Should your pet sleep in your bed?

There is historical evidence that sleeping with your pets is not a bad thing to do. In pre-Aztec Mexico and with the aborigines of Australia, dogs were used as bed warmers.  In fact, the singing group “Three Dog Night” may have gotten their  name from the number of dogs needed to keep warm on a very cold night! There is a myth that allowing the dog to sleep in your bed will make him feel dominant over you. It has not been proven.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 62% of American dog and cat owners keep their animals in the house at night and 1/2 of cats and 1/3 of dogs sleep in their master’s bed.  Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts celebrates the warm and fuzzy feeling of all species resting in your bed. The one caveat to this is that if one partner goes to bed earlier with their dog and it growls at the second partner who attempts to get in bed, the best thing to do is to retrain them.  You would start with crate training at night and eventually allow the dog to sleep in the room on a pet bed. Then you can reintroduce sleeping on the bed.

For cats, Dr. Lynne Seibert, a behaviorist at the Veterinary Sleep Center in Lynnwood Washington cautions that cats can be more active at night and will try pouncing and playing with it’s owner who is trying to sleep. This is because cats tend to sleep during the day and see the opportunity to play with you at night. She advises giving the cat more playtime during the day as well as right before bed. Dr. John Shepard of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that many of his sleep deprived patients slept with animals that woke them during the night.

On the negative side, veterinary scientists have shown that sleeping with your pets increases the chances of contracting everything from parasites to the plague.  Although the plague is rare, Dr. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Ben Sun, chief vet for the California Department of Health, the risk of exposure to disease is real. Disease can be transmitted through bed sharing, scratching, kisses and licks from your pet. Children are especially susceptible because of their young immune systems.

There is no scientific evidence that allowing pets on the bed will make them believe they are in charge, or cause aggression and dominance. However, if your dog snaps at you when you try to share the bed with them or your cat is depriving you of much needed sleep, it is best to give them their own sleeping area.


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