Wind back the clock 50 or so years and you’ll see dogs and cats sleeping outside all night.
And now? We treat our beloved four-legged friends like this:
Pets are a cherished part of the family and our homes naturally reflect that. But there’s one question that causes many an argument in the pet lover community:
Should your pet sleep in bed with you?
It’s a highly personal choice, with enthusiastic supporters on both sides of the Petco aisle.
Is it right for you? Here are 6 questions to help you decide whether co-sleeping with pets is a good fit:
Do you have allergies?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 3 out of 10 people have cat or dog allergies. Of course, if you’re allergic to your pet, you probably don’t want him/her sleeping in bed with you (or even the bedroom, if you’re highly allergic.)
But that’s not the only kind of allergy we mean...
Pets can carry all sorts of allergens around with them. After a romp in a cobwebbed corner or a run through the woods, your pet will pick up things like dust and pollen and carry them around in his/her fur. Even if you’re not allergic to pet dander, you may find that you’re itchy or sneezy or congested when snuggling with your pet in bed.
If you have allergies, asthma, or a weakened immune system, your body may benefit from a break from your pet while sleeping every night. (If you want to co-sleep despite allergies, consider using a HEPA filter to help you breathe easier.)
Does your pet affect your quality of sleep?
Our pets sleep differently than we do, which can cause issues. Dogs, for example, tend to be lighter sleepers and often respond to sounds that humans don’t notice. Pets can also make noise in their sleep and move while dreaming, which can disturb (and highly amuse!) their humans.
Sleep is so important, impacting everything from our mood to weights to decision-making abilities. If you find yourself waking up in the morning exhausted after co-sleeping with your pet, consider moving your pet to their own bed — or at the very least, using a white noise machine to drown out pet noises.
On the flipside, some report sleeping better with a pet in the bed.
Maybe it’s knowing you’ve got a protective guardian with you, maybe it’s your pet’s warmth and rhythmic breathing, or maybe it just makes you feel fuzzy inside knowing your pet gets to spend quality time with you for a few hours a night...
Whatever the reason, if it’s enhancing your sleep quality to snooze with a pet, by all means, keep doing it!
Does your pet show any problem behaviors?
Some animal trainers warn that letting your pet sleep on the bed with you gives them unhealthy boundaries and can disrupt the owner/pet dynamic. But most modern trainers say this thinking is only half-true.
If you bring a dog with dominance issues into the bed with you, for example, that can further confuse the dog into knowing who’s boss. However, co-sleeping with well-behaved pets who understand the pecking order usually doesn’t cause many additional behavioral issues.
At the slightest hint of aggression or dominant behavior, most people choose to remove the pet from the bed. It’s is a symptom of a bigger dominance issue but removing your pet from the bed is a good first step to re-establish balance.
Additionally, think about whether your pet has other unwanted behaviors that would make sleeping on the bed problematic. A pet with a weak bladder or itchy skin problems is probably not the #1 bedmate. And if you know your pet’s likely to rip up the Parachute sheets you just splurged on, it’s probably best to keep him/her out of the bed.
How does your partner feel about it?
Everybody’s got their own comfort level when it comes to pets in the bedroom. Some couples want pets completely out of the room, others are happy with pets on the floor, and others are cool with pets in the bed.
Take your partner’s wants into account and honor the minimal comfort level of both parties.
If you do decide to have your pet sleep in bed with you, it’s best if your pet doesn’t physically sleep between you and your partner at night. Physical closeness helps maintain emotional closeness, so train your pet to sleep at the foot or the side of the bed.
Do you have kids?
If you’re already co-sleeping with kids, it’s safest not to add pets in the mix. The bed’s already crowded enough!
Many vets recommend not letting pets sleep in kids’ beds, either. We know plenty of people who grew up with pets sleeping at the foot of their bed — but generally speaking, it’s safer to keep kids and pets separate while sleeping.
Does your pet like it?
Don’t forget, your pet might not want to sleep with you. Some animals prefer their own space at night.
Take cues from your cat or dog and don’t force it if they show a preference for sleeping alone. And do your best not to take it personally if this is the case (easier said than done!)
Tips for getting pets OUT of your bed
Transitioning pets away from your bed takes a little work, but it’s doable!
First, commit to very clear boundaries to re-train your pet. If one owner says “yes” while the other says “no”, or if you sometimes allow your pet on the bed, he’ll never learn the new rules. Keep it all-or-nothing.
Pick a new sleeping spot for your pet, whether it’s their own pet bed, the couch, or a pillow on the floor. Make this spot comfortable by laying a worn t-shirt (so it smells like you), drop in a few of their favorite treats, sprinkle in some catnip for cats. This helps pets make positive associations with the new spot and feel familiar.
The next time your pet jumps on your bed, lure them to the new spot with treats and give them plenty of praise when they step on their new bed. Don’t give them ANY attention while on your bed; only show affection while on the new bed.
Stay patient and understand that re-training takes time! It can take days or weeks or months for your pet to re-learn sleeping behaviors and to enjoy their new spot. Stay consistent and you’ll get there!
Our favorite products to live better with pets
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