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The Pros and Cons of Sharing a Bed with Your Pets

It will come as no surprise to most pet owners that dogs and cats love crawling into bed and snuggling up with their people. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), roughly half of all dogs and 62 percent of cats in the U.S. sleep with their owners. While studies have shown that humans can benefit from a little sack time with their canine or feline companion, there are also some notable downsides to sharing a bed with one’s pet.

We’ll begin with the most obvious advantage of sleeping with your pet: physical comfort. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and dog-collar training expert Susan Wright notes in a blog post for Albuquerque Vet-Co that the security of sleeping with a trusty guard dog can translate to a more restful night, while cohabiting a bed with puppies will strengthen the bonding process. “In some cases, training and day-to-day living experiences can be much more positive as a result of a common nighttime schedule,” Wright explains. “It’s also been proven that animal company offered to humans can lower blood pressure while reducing the feelings of loneliness and stress. These benefits are magnified when your dog is allowed to sleep with you.”

Cats are also cuddly (and by proxy, therapeutic), but sleeping with them is a little trickier because they adhere to nocturnal schedules. The animal’s hunting instincts, coupled with keen night vision, tend to kick in during the middle of the night. If you toss and turn, then you’re essentially a moving target ― but as many cat owners can attest, something as slight as a twitching finger is more than enough to provoke a playful feline. And since most adults reach the most restful stage of their circadian rhythm during the late-night hours, it’ll be that much harder to fall back asleep once you’ve booted the little predator out of your bedroom.

Some felines are more docile than others, and probably won’t present a problem in bed. However, veterinary technician and feline behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson tells WebMD that people who don’t want to share a sleeping space with their pet cat should never invite the animal into their bedroom in the first place. “If you suddenly shut a cat out of the bedroom, they can get very frustrated and start displaying destructive behavior,” she notes. “Cats don’t react well if you take away territory.”

Sleep disruptions aside, the risk of getting sick is another concern that pet owners should consider. Two years ago, the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal explored this idea in an article titled, ‘Zoonoses in the Bedroom‘. The study the case of a 9-year-old boy who contracted the plague after sharing a bed with his flea-ridden cat, as well as instances in which people became ill after making mouth-to-mouth contact with their pets (which can easily occur while the owner is sleeping). “The risk of contracting something is rare, but if you’re that person who gets a disease from a pet, rare doesn’t matter that much,” noted article co-author Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, during an interview with NBC News. He added that small children, the elderly, and individuals with unstable immune systems (such as diabetics and HIV/AIDS patients) are most vulnerable to these diseases.

If you want to ensure your dog or cat won’t be joining you in bed, most experts agree that strict boundaries and a little positive reinforcement will go a long way. Dr. John Shepard, who recently authored a Mayo Clinic study that explored the connection between pet ownership and sleep deprivation, suggests constructing a designated sleeping space for your dog or cat in another part of the house. “You should make a spot that is warm and comfortable for them with pillows and blankets, so you don’t feel as guilty about excluding them from the bedroom,” he told ABC News.

The final verdict: with a few rare exceptions, there isn’t any major harm in letting your dog or cat share a bed with you―but if you’re experiencing sleep-related issues, it may be in your best interest to reconsider your nighttime arrangements.

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