Picture this: You’re tucked into bed, drifting off to sleep with your beloved cat or dog snuggled beside you. It’s a cozy scene — because who doesn’t love a little puppy or kitty snuggle? It turns out, however, that there are downsides to letting your pet sleep in your bed. Every animal is different, of course; but if your pet sleeps with you regularly, consider the pros and cons carefully. Here’s what the experts say.
The Pros of Letting Your Pet Sleep With You
Letting Fido and Fluffy cuddle up with you does have benefits. Here are three reasons why sleeping with your dog or cat might be a good thing.
- It could improve your mood. There’s science behind the happiness you feel when your pet curls up next to you. “Co-sleeping with your pet might help ease depression and loneliness due to the flow of oxytocin,” says Dr. Carley Faughn, a board certified applied animal behaviorist at Best Friends Animal Society. While Dr. Faughn acknowledges that the oxytocin boost you get from sleeping with your pet has mostly been reported anecdotally, there are studies backing up the oxytocin-boosting powers and general increase in happiness that comes from simply interacting with cats and dogs.
- It could improve your sleep quality. A study from the Mayo Clinic found that in a survey of 150 patients, twice as many participants described having pets in their beds as “unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep” as compared to those who described them as being a disruptive presence. There’s also been research suggesting that resting with a service animal or emotional support animal may ease certain sleep disorders.
- It could be a bonding experience. Sleeping with a pet can help strengthen the bond you have with them. Dr. Mark Fierstein, an internal medicine specialist at NYU Langone Health, told Everyday Health that those who sleep with their pets tend to “report an increased sense of security, companionship, and relaxation.” Your pet’s warmth and steady heartbeat can help to create a feeling of comfort, and the fact that your pet wants to be close to you is proof of the sweet connection that you share.
The Cons of Letting Your Pet Sleep With You
Sleeping with your pet has its potential downsides, too. While you may assume it works well for you and your animal, consider these three reasons for not inviting Fido to sleep beside you.
- Your pet might not want to co-sleep. While many pets will join their owners in bed of their own volition, others may be less inclined. No matter what, don’t force them to sleep with you. Dr. Faughn emphasizes the importance of looking out for signs of stress: “For dogs, these might be heavy panting and restlessness. For cats, stress signs might be lowered ears and enlarged pupils.” She also points out that if your pet leaves the bed, that could be proof they need some space. Dr. Faughn says it’s all about observation, and getting to know how your pet behaves in certain situations: “Ultimately, if you pay attention to your pet’s reaction to the bed, you will know whether they want to sleep there or have their own space nearby.”
- Some pets shouldn’t co-sleep. Puppies and kittens are adorable, but pet experts recommend that you avoid co-sleeping with them. Due to their small size, puppies and kittens are at risk of injury if you roll over in your sleep. This risk also applies to small or frail adult dogs and cats. Personality, says Dr. Faughn, also plays a role — if your pet is territorial, they may not want to share the bed, and could end up trying to guard the bed from you. Pets that are skittish may also get scared or bite if you when coerced into sleeping with you.
- There might be hygienic risks. If your pet sleeps with you, they’re likely to shed fur and dander in your bed, which can cause allergies to flare up. You’ll need to wash your bedding more often and use a lint roller regularly to avoid this buildup . As for your pup getting their dirty paws on the bed, veterinarian Dr. Cori Gross told The Washington Post that “the hygiene germ issue is really more of a theoretical risk,” as long as you take good care of your pet and make sure to address any health issues. If you want to play it extra safe, she suggest wiping your pet’s paws with a towel before allowing them onto the bed.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to deciding whether or not to allow your pet to sleep with you, there’s not a definitive answer. While some people love having their pets snooze alongside them, others find it disruptive. Dr. Faughn says the most important thing to consider is the fact that your pet is an individual — and just because you want them to sleep with you doesn’t mean it’s the right move.
“Some pets take to it right away, but others may not want to be on the bed at all,” Dr. Faughn concludes. Both types of pet personalities are valid — so if you or your pet are uncomfortable, it’s perfectly fine not to sleep together. At the same time, if your pet already follows you up the stairs and hops on the bed straight away, and you’ve always found it to be a source of comfort, there’s no need to stop. We wish you sweet dreams either way!