The Humane Society of the United States reports that about 40 percent of households own at least one dog and 33 percent own at least one cat, many of whom sleep with their beloved furry friends. Although pet lovers will argue that cuddling with their dog or cat in bed does more good than harm, factors like sleep quality, physical health and behavioral consequences seldom come into play. “How can you say no to that cute face?” usually wins the argument, but experts agree that there are plenty of cons to go along with the pros.
Benefits of Sleeping with Your Pet
Nationwide surveys indicate that 90 percent of people living with a dog, cat, bird or other animal they consider to be a pet describe them as “cherished and important” members of the family. In addition, pet owners assert that keeping pets consistently close to them provides a sense of calmness and peace they do not receive from being around other people. Pet owners also state that sleeping with their pet further enhances this feeling of comfort and security while strengthening the strong, psychic bond that animal lovers claim to have and enjoy with a pet.
Longitudinal research into the health benefits of sleeping with pets has unequivocally found that companion animals have the ability to alleviate feelings of stress and loneliness. Since chronic stress is widely known to promote high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, and loneliness often leads to debilitating depression, people who sleep with their pets may exhibit less instances of physical and mental issues. In addition, people who feel close enough to their pet to have no qualms about cuddling with them in bed are also more inclined to engage in outdoor activities with their pet, which promotes the additional physical and mental benefits of exercise and being outdoors.
Possible Problems From Sleeping With a Pet
Being in such close contact with an animal regardless of how well it is taken care of always holds the potential for the pet owner to catch a disease or suffer the uncomfortable consequences of flea and tick bites. Other health issues affecting people who sleep with pets include: roundworm or tapeworm infection, cat scratch “fever” (attributed to infected fleas or the scratch/bite of a feline), staph infections, allergic dermatitis and leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread through contact with urine. Signs that a human may have contracted leptospirosis include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and other flu-like symptoms.
What the Experts Say
Whether pet owners sleep with their animal friends on an Ikea couch, in a hammock, or a 500-thread-count duvet from Macys.com, the majority of experts in the field of pet/owner health and safety say that the risks of sleeping with a pet outweighs the emotional benefits it also provides. However, pet owners dearly love their furry friends and receive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from knowing that their pet is close to them at night. Knowing that they can reach out and touch the softness and warmth of their bodies any time they wish appears to eliminate any fears a pet owner may have about catching a potentially serious disease from their adored pet.
Bonnie Warner: Bonnie has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and lives in Texas.