Posted by Mary
I don’t know about you, but my pets are family and that means my dog Josie and cat Farley Waddlesworth get the same creature comforts that I do. They sleep with me every night. But at a recent doctors appointment, my allergist told me that was bad for my health because I have allergies and asthma. Yes, I have reactions to animal dander, mold and pollen, but I politely told him I would rather suffer than be without my animals.
He is actually the third allergist I have had in 20 years who has told me that. Every time, each of them lectured me on why I should not sleep with my pets. Here are some very valid reasons:
- I could get the bubonic plague: According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) from 1977 to 1998 there were 23 cases of the disease caused by the family cat. Some people even died.
- I could get hookworm or ringworm: If Josie is infected with a fungus like ringworm, its spores are on her coat. When she cuddles up next to me, ringworm could get on my skin.
- I could get scratched by my cat. (Those of you who know this blog have read multiple posts on how Farley has bitten me repeatedly, especially as a kitten.)
- I could get meningitis by kissing Josie on the lips. (Done that before! Nothing has happened yet.)
- Either of my pets could give me staph infections, which is made up of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
To my family and friends who are non-pet people, they think I am crazy to not heed my doctor’s advice. To me, the benefits and fun of cuddling with my pets will always far outweigh the risks of any of these diseases.
While the NIH warns us not to sleep with your pets, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says sleeping with your furry family members is beneficial as long as you know there are risks involved. Their research has shown “the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.” They say some of the other benefits include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
The CDC has actually done quite a bit of study on this. Federal researchers have found 60 percent of households in the United States have pets and among dog owners, 53 percent consider their dog to be a member of the family. The institution also reports 56 percent of those dog owners sleep with their canines, and among dogs that snooze with their owners, 62 percent are with small dogs, 41 percent are with those medium sized, and 32 percent are with large ones. When it comes to cats, 62 percent sleep with their adult owners and 13 percent sleep with children.
An American Kennel Club study in 2005 had other interesting information. It said 21 percent of women sleep with their furry friends while only 16 percent of men slumber with their pet. And, 16 percent of pet parents say their dogs sneak into bed with them on a regular basis even though they’re not supposed to.
If you’re like me and have allergies but still want to sleep with your pets, there are things you can do to make things better. I wash all my bedding in hot water weekly, especially the comforter the animals lay on. I also wash the blanket that I put on top of the comforter twice a week in very hot water. (I do have a little obsessive compulsive disorder in my genetics.)
I religiously groom Farley every two weeks to get rid of his excess pet hair and always sleep year round with an air purifier that has a HEPA filter. HEPA technology is the best to capture pet hair, dander and odors. There are many brands out there that are great, just make sure you’re diligent about replacing the filter or it will do no good.
If you decide you really should not have your pets in bed with you, good luck on making that transition. I could never do that because the whimpering or meowing at the door would drive me bonkers. I would feel very guilty. But that’s just me. From a rational standpoint, my animals should not be sleeping with me.
If you are emotionally stronger than me and do want to move your pets out of your bedroom, there are many ways to do that successfully. The key is discipline and a methodical process. I know plenty of pet parents who have their animals sleep in crates, in their own bed next to their owner’s bed, or in another part of the house. While your animal may want to be with you and may feel sad going to their own bed at the beginning, many animals eventually adjust and are just fine.
For me, Josie and Farley are an important part of my world so having them snuggle with me each evening makes all of us happy. Pets receive comfort from you in the same way that you do from them, so for me this all makes sense. But sleeping with your pets is a personal decision. The important thing is that both you and your pet are healthy and happy.