If there’s one thing pet owners can all agree on, it’s those pets are family. They’re so close that nearly 75% of dog owners let their pets sleep in bed with them. Whether or not furry family members are allowed in the bed, however, is a different story. It’s the question dividing pet owners everywhere — should pets be allowed to sleep in your bed? While some can’t fall asleep without Fido’s puppy breath in their face, others are offended by the idea. So, to celebrate World Cat Day and World Dog Day this August, let’s tackle the upsides and downsides of night-time cuddles with your little furry friend.
Why your pet should sleep in your bed
Warmth, comfort, and cuteness — these are just a few reasons why pet parents love to sleep with their fur kids. Here are a few proven benefits of keeping your pets close.
For a better night’s sleep
Contrary to popular opinion, sleeping with a pet in the bed isn’t likely to compromise sleep quality. A US study found that having a dog in the bed still resulted in a satisfactory sleep efficiency of 80%, which is calculated as the time spent asleep versus total time in bed.
Most people who allow their pets to sleep in their beds will also cite feelings of security and protection, with the added benefit of warmth. Historically, Indigenous Australians slept with dogs on either side for warmth and to ward off physical or spiritual threats.
To boost mental health
It’s proven that pets can help relieve stress and anxiety, and that’s true whether you’re conscious of it or unconscious (literally).
The presence of pets increases the flow of oxytocin, the love hormone, which has obvious benefits for your mental health. Those who have anxiety-induced insomnia may also feel some relief sleeping with animals where their mood is positively affected by the presence of a little pooch .
The drawbacks of sleeping with pets
So, we’ve established that snuggling up with your doggo or kitty can provide comfort and improve wellbeing — but is it a health or behavioural risk?
Potential health consequences
Cats and dogs are prone to fleas, worms, and parasites, which could be of personal concern to some pet owners. While it’s true that some animal diseases, like roundworms, can be transferred onto humans, the risks are minimal.
A healthy, clean pet that’s up to date with parasite protection is generally safe to have in bed, or just about as safe as sharing a bed with a fellow human.
One of the biggest worries pet owners face is losing dominance over their dog, leading to poor behavioural traits such as aggression. If your dog has these issues or a bad case of separation anxiety, it’s probably healthier to set some boundaries.
With cats, sharing a bed is more likely to result in positive behavioural changes, as your four-legged friend feels more bonded to you.
Whether it’s waking you up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet or getting out of bed to let them out at five in the morning, there’ll be times when your pets will disrupt your sleep.
But when you consider that sharing a bed with anyone — animal or human — poses a risk of sleep disturbance, this may not seem like such a big deal.
How to keep things hygienic when sleeping with pets
While it’s relatively easy to kick your furry friends out of bed, you’ll have a harder time with smaller critters like dust mites. One study found that after two years of use, one third of your pillow’s weight will be made up of dead dust mites, dust mite feces and other bacteria. Yuck! Thankfully, with the right bedding, you can avoid this
Even if you’re allowing dirty paws in bed, there are benefits to choosing dust-mite resistant bedding, especially if you have allergies. Up to 10% of the population and 80% of people with allergies are allergic to dust mites.
Hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant materials, such as organic bamboo, cotton and silk, help facilitate a hygienic bed and a better night’s sleep. We have a range of naturally hypoallergenic products, such as our Mulberry silk quilts, organic bamboo sheets and doona covers, and an organic cotton and latex mattress and pillows to help alleviate night-time allergies.
How to clean a mattress you share with pets
When you’ve got pets, even the most highly dust mite resistant mattress still needs to be cleaned every once in a while. Prevention is key here, with mattress toppers and underlays your best bet for protecting your mattress from sweat, bacteria and pet accidents.
Thankfully, unlike a polyurethane foam mattress, a latex mattress is made of natural materials, making it more breathable and less prone to the build-up of bacteria. Once every six months to a year, sprinkle your mattress with baking soda to neutralise odours, and vacuum it before letting it air out until bedtime.
The dos and don’ts of letting your pet sleep in your bed
Whether you’re still weighing up the pros and cons of having pets in the bed or are five years into a co-sleeping arrangement, there are some basic dos and don’ts:
● Do wait until your pet is old enough: At what age can a dog sleep in your bed and at what age can a cat sleep in your bed? As a rule of thumb, animals that can’t get up on their own, or are less than six months old, are too young to sleep in bed with you. That’s because, much like with human babies, you are rolling over in your sleep (oops!) poses a risk for them.
● Don’t let an aggressive animal up in bed: If your animal is exhibiting aggressive behaviour in bed, it could be a sign of resource guarding. Dogs, in particular, may begin to view you as a threat to being able to sleep in the bed, growling when you try to get them off. Consult a trainer for the best route of action if this starts happening!
● Do consider hygiene and allergies: If you’ve ended up in a relationship with Snow White’s good friend Sneezy, you’ll both be better off keeping pets away from the bed. After all, it’s not just your partner that’ll be losing sleep.
● Don’t accommodate the whole pack: While one snoring dog probably won’t disrupt your sleep too much, having multiple pets in the bed also multiplies the chances for disruptions. If you’ve got a few furry friends who want up, try alternating nights in the bed.
So, should you let your pets sleep in your bed?
At the end of the day, whether your dog sleeps outside or sandwiched between you and your partner is completely your choice. With proper training and consideration for your health, having your dog or cat join you for bedtime snuggles shouldn’t be a biggie.
After all, whether cultural, physical, or psychological, the positives of having the world’s cutest animal wriggling around next to you in bed surely outweigh the negatives, right?