Health experts have weighed in on what you should take into cognizance before sharing your bed space with your cat. There are advantages and drawbacks to sharing your points to sharing your sleeping space with your feline companion.
Some cats might not be interested sharing bed space with their owners. However, others want to be as close to their human counterparts as possible. Many humans seem to prefer it that way.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50 percent of pet owners in the United States allow their pet to sleep in bed with them.
Bill Fish, cofounder of Tuck.com, said there are advantages to allowing your cat into your bed at night. Your cat can give you a sense of security, emotionally and physically.
Fish said “having a guest in bed with you also reduces stress and brings warmth and comfort,” he said. “As you feel your cat’s rhythmic breathing, it soothes you and helps you get to sleep more quickly.”
However, the drawback of allowing your cat to sleep in bed with you could be that they can interrupt your sleep and bring a number of other health risks.
Cats and your sleep
According to founder of 911 VETS, Dr. Steve Weinberg, said it can be comfortable to have your cat sleep on a bed with you. Some cats can literally sleep on your head, thereby potentially calming anxiety and night terrors.
“The downside is that cats are nocturnal animals,” he said. “The human sleeper may have their sleep interrupted in the wee hours of the night or be woken up at a very early hour.”
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Because of this, Weinberg says, sleeping with a cat can be counterproductive to a person’s typical wake-sleep patterns.
“Many cats like to play and will scratch at or even bite at the human feet moving around under the covers,” he said. “[There are] other problems, such as allergy to cat dander or, if fleas are not under control, the human may receive flea bites.”
Cats may also want to cozy up to babies and infants — taking on their own caregiver roles in the house — but experts say cats shouldn’t spend the night with the littlest ones in your home.
Dr. Jennifer Maniet, a staff veterinarian at Petplan Pet Insurance, says it’s not safe for cats to sleep with babies because there’s a risk a cat could unintentionally suffocate a baby by sleeping on its chest or face.
“If the cat is startled or frightened, the baby can get bitten, scratched, or trampled on as the cat tries to run or jump away,” she said. “Cat scratches and bites are common ways that the cat can transmit diseases to a baby.”
You can consult your veterinarian for ways to keep the cats out of the nursery, Maniet says.
Then there’s the issue of whether your cat shares the bed with any other animals besides humans. Some cats won’t care, but others could view them as a threat and that could create some unwanted chaos in the bedroom.
“Having your cat in your bed can also promote dominance within the animal,” Fish said. “They begin to feel like it is their territory and could get agitated if anyone else enters the bed.”
Indoor and outdoor cats
While some cats are perfectly content with never going outside and reigning supreme over their indoor kingdoms, other cats live duel indoor-outdoor lives. This can pose different threats.
Maniet said outdoor cats are exposed to more disease carriers. This includes other outdoor cats, feral cats, prey, worms, fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and a plethora of other insects.
“All of these carriers have the potential to transmit diseases such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and many other infections,” Maniet said. “Also important to note is that the litter box of indoor cats can also present a risk of disease for humans in the household.”
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During the summer months, when ticks and other parasites are more active, pet professionals recommend regularly checking your cat’s fur and skin for potentially disease-spreading piggy-backers. This is good for both feline and human health.
The best way to reduce the risks of contracting these health risks from your cat, the CDC recommends, is for pet owners to regularly take their cats to the vet so they’re up to date on their immunizations.
Things to consider when cuddling with a cat
Maniet says there are a few things to consider before cuddling a cat. The first is the relatively low risk of disease transmission. One way to help reduce that is to talk to your human doctors, including pediatricians.
“Adults and children with a compromised immune system due to certain human diseases may be at a higher risk for contracting diseases from animals,” Maniet said.
There are some guaranteed signs to show that the cat should be left alone because it may be having its own health issues.
“Do not snuggle up to your furry friend if they are showing any signs of illness such as skin rashes, hair loss, sneezing, vomiting, coughing, lethargy, or diarrhea,” she said.
“Always have your pet checked as directed by your veterinarian to determine your pet’s overall health status and to make sure they remain disease-free,” Maniet said.