy in the bed, he won’t understand why he can no longer sleep with you as he reaches full-size. Whatever you choose, starting as you mean to go on is the best policy, if possible.

If your pet disrupts your sleep, you may want to reconsider allowing her in the bed. Dogs, in particular, are notorious for snoring, tooting, scratching, and licking throughout the night, which can be very disruptive to your sleep cycle. Since Fido sleeps most of the day, anyway, he doesn’t care that you have to get up for work in the morning. If your pet sleeps soundly and quietly, you got lucky! Our dog, N.A.S.H.A., has always slept with us. She’s a bit older, now, and although we let her out right before bed, she now usually has to relieve herself at some point during the night. I realized she started doing so on the floor (on the tile, thank goodness), so, somehow I started to hear her disembark during the night. Now, as soon as I hear her paws hit the floor, I’m up and at ’em, opening the slider for her. Sometimes as changes occur in our pets, we are forced to adapt. It’s disruptive, but better to me than cleaning up the mess in the morning if I stay in bed. (My husband could sleep through a tornado, so he’s no help.)

If jumping on or off the bed risks injury to the pet, they should not be doing so. This can happen with older pets or pets with special needs, or long-bodied dogs, especially if you have a tall bed. Thankfully, they now make bed stairs and bed ramps for exactly this purpose. If you choose to lift your pet into the bed, be certain she doesn’t risk injury by jumping off independently.

But it’s not all bad.

If the issues above don’t apply to you or you aren’t bothered by them, sleeping with a pet can actually have health benefits.

People who sleep with pets sometimes find the animal’s breathing patterns to be soothing, reporting that they fall asleep faster if their pet is around. Sleeping with pets can also make people feel safer and calmer, which may also help sleep. It can be psychologically comforting to know that your dog is ready to defend you if need be or just having the companionship of a snoozing cat. People have slept with their pets for centuries, often using them for protection and even warmth. Do you know where the phrase “it’s a three-dog night” originates? It’s accepted in academic circles that the Chukchi in far east Siberia originated the term to describe how cold conditions were. A “three-dog night” was a night that required three dogs to snuggle with in order to keep warm. So if you suddenly find yourself without heat, grab a dog or three!

Every situation is different. What about you, does your pet sleep in your bed?


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