The contribution of animals to human survival, health and healing is well documented across history and cultures – in fact, there are records dating back to the late Pleistocene Age which began around 2.6 million years ago!
Today, multiple surveys by researchers, kennel clubs and pet associations alike suggest that at least 45% of us let our dogs regularly share our beds, and 62% of us sleep with our cats! But is this a good idea? Opinion is definitely divided. Here are some of the common pros (and cons):
- Greater sense of security. People report that sharing their bed with their pet, especially if they live alone or their partner is away, helps them to feel both emotionally and physically safer.
- Reduced stress. Cat lovers know there’s nothing quite like the rhythmic sound and feel of its contented purr. Pets promote feelings of calm and relief in us, actually raising the level of oxytocin in our brains which is linked to social bonding and relationship building. When we’re upset, they’re also a reassuring and non-judgemental presence.
- Warmth and comfort. With a normal temperature in the 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit range, pets are hotter than humans. This makes them the perfect bed warmers, leading many pet owners to report increased feelings of physical and mental relaxation as a result – key pre-requisites for a healthy sleep.
- Sleep interruptions. Humans are monophasic - we generally sleep for one period over a 24-hour cycle. Dogs are polyphasic, averaging three sleep and wake cycles over a 24-hour period. As a result, owners sharing beds - especially with their dogs, report greater sleep disturbances.
- Potential aggravation of pre-existing allergies or asthma. If you let your pet regularly sleep on your bed, there’s likely no way around this. You can help manage your reactions by replacing broadloom and heavy drapes with washable area rugs and window coverings. Increasing the normal frequency of washing your bed linens, as well as any pet beds is also recommended. You can also opt for a hypoallergenic breed of pet.
- Transmission of disease between you and your pet. This is a slight risk but it is real. Practice common sense. Groom your dog/cat regularly and check for ticks, fleas or any other indication of skin problems. Don’t kiss them or let them lick you. Most importantly, make sure they’re up to date on their vaccines and vet checks and use recommended parasitic preventatives.
- Increased resource guarding in dogs. The advice on this one is more mixed. Some experts warn specifically against allowing your pet on the bed because of concerns about a potential increase in dominance or aggressive behaviour. Other sources see this as an urban myth. Regardless, the general advice is that if your dog has demonstrated or begins to demonstrate signs of resource guarding (such as growling over toys, food or other items), you should never invite them onto your super comfortable bed because of the chance that your pet could extend its pre-existing behaviour – creating a much more serious problem for you to deal with.
Whether you let your pet sleep in your bed is ultimately up to you. For those of us here at envello, we aren’t ashamed to admit that yes, our fur babies snuggle up with us up on our beds from time to time.