Is it OK to let your cat sleep in your bed? Why the science is complicated

Many pet owners are willing to accept the slight nuisance of sleeping next to their cat – as long as they can wake up with their furry cat by their side. Katherine Pankratz, a certified veterinary behaviorist, is one of them.

“Personally, I would take any physical discomfort – whiskers in my nose and everything – if my cat wanted to cuddle with me every night,” she tells Inverse. “It is definitely an important bonding experience for me and hopefully for my cat Kaeto too.”

Other pet owners hate this experience.

When Inverse asked pet owners about r / pets, a redditor who goes tonkatsu_tempura replied that they tried for two days before giving up. “I couldn’t stand the thought of sleep as it chased feces over my bed and me,” they explain. “The bedroom just feels fresher and much more relaxing without the pet’s dander and hair.”

But critically – is there a correct answer? In this article, Inverse delves into researcher reports, explains the pros and cons of sharing a bed with a cat, and shares tips for getting a good night’s sleep if you leave your cat on the blanket.

Is it bad if you let your cat sleep in bed with you?

Does sleeping with your cat improve or worsen the quality of your sleep? The answer depends on the particular scientific study.

Ultimately, veterinarians cannot make a general statement about whether it is objectively “good” or “bad” to sleep next to your pet. Only the pet owner can really answer this question.

“Some people feel more comfortable when their cat is in bed, others have difficulty making themselves comfortable or are disturbed when their cat walks on them or takes up the bed,” says Mikel Delgado, Feline Minds cat expert Postdoctoral Fellow School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, Inverse tells.

Pankratz, who works at the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon, says there is “no clear consensus” and that “more research is needed”.

“Some studies show the benefits of sleeping, while others show a connection with poorer sleep quality,” adds Pankratz.

Whether or not you can stop your cat from sleeping with you is another question. Getty Images

However, if you want to delve into the scientific literature, here are the highlights:

  • A study from 2021 of 265 13 to 17-year-olds who kept pets found that 78 percent of those surveyed slept with their pet. There were “no differences in sleep quality depending on age, gender or co-sleeping status”.
  • A 2018 study found that “Cats that slept in their owner’s bed were just as disruptive as human partners and associated with a weaker sense of comfort and security than both human and dog bed partners.”
  • Another study from 2021 found that cat ownership was associated with a higher likelihood of not getting at least seven hours of sleep – but the researchers failed to determine “whether this means cats are a risk factor for decreased sleep quality”.

The benefits of sleeping with a cat in bed

“For healthy cats and owners, the benefits outweigh the potential risks.”

Many cat owners report immense mental health benefits from sleeping with their pet, emphasizing how their pet helps them sleep more soundly.

“I recommend sleeping with a cat because it makes me happy. I feel sad when I fall asleep without my kitten near me, ”a Redditor who leaves Hunxie told Inverse. “Mine could fall asleep on my face and I would prefer to sleep without her.”

Others report that sleeping with their cats has benefited them in other surprising ways. Far from disrupting their sleep, these cats have helped their owners adhere to a routine sleep schedule.

Redditor LiteralHatCS says Inverse:

“… it made my actual sleep cycle a lot better because she’s waiting on my bed when it’s time to sleep and I feel bad when I’m not with her. I tend to have a messed up sleep cycle and the routine of only having one cat in general (especially feeding times) has improved it dramatically. “

“For healthy cats and owners, the benefits outweigh the potential risks,” says Pankratz.

The disadvantages of sleeping with a cat in bed

For Redditor Oxygen95, the cat in bed was a non-starter.

“I sleep extremely lightly, so my cat doesn’t sleep with me. In fact, she’s not even allowed to go into my room when I’m sleeping, ”Oxygen95 told Inverse.

An agitated cat has the potential to disrupt your sleep, just like a snoring human partner. “How a cat affects your sleep depends in part on you,” says Delgado.

“In fact, she’s not even allowed to go into my room when I’m sleeping.” Getty Images

Before deciding whether sleeping with your cat is a deal breaker for your sleep, there are two questions you need to ask, says Delgado:

  1. Are you a heavy sleeper or a light sleeper?
  2. Is your cat active at night or does it sleep peacefully in bed with you?

But when sleeping with your cat just doesn’t work, you have a few options – even if your cat may not like them.

“Cats have free will to choose where to sleep. If you want to restrict your cat’s access to sleep with you, you can deny access to your bedroom, ”says Pankratz.

“This could lead to initial frustration for your cat at the barrier to your room, such as at the entrance to your room. B. Noise or scratching on the door, ”she says.

For Redditor tonkatsu_tempura, this arrangement has proven its worth, whose cat is mostly in the living room, so they can store valuables in the bedroom without having to worry about keeping a close eye on their pet.

Is It Safe To Sleep In Bed With A Cat?

Mostly yes.

“In general, I would think it was safe to sleep with your cat, but you need to know them and how they would react if they accidentally startle or move them while they sleep,” says Delgado.

There’s always a chance that you could inadvertently scare your cat while you sleep and scratch it, “but that probably won’t happen that often,” Delgado adds.

Some pet owners may be concerned about crushing their cat while they sleep, but this is unlikely – although you should be careful sleeping together when raising newborn kittens.

“I’ve never heard anyone crush their cat while they sleep – most cats will move once they’re uncomfortable,” says Delgado. “But to be on the safe side, I would wait until the kittens are a little bigger before I sleep in bed with you.”

Pankratz agrees – although she does say that some cats may need their own sleeping space from their owners for health reasons. Cats with chronic or pain-related conditions may need to be provided with a sleeping place where they can avoid people who might move or move while they sleep.

Tips for sharing your bed with a cat

If you’re looking to set up a co-sleeping arrangement with your cat chore, Delgado and Pankratz offer three simple tips to make your life a little easier.

  • Create a specific place on the bed for the cat to sleep
  • Use tools – like a blanket that has its place on the bed – to help your cat fall asleep properly
  • Create a bedtime for your cat so she can get a good night’s sleep, e.g. B. play with your cat and serve him a meal before bed

Pankratz suggests that you “encourage a cat to rest in their preferred location by offering a desirable resting place such as a warm cat bed or soft material”. The exact material will depend on your cat’s preferences, but a fleece blanket could work just fine.

Delgado agrees, stating that a heated pillow may “steer” some cats to a specific area of ​​your bed, although she recognizes that “cats can be very individual and if they decide they like your pillow best, they will it probably try to sleep there. “

In the meantime, the best tip might be: exercise a little patience. Initially, Redditor likely had decreased sleep quality while lying in bed when they started sharing a bed with their kitten.

But over time, the cat adapted to its owner’s sleep schedule, and the owner, in turn, became less susceptible to the cat’s nocturnal movements.

“Usually she sleeps next to me in the evening and then moves into one of her own beds for the night,” they explain.

What to do if your cat does not sleep through the night

If you sleep with your furry cat, you may have noticed that your pet is not getting the proper sleep through the night.

While this may suggest that your sleeping habits are affecting your cat, it is also possible that this insomnia is a sign of more serious medical problems.

“… most cats move the second they feel uncomfortable.” Getty Images

Cats sleep a lot – about 50 to 70 percent of the day, according to Village West Veterinary, and that can be even longer in older cats. The opposite – too little sleep or restless sleep – can indicate heart disease or other ailments.

If you notice your cat is having trouble falling asleep, contact a veterinarian for a medical examination.

But in a 2015 post, veterinarian Eric Barchas also notes that cats tend to be crepuscular, which means they are active several hours before sunset and sunrise. If you notice your cat walking around like a madman in the wee hours of the morning, you can probably sit back and relax knowing that your cat is only doing her thing.

The Inverse Analysis – At the end of the day, the benefits of sleeping with a cat likely outweigh the disadvantages.

But like humans, every cat is unique. Sleeping with a cat may work for some pet owners but not for others. Don’t force the habit if it doesn’t work for you and your kitten.

“It depends on each case what cat and owner want from the sleeping accommodation,” says Pankratz.