(Dr. Iulia Mihai, DVM) In search of better sleep, many people wonder if it is okay to sleep with their pet in bed. Sleeping in bed with your pets can be something that some people don't approve of, while others can't imagine sleeping without them
Children usually enjoy the presence of a pet in bed the most, considering it their best friend. Pets can help children and the elderly sleep better and be more relaxed. It goes without saying that the pet that sleeps with us in bed must be vaccinated, dewormed, and clean.
Is it Okay to Sleep with Your Pet?
Many pet owners have mixed opinions when it comes to sleeping with their non-talking friends. Some couples sleep with their dog or cat between them, while others don't even let them in the bedroom or on the couch. Some of them find this habit comforting and soothing, while for others, the priority is keeping the bedroom clean and free of pet hair.
Experts say that people should not share their beds with their pets because they may not get a good night's sleep. Pets don't sleep for eight hours straight and will start to move, make noise, and limit our sleeping space.
On the other hand, more recent studies show that it is beneficial to sleep with pets in your bed if you suffer from depression or anxiety.
Regardless of whether you choose to share the bed with your pets, know that pets choose to sleep with you because they trust you.
Why it Can be Bad to Sleep with Your Pet
The reasons why it is not okay to sleep with your pet in bed are varied and include:
- Transmission of various infectious diseases – bacterial (Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Brucella, Bartonella), viral, or parasitic (Toxoplasma). Over time, pets have also been responsible for the transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or the bacillus Yersinia pestis (the one that produces the bubonic plague). However, it is difficult for a person to get sick from their pet if both are in good health.
- Development of allergies or exacerbation of existing ones. Pets are a major source of allergens (e.g. hair, dust, or pollen particles that stick to their fur).
- Hygiene - Animals that sleep in bed with their owners leave hair and dirt on the bedding. A clean bed sheet is very important for maintaining health.
- Poor sleep quality – Pets tend to move around when we sleep, some snore very loudly, while others like to lick our face and bite our toes. Even if they are cute and these are signs of love, our sleep is no longer restful.
Why it Can Be Good to Sleep with Your Pet in Your Bed
Sleeping with pets in bed also has beneficial effects on us:
- It reduces stress and anxiety - among people who suffer from insomnia, an important improvement in symptoms has been recorded; stress reduction may be correlated with increased oxytocin secretion pet owners experience when sleeping or spending time with them.
- They give us a sense of security - especially among people who live alone. This feeling of security also helps us relax and sleep better if we have insomnia.
- It helps to strengthen the owner-pet relationship - if the time spent with the cat or puppy is usually limited during the day, co-sleeping is a way to ensure a harmonious bond between human and pet.
- It improves the quality of sleep for people suffering from chronic pain.
- They can keep us warm - on cold nights, pets can keep us warm - dogs and cats have a higher body temperature than ours.
If your furry friend likes to sleep with you, you don't necessarily have to forbid it, but it's recommended that you take some precautions. The best thing you can do is take your pet to the vet regularly for routine checks, vaccinations, and deworming.
Can Kids Share Their Bed with Pets?
Children will often want to share their beds with their pets. In general, it is recommended that children under the age of six should not sleep alone with their pets because they do not have a developed sense of responsibility and will certainly not think about the pet's needs.
The child will pull the pet's tail, play rough with it, or neglect its needs. All this should be a clue for parents that their child is not mature enough to share their bed with pets yet. First, you should teach your child how to be responsible with an animal and what its needs are, and then let it sleep with it in bed.
The myth that cats will purposely suffocate a sleeping baby is false. Cats are typically not interested in small children because of their scent (diapers) and children move a lot. However, it is good to keep pets away from very young babies because they do not have a developed immune system and are more prone to infections.
What Measures Should You Take to be Able to Sleep Peacefully with Your Pet in Bed
If you have made the decision to sleep in bed with your pet, this is what you need to do:
1. Wash your hands often
This is the best advice ever! From childhood, parents teach us to wash our hands properly and often. This valuable advice also applies in this case. Whether you want to read a book, watch a movie, or eat a snack (especially in this situation), it is recommended to wash your hands after touching your pet or any stray animal (especially those).
Your pet is accompanied at every moment of its life by a lot of bacteria. Recently there have been cases of infections with multidrug-resistant bacterial strains of species of the genus Campylobacter, transmitted from animals to humans, but which can be prevented by simple washing of the hands.
2. Use tick and flea prevention measures recommended by your veterinarian
Regular medical check-ups are essential, both for you and your pet. Any walk in the park or outing in nature can involve the possible contracting of external parasites, the most common being fleas and ticks. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease (caused by bacterial species of the genus Borrelia) to humans and pets, which can be fatal. For this reason, the preventive treatment for these parasites should not be neglected!
It is also useful to mention the importance of informing your veterinarian about all the health changes your pet went through (episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, etc.). This way, you are facilitating the diagnosis and optimal treatment of various potentially contagious diseases (e.g. bacterial or parasitic infections) and other medical conditions.
3. Keep an eye out for what your pet eats
As you have probably already witnessed, your pet can find "edible" many things that are true foci of infection, such as dead animals or garbage, which can make it sick. Some serious diseases can be transmitted from pet to owner, and the most effective way to prevent this is to control what it is eating and supervise it during walks.
4. Include your furry friend in the evening routine
Clean your dog's or cat's paws before bed. They can have soil or sand from the litter box. Clean bedding is important for our health.
It is also important to maintain your pet's oral hygiene, and it’s recommended to brush its teeth every night. At first, there is a possibility that these small changes will be less accepted by your pet. But repeating them and creating and maintaining a daily routine will make your pet accustomed to an evening routine over time.
Sleeping with your pet in bed is ultimately your own choice. People who choose to share the bed with their pets have more fragmented sleep than those who keep them at a distance from their bed. Animals wake up countless times during the night to move places, eat, play, etc. All this interrupts our sleep even if we don't realize it, and we wake up tired and in a bad mood.
For many people, sleeping with their pet in bed brings some psychological comfort and a sense of security. That's why many people are willing to get over these small inconveniences and continue to sleep with them.
In terms of health, even if you are not allergic to your pet, it spends a lot of time outside interacting with all kinds of things that could affect your health. If your pet is up to date on vaccinations and treatments for fleas and ticks, then it would be okay to share your bed with your pet.
When it comes to kids, it is not recommended to let your child sleep with your pet. In fact, until the age of six, it is probably best for the child and the pet to stay separate during both daytime and nighttime naps.
While the risk that something could happen to your pet or child is very small, it still exists. Maybe your child is playing a little too hard, pulling their tail a little too aggressively, and your pet is responding accordingly. It's really not worth the risk.