If you're not a pet owner, you may be astounded by friends who are unfazed by their pet jumping into bed with them. As a culture, a lot of us are still averse to keeping animals as pets, let alone co-sleeping or sharing our beds with them.
Some reservations are based on managing a pet’s dependence on its owner. Sanjana Bose, a 24 year old doctor who grew up with three cats in Bengaluru says that pets who sleep in the same bed as their owners may find it difficult to cope if their pet parent has to go away for a period of time. Bose, who would take care of stray cats and make arrangements for their adoption when she was an undergraduate at Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore, says, “People generally think that cats aren’t affectionate but cats love body warmth and they love to sleep next to humans and on top of humans.”
Other reservations are based on misconceptions. Devanshi Shah, founder of PetKonnect, an online pet products aggregator, says, “One of the myths I’ve heard is that children become more susceptible to allergies when sleeping with pets. It’s actually the opposite, if exposed to pets at an early age, children get more resilient to allergies and their immune system gets stronger.”
For Shah — who had a dog, Hazel, who has since passed away — co-sleeping with pets is completely normal. “I loved having her around when I was sleeping, it made me feel safe,” Shah says. Waking up and seeing her dog in the morning reduced her stress levels throughout the day.
‘The effects of bed sharing on sleep: from partners to pets’, published in the June 2021 edition of Sleep Health Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, concludes that sharing a bed with pets is similar to sharing a bed with a partner or your child. People reported unchanged or better quality of sleep despite more physical sleep disruptions, because of the associated feelings of warmth and comfort.
The psychological benefits seem intuitive, but is co-sleeping with your pets hygienic? Here are Shah’s tips and best practices for sharing a bed with your pets.
1. Make sure to deworm and vaccinate your pets. Animals with ticks or fleas can infect their owner’s skin as well.
2. If you have any cuts on your face, be cautious. Pets, especially dogs, have a habit of licking their parents first thing in the morning, and cuts can just increase the chances of an infection.
3. Don’t co-sleep with your pet if you’re allergic to fur. The few times my dog Hazel slept with my mother, my mother actually got an allergic reaction in her lungs
4. Maintain hygiene practices as is appropriate for your pet’s breed. It’s not good to bathe your pet everyday, but there are a ton of dry shampoos on the market that you can use. Take a wet cloth and wipe your pet down after you take them on walks.
5. Train your pets to keep your bed clean. We would take Hazel for a walk before going to sleep so that the chances of her spoiling my bed were diminished. If she wanted to relieve herself, in the middle of the night, she was trained to pee on a mat kept next to my bed.
6. Change your sheets and bedding more often than you usually would.