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Should Your Cat Sleep With You?

Here are the pros and cons of having a feline sleeping buddy.

woman with dark hair lying in bed with striped cat, both asleep
Photo: Thais Ramos Varela

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Letting your dog sleep in bed with you — though frowned upon by some people who prefer not to battle a four-legged creature for the duvet — is pretty common for pup parents. In fact, dogs are central to the expression “three dog night,” which refers to a night where temperatures are so bitterly cold that three dogs in the bed with you are necessary for you to stay warm. 

A “three cat night” — perhaps not as warm because of body size, but every bit as cozy to be sure — may appeal to some of us. But even a one-or-two cat night may raise concerns for some people. Is it a good idea to have your cat sleep in the bed with you? There are, as in many decisions pet parents must make, both pros and cons to co-sleeping with your feline friends.

Pros of Sleeping With Your Cat

There are clear advantages to having your cat sleep in bed with you. They are less likely to be scared than if they are alone elsewhere in the house. And, you will know when they are awake if you are right there with them; there is less chance of them doing anything destructive or mischievous in the house while you are unaware of what they are doing. 

The Noise Might Actually Help You Sleep

For many people, purring is like a white-noise machine and helps us sleep. If your cat sleeps peacefully on top of you, that may also help you sleep better in the same way as having a weighted blanket can.

You’ll Have a Buddy

Sleeping in the bed with a cat helps many people feel secure and less anxious or lonely because cats are such great company. Having a cat in the bed with you can lower your stress levels (and maybe your blood pressure, too).

Cats are generally more cuddly and softer than a teddy bear, which makes them excellent sleeping companions. Sharing time together and being physically close as you drift off to sleep, as you sleep, and when you wake up is a great way to bond with your kitty.

Cons of Sleeping With Your Cat

If you’ve tried sleeping with your cat, you know how much they can interrupt your sleep. Having a cat walk all over you throughout the night or yowl in your ear would definitely not be a recommendation from your sleep specialist.

Your significant other might not be a huge fan of sharing the bed with the cat, either. Coming up with a solution to this is more in the realm of a relationship counselor than an animal behaviorist, but one option is to put a cat bed on the side of the bed. Just make sure the bed is on the side of the person who wanted the cat in the bedroom in the first place. That way, they’re the one who wakes up if the kitty decides to sing a little song in the middle of the night.

Beware, Allergy Sufferers

If you suffer from allergies or asthma that are worse when you are with your cat, either of these medical conditions may be a deal breaker for co-sleeping with your cat, even if you really want to welcome them into the bed.

Some Cats Love Nighttime Play

Some cats haven’t read the rules of home ettiquette — especially the one that says nighttime is for sleeping. Plenty of cats choose to play with you at night if they are on the bed with you. Even cats who attempt to settle in for a cozy night may pounce on your feet or any other body part whenever you move.

You Could Get Sick From Them

There’s some risk of disease transmission whenever we spend time with other family members, no matter the species. In the case of cats, the best plan is to keep them healthy with regular veterinary care, to stay on top of any preventatives for fleas and ticks, and to keep the litter box clean to lessen the likelihood of them being exposed to anything there and sharing it with you when you sleep.

How to Decide If Your Cat Should Sleep With You

Whether you allow your cat to sleep in your bed is mainly about personal preference, and the decision may not be the same for each of the cats in your household. If you can’t sleep because your cat is pouncing, playing, meowing, or otherwise impersonating an alarm clock all night long, that’s not going to enhance your relationship. But if you and your cat are compatible co-sleepers, you could both be in for a cozy snooze.

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Karen London holding up a small dog

Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.