Co-sleeping with dogs and cats

each night i‘s science writer Stuart Richie’s cockapoo biscuit ends up in bed with him. “He comes up for a cuddle and then goes to sleep at the bottom of the bed facing the door,” says Stuart. “But we have a baby on the way and of course there are tons of guidelines about how to do ‘co-sleeping’ with infants, one of which is ‘keep your dog away from the bed’. Biscuits won’t be happy”.

Meanwhile, correspondent Katie Grant doesn’t only allow her five-year-old cat Gertie into bed, she actively encourages her. “It’s a little night-time routine. She likes to knead my head though, which means my scalp gets clawed and my hair gets pulled, which can be uncomfortable and keep me awake. But it also keeps my head warm in the winter. My boyfriend and I feel quite rejected when she decides to go somewhere else, and we wonder why she’s abandoned us.”

Biscuit the cockapoo is going to have to get used to a baby in the bed instead of him (Photo: Supplied)

Another fan of feline bedfellows is TV editor Emily Baker, whose cat dominates the bed. “Pingu stretches herself out as much as she possibly can. I love having her sleep on my bed and often find her before I sleep to purposely put her there (she wishes I would just leave her alone). Rarely does she stay all night, but there’s something comforting about having the big lump close. Sometimes I find myself squashed between two cats if they’re not scrapping. Sometimes my older cat, Delilah, will get under the covers with me.”

Natasha Salmon, i‘s audience editor, doesn’t tend to move a lot in the night, a sleep habit which proves “a hit” with her cat Nala. “She normally sleeps down by my feet but sometimes she does sneak up to sleep by my head when it is extra cold.”

Nala the cat in Natasha Salmon’s bed (Photo: Supplied)

Almost helped of British pet owners frequently sleep in bed with their dog or cat, according to a 2017 survey of 2,000 people by Animal Friends pet insurance. Yet, for some of the greatest animal lovers at the idogs and cats in bed sounds like hell.

Columnist Ian Dunt doesn’t allow his dog Thanos on the bed at all. “There are very solid reasons for this,” he says. “The first is that, no matter where he is or what he is doing, he likes to position himself so that his ass and testicles are pressed against my face. He also likes to absent-mindedly chew on whichever part of my body is closest to his mouth. This is obviously a problem in the evening. I wake up from dreams of sharks to find him trying to eat my little finger. I wake up from dreams of suffocation to find his anus twitching in front of me, like the Eye of Sauron. It doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. So for now, at least, he sleeps somewhere else. Maybe when he’s changed his seating preferences…”

Thanos isn’t allowed to sleep on Ian Dunt’s bed until he’s changed his seating preferences (Photo: Supplied)

Laurie Havelock, business and money reporter, has the same rule for his Siberian husky, Mischa, although for different reasons. “I would never let her sleep on my bed on account of how much hair and fluff she produces in inexhaustible quantities. I find her white hairs on all my clothes and most of my possessions every day and, though I don’t hate it, the thought of having it collect in my sheets makes me itch. There’s also the very real danger of her deciding the bed is hers and becoming aggressive about its true ownership, something she already tends towards with her own bed, the sofa or anything we’re careless enough to leave on the floor.”

Delilah likes getting under the duvet with Emily Baker (Photo: Supplied)

Yet, should we let sleeping dogs lie (in our beds)?

When it comes to hygiene, Dr Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer at the Kennel Club, says that as loving as dogs can be, there is a risk of ticks, fleas, dirt and hair transferring to your bed. He says one of the concerns is the transmission of zoonotic diseases, which are transmissible from animals to people. “Dogs, as loving as they are, are not the most hygienic and they have been known to carry and transmit germs and parasites, fleas, mites, roundworms, and hookworms in their saliva and faeces.”

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These can be contagious to adults and young people, especially if they have compromised immune systems. Cats, on the other hand, are cleaner (sorry, dogs!) because they wash themselves every day, although they can still transfer dirt, mites, fungal infections and parasites into the bed.

For most people, this doesn’t generally have serious consequences, however, anyone allowing pets in bed should clean their sheets regularly, every three to four days, and their duvet cover every week. And ideally, wash the dog, too. How often you wash them depends on the breed and their coat, but generally at least once or twice a month, and perhaps more if they’ve been for a particularly muddy walk or have been rolling around in anything especially dirty while out and about.

Pingu, Emily Baker’s younger cat, stretching out (Photo: Supplied)

Germs aside, there can be other downsides to having pets in bed, argues Dr Lindsay Browning, author of Navigating sleeplessness. “The general consensus is that sleeping with a pet is not good for your sleep,” she says. “Their movements and noises are likely to disturb you. In fact, couples tend to sleep better when they sleep separately from each other, therefore it follows that sharing a bed with a pet would be similar.” Yet, for many pet owners, the pros to co-sleeping with an animal outweigh the potential health hazards. “Despite the likely sleep disturbance,” says Dr Browning, “many pet owners report that the psychological benefits of co-sleeping (bed sharing) outweigh any sleep disturbance caused. That is, people tend to feel safer and happier if they sleep with a pet, even if they don’t get as good quality sleep.”

The thing is, it’s not always up to humans. Aimee Meade’s best laid plans went awry as soon as she got her two rescue kittens. “My boyfriend and I were very much in the no cats on the bed/in the bedroom at night camp but we have failed very much,” says the assistant opinion editor.

Aimee Meade’s kittens weren’t supposed to be in bed, but they forced their way in (Photo: Supplied)

“Our bedroom door doesn’t shut properly, so as soon as my fluffballs knew they could bulldoze their way in there was no hope.” On i reporter inherited a cat from an owner who could no longer take care of him, and with them, he’d slept on the bed pretty much every night since he was a kitten. “It wouldn’t be my preference, but it’s a habit I’ve given in to: if you try to keep him out, he scratches the door and howls all night.”

Another cat inheritor is copy editor Jonathan Harwood, who became custodian of elderly Chairman Miaow. “He arrived already of the opinion that beds were not just for humans and efforts to get him to change his ways failed miserably, as he would just stand outside the bedroom door and live up to his name… relentlessly. This morning, half an hour before my alarm, I was roused from my slumber by the sound of him coughing up a furball – but at least he jumped down onto the floor before throwing up.”

Gertie and Nala are both allowed to sleep in their humans’ beds (Photo: Supplied)

It may well be annoying – and a bit gross – but for those who have lost a pet, the bed-sharing years bring back some of the best memories. “My cat has recently passed on, but she would insist on sleeping on the bed,” says writer Conrad Landin. “As cats are self-cleaning, it wasn’t an issue apart from the fact she’d sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and insist on waking us up too, often with a single claw scratching my cheek. I miss her very much.” And for about five years, Bandini the beagle had been working his way towards getting into art director Tim Alden’s bed. “I admit to allowing Bandini access to his goal of goals in his final days,” says Tim. “It was a very hairy experience, but I don’t regret it for a minute.”

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