Cats and dogs tend to be more than just pets who live in our home, they are members of our family. Fur kids if you like.
Cats tend to be far fickler and more independent than dogs. While most dogs jump at a chance to share a bed with their humans not all cats are so keen, and even if they do entertain the idea it’s usually according to their personal schedule, not yours.
But if you do have a cat that does not mind sleeping with you, or maybe even enjoys doing so, is it the right thing for you? Are there pros to sleeping with your feline friend or should they be left to find somewhere else to sleep at night?
That’s just what we are going to look at here.
Understanding Feline Sleep Patterns
Before we examine the cats in bed issue itself it helps to understand their natural sleep patterns. Cats sleep a lot. As kittens and young cats they might sleep – on and off – for up to 16 hours a day. As they get older that may decrease a little but the average cat’s daily nap time is still somewhere around 14 hours a day.
Technically cats are nocturnal creatures, in that they sleep more in the day and are more active at night. This, for a domestic pet cat is a throwback to her feral roots. Out in the ‘wild’ cats are more vulnerable to attack from predators at night. Many of the animals who prey on feral cats – birds of prey, coyotes, sometimes raccoons – are active at night too – but sleep in the day, making it safer for wild felines to do so too.
A house cat is often different though. Much of the time they adjust their natural sleep patterns in line with the rest of the household, staying more alert in the day than they might in the wild so they don’t miss out on family fun or yummy treats and then sleeping more at night than their feral counterparts might. So just because ‘technically’ a cat is a nocturnal animal does not mean some won’t snooze the night away if allowed to sleep with you.
The Pros of Sleeping with Your Cat
Yes, cats are cute and soft and cuddly and it’s hard to say no if your cat asks – via meows –to sleep with you – but those things aside there are some reasons, reasons backed by actual research in many cases, that sleeping with your cat can be good for you too.
Cats Can be Calming
There is a great deal of research available that backs up the notion that pets can help relieve not just loneliness but also anxiety and depression.
For example, a study carried out by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK surveyed 600 people who had a diagnosed mood disorder and they found that 87% of the people taking part in their study who owned a cat felt their feline companion had a significant positive impact on their wellbeing, and 76% said they felt that having their cat helped them cope with everyday life and challenges better.
Those benefits can be carried over to bedtime for many too. Sleeping with their cat is, for many people, helpful in keeping their anxiety at bay and for some the gentle purr most happy, sleepy cats emit can be a great way to lull themselves, as humans, to sleep as well, so sleeping with a cat can often help combat difficulties in falling asleep, one of the major problems associated with insomnia.
As we mentioned, cats are not like dogs and the way they form a bond with their pet parent is very different as well. As busy as many of us are during the day it can be hard to form a good bond with a cat. If she asks to sleep with you – even occasionally – this is a great way to build that bons, which will make your cat feel more secure in her family position and usually more friendly and affectionate in general.
A Built in Alarm Clock
If you are one of the many people who tends to sleep through their alarm or has a habit of hitting the snooze button too many times, then sleeping with your cat will probably solve a lot of those issues. When the sun comes up it’s likely that they will wake you, for food, attention or simply to be let out of the bedroom so they can go and patrol their territory (something else we all know cats love to do.)
The Cons of Sleeping with Your Cat
Everything in life has its pros and cons and that’s as true of sleeping with your feline friend as anything else. Here’s a look at some of the possible downsides of allowing your cat to share your bed.
Incompatible Sleeping Habits
As we’ve covered, cats have odd sleeping habits. Including, for some, a tendency to gain a huge burst of energy around 2 or 3 am and want to get up and start playing, or running round the house in a fit of what many pet parents term the zoomies. This is obviously not conducive to a good night’s sleep for you!
This video, from cat expert and TV cat behavioral guru Jackson Galaxy goes into the causes of Zoomies, and a few possible ways you can help your cat adjust out of them. As he explains though, if you want to share nighttime bedroom space with your feline it’s often a matter of learning their sleep habits and deciding if they are compatible with yours.
Some people worry about sleeping with their cat due to hygiene concerns. You’ll certainly want to make sure Fluffy has clean feet after using the litter box before she comes to bed and if yours is an indoor/outdoor cat then it is more likely that they will be exposed to flea and ticks, both of which they could bring into your bed.
As these things are problems in general ensuring that your cat receives proper flea and tick prevention treatment from your vet, is up to date on her shots and that you check her fur and paws for ticks when she comes home are musts for her health and will help ensure that she’s ‘safe’ to sleep with.
Then there are allergies. Sometimes getting cat dander too close to your face can cause allergic reactions that may not occur when you interact with them in the day. This is not something that can be easily predicted however, and really the only way you’ll find out if this is a bar to sleeping with your cat is if you try.
Sleeping With Your Cat and COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues some people have begun to wonder if they can transmit the virus to their pets if they have been exposed, or vice versa. At the time of writing there is no evidence that cats or dogs can contract COVID-19 from humans, and it is a human virus, not one ‘spread’ by them.
There have been one or two isolated cases where it was believed a pet contracted COVID-19 from an owner, but experts say that is more likely to be a glitch in the testing process. Recently however the CDC updated their guidelines to suggest that people with active COVID-19 symptoms avoid close contact with their pets as they should with the human members of their family.
If you have concerns that your pet may have been exposed to COVID-19 many vets are now far better informed about the possibility of pets contracting the virus – although, as we mentioned there is no evidence, yet, that this is a problem, the CDC guidelines were changed out of an abundance of caution for pets – and they will be able to address your questions and fears.
In general, however experts favor increased contact with pets in lockdown situations as they can, as we’ve covered, help decrease stress and anxiety, something that is proving to be a problem for many people even if they have not experienced such things before.
How to NOT Sleep with Your Cat
Maybe you have decided that you and your cat would not make good bedfellows. But your cat is still crying to sleep with you. How can you keep your cat out of your bed but not upset them or make them feel rejected?
Physically keeping your cat out of your bedroom is not hard. Close the door and keep it closed. The harder part is barring your cat from the bedroom without upsetting them and damaging the bond you have built with them.
One of the reasons that young cats, or acts that have been rescued from bad situations, want to sleep with the pet parents is that they don’t feel safe at night by themselves. This fear can be addressed by creating a special safe haven for them elsewhere in the house.
This should include their own bed – preferably a cave type bed they can ‘hide’ in if they prefer, access to toys and a location that is not removed from the heart of the house and where the rest of the family are.
Another thing you should do is pay special attention to your cat before you go to bed. Make petting and playing with your cat a part of your own nighttime routine. By doing so they are less likely to feel slighted at being shut out of your bedroom and you yourself will get some time to relax before bed, something that is essential for a good night’s sleep anyway.
In the end whether or not you sleep with your cat is a personal decision between you and your feline, but we hope that the information offered here helps you make the right choice for both of you!