Should cats sleep in bed with us or is co-sleeping a bad idea? The recommendations are conflicting and the answer will depend on you and your cat. Find out if it’s right for you.
Letting your cat sleep in bed with you will be a personal choice and will depend on various factors. Your health and the cat’s health will be critically important aspects to consider, as well as issues like the cat’s behavior, personality and sleep cycles. Some experts would oppose allowing cats to sleep in bed with humans, while others even propose that human-animal co-sleeping should be approached as a legitimate and socially relevant form of co-sleeping.
In 2021, 45.3 million American families reported owning a cat. One study shows that between 14-62 percent of pet owners allow dogs and cats on their beds, so should you? Let’s find out.
Natural Sleep Patterns
It has been debated between cat and dog lovers worldwide for years, but it looks as though our feline friends are generally more disruptive to human sleep than man’s most faithful companions. Sleep regulation might be biologically similar for cats and other animals. Still, their innate and unusual sleep-wake cycles might account for them jumping on your tired head at the first hint of daylight in the wee hours of the morning.
Many people think that cats are nocturnal animals because of their tendency to come to life when the sun goes down. Cats are actually crepuscular — which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. According to the Sleep Foundation:
- Cats sleep multiple times per day as opposed to one long sleep period at night — known as a polyphasic sleep pattern.
- More than half of cats sleep between 12 and 18 hours a day.
- Sleep requirements for cats increase with age.
- Cat naps average 78 minutes in length.
- Cats experience two major peaks of activity — one in the early morning before sunrise and one in the evening around sunset.
Cats are active during these periods because of their natural hunting instincts and excellent ability to see in poor lighting. During these hours of poor visibility, cats have an added edge over their prey and can spot rodents and birds — that may not spot them — more easily. Although domestic cats do not have to hunt for their meals, this primitive hunting behavior is still exhibited — making them excitable at times we might rather be sleeping. If your cat likes to chase invisible mice around your bed at all hours, you might want to reconsider letting your cat sleep in bed with you. However, not all cats are disruptive to human sleep and might even be beneficial bed-buddies.
Will I Get Enough Sleep With My Cat In Bed?
Data collected by the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona indicates that over half of pet owners allow their pets to sleep in the bedroom. 20 percent reported that their pet was disruptive to sleep, while 41 percent reported the opposite — finding pets quite beneficial to sleep. Cats have indeed been found to be more disruptive to sleep than dogs in several studies though, and research last year did find a significant association between cat ownership and not reaching the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
The reasons for this association are debated by many experts and feline fans all over the world. The reality is that like humans, cats have different personalities, habits and routines. Some cats will love snuggling up to sleep in bed with their owners, while others prefer to pick their own resting spots around the house and will be disruptive if forced into a location against their will. Knowing your cat’s preferences will be important. Some cats love heat and will sleep more soundly against your body heat, while others prefer to lie at your feet, on top of the blankets. For others, even sleeping elsewhere in the same room can provide a therapeutic bonding relationship.
Some now suggest that cats will change their behavior to become in synch with their owners’ routines and rhythms when it comes to sleeping in bed together. An Italian academic study tracking ten domestic cats — five that roamed freely inside and outside, and five that were confined to smaller areas inside — found that the cats in the smaller confines mirrored their owners’ sleeping and waking patterns and developed symbiotic synchronicity with their routines.
Interestingly, a Japanese researcher spent 24 nights getting in synch with her cat’s habits instead of the typical cat sleeping in the human bed arrangement. She monitored the measurable and subjective effects of sleeping in a random location in her house that her cat had chosen. Over the 24 nights, she would lay a sleeping bag at her cat’s chosen location — anywhere from the stairs to her living room floor — and slept there with her feline friend. She monitored her sleep scores and other factors — including the cat’s behavior — throughout.
This researcher found no difference in sleep scores from her baseline and recorded several positive mental benefits during the experience too. She notes that despite being briefly awoken several times due to various movements of the cat, this was not significant enough to show up in the metrics. The study also showed notable differences in the cat’s behavior — including increased affectionate behavior and an increased interest and tendency to sleep in the sleeping bag that the human had been using. This study also documented harmonious synchronicity between the co-sleeping pair — indicating that sleeping relationships can balance and harmonize over time.
Is Disease A Factor To Consider?
A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from an animal to humans. This issue is probably the most serious concern when considering letting a cat sleep in bed with you or a family member. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 200 known variations of these diseases, and they do comprise a large percentage of new and existing human diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), zoonotic infections acquired by sleeping with a domestic pet are rare. Many are also completely preventable through vaccination, hygiene and proper veterinary care. The CDC does highlight though, that transmission of disease from cats is not impossible. They recommend that children and immunocompromised people should not let their pets share their beds. These recommendations are based primarily on rare, historical cases of serious zoonoses transmission that include:
- Cases of bubonic plague that were linked to sleeping with flea-infested and sick cats.
- A case of meningitis in a newborn that was associated with a pet cat stealing the baby’s pacifier and using it as a toy.
- Chagas disease — an inflammatory, infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi — that had been transmitted by sleeping with cats (and dogs).
- Cases of cat-scratch disease — transmitted to humans when they are scratched by a cat that harbors Bartonella henselae–infected fleas and flea feces — from sleeping with or being licked by a household cat.
Other zoonotic cat-related diseases, still seen today and to be aware of, include:
- Campylobacteriosis — a common cause of diarrhea, affecting over one million people in the US annually
- Tapeworm, hookworm and roundworm
- Toxoplasmosis — an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that more than 40 million people in the United States may be infected with, according to the CDC.
Disease transmission is just one of many reasons you should never keep exotic pet cats. For our good-old domestic cats though, regular trips to the vet, deworming, flea and tick treatment, and adherence to vaccination schedules is essential if you decide to let your cat share your bed. Unlike dogs, cats generally show clinical signs of infection and flea infestation that could serve as a warning if you regularly assess your cat’s health status. Hygiene, safe handling of litter, and adherence to a veterinary regime will significantly minimize your risk of contracting anything by sleeping with your cat in bed.
Allergies Are A Two-Way Street
According to the Ohio State University, cats and dogs are responsible for an estimated 15 to 30 percent of allergies, with cat allergies being twice as common as dog allergies among humans. Allergies to cats are primarily caused by a single protein found on the skin and in the saliva, but seven other proteins can trigger reactions to cats and their dander.
Letting a cat sleep in bed with you will prolong your exposure to these allergens and we recommend seeing a medical professional for advice about how to best manage your cat-owner relationship. Other tips from the Ohio State University include:
- Spay or neuter your cat to decrease allergen production.
- Avoid owning multiple cats because more cats reduce the concentration of allergens in the household.
- Bathe your cat weekly.
- Always wash your hands immediately after handling your pet.
- Restrict cats from rooms you spend most of your time in.
- When possible, replace carpet with smooth flooring as carpet can contain 13 times more cat allergens than smooth floors.
It’s important to remember that your cat could be allergic to you or other allergens in your bed and bedroom. Our mattresses and bedding can contain large volumes of human dander and other common triggers — like detergents and dust particles. Cat allergies usually manifest as miliary dermatitis— small scabs or missing hair, typically around the head and neck — but other common allergy symptoms can occur. Do not sleep in bed with your cat if you or it exhibit any allergy symptoms and limit your exposure to triggers or each other.
Why Should I Let My Cat Sleep In Bed With Me?
Scientific research shows that just owning a cat has multiple benefits — including improved mental and physical health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved heart health, alleviation of social isolation and loneliness, and stress reduction.Even just pet engagement has promising effects on preventing depression in older people and owning a cat is associated with improved psychological health generally.
The most extensive cross-sectional study carried out to date examined the views of 6,575 pet-owning (dogs and cats) participants. The research revealed that overall, pet owners feel more positive about their neighborhood, exercise more, and fall asleep more easily than non-pet owners. Living with cats can also strengthen a child’s immunity in the first year of life and support people with autism and their families.
Sleeping with cats has the potential to expand these benefits even further and their iconic purr might be the reason why. The constant rhythmic vibration helps to relieve stress, and lower blood pressure. In fact, purr frequencies correspond to vibrational/electrical frequencies used to treat many painful conditions, including:
- Bone growth
- Healing fractures
- Pain reduction
- Muscle strain
- Joint flexibility
- Difficulty breathing
So, it looks as though a healthy happy cat and a healthy, happy owner in the same bed can offer a range of benefits, but is not without challenges too. If you really want to enjoy the benefits of allowing your cat to sleep in bed with you, but its behavior is indeed disruptive, you can try the following to help improve the situation:
- Avoid rewarding the disruptive behavior — even with your attention.
- Make time during the day — and before bedtime — for exercise and stimulation.
- Don’t punish disruptive behavior, just put the cat out of your bedroom and close the door to condition towards calmness in the bedroom and activity elsewhere.
- Be patient and try to establish a routine.
- Maintain boundaries and do not allow your cat to gain dominance over the sleeping quarters.
- 5 Animal Attractions You Should Skip This Vacation
- Why Not to Flush Flushable Cat Litter
- How to Keep Your Cat Off Your Christmas Tree this Year
Important Information regarding Health-related Topics.
** Links to retailers marked with ** or underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.
Do you like this post?
Thank you very much for voting!
Tags: Guide Personal Hygiene Pets
What is the risk of sleeping with a cat? ›
Risk of Disease Transmission
Sleeping next to your cat for over 8 hours means that you have a high probability of being exposed to its excretions and secretions. While the odds of contracting diseases from cats are low, people with weak immune systems, the elderly, and young children are at a greater risk.
Is it safe to sleep with a cat in bed? For the most part, yes. “In general, I would consider it safe to sleep with your cat, but you have to know them and how they would respond to accidentally being startled or moved while sleeping,” Delgado says.Where should cats sleep at night? ›
Position your cat's sleeping spots away from any noisy appliances (such as washing machines) and busy areas of the home (such as the hallway). A quiet corner of a bedroom or living room is ideal, and once your cat is snoozing, make sure you leave them alone to avoid startling them awake.Do cats sleep with you to protect you? ›
Sleeping with you provides them with security and an extra defense if a predator should launch a nighttime attack. They sleep with you because they trust you, they know you're not a danger and you can also provide an extra layer of defense if needed.How do you know if a cat has imprinted on you? ›
- Communicating with you — meows, purrs, and all the other happy noises a cat makes.
- Kneading you (a.k.a. ...
- Choosing to be close to you — following you around, cuddling and sleeping with you, being on your lap whenever they get the chance.
- Greeting you when you come home.
Cats carry bacteria in their mouths, which can lead to local or systemic infection if a cat licks an open wound. Immunocompromised people are most at risk. Acquiring a disease from your cat is very rare, but to be safe, don't let your cat lick your face or any cuts on your skin.What are the pros and cons of letting cats sleep with you? ›
Allowing your cat to cuddle up with you at night can help reduce stress and may help you fall asleep more quickly. However, they can also interrupt your sleep throughout the night and bring a number of health risks to your bed, too.Does sleeping with your cat increase bond? ›
Strengthens the bond – Cats who sleep with their humans are closer to them. This comfortable snuggle helps them feel more trust and safety with their owners.Does sleeping with your cat create a bond? ›
Cats are by instinct always on the alert, so when they sleep in your bed it means they feel secure with you. Kittens sleep in litters, so by sleeping with you your cat is showing affection and creating a deeper bond with you.Do cats need to be locked up at night? ›
Cats Protection recommends that you keep your cats in at night. Cats are natural hunters, making them more active at night time, and some studies show that more road traffic injuries happen at night.
Do cats know to sleep at night? ›
As a rule, cats will sleep 18 hours per day, spread over a series of naps that average 78 minutes each. They sleep during the day as well as in the middle of the night, only to get up and become active right when we are heading to bed, and again shortly before we want to get up. This can be a definite clash!Do cats like dark places to sleep? ›
They usually find some safe hidden place, up high, but they also really like dark, warm hideaways, especially in winter. The main reason for this is instinct, their need to hide from predators, but these places are also nice and quiet, anti-stress therapy, if you will.Why do cats watch you when you pee? ›
“Their litter box might be in there, so it could be a room that smells very familiar. Cats also probably know that when we are on the toilet, we are a captive audience — nowadays we are so busy and distracted that many cats are probably looking for an opportunity to have our undivided attention!”Do cats miss their humans? ›
Yes, they do. The cats miss the owners whenever they are away or have been detached from the owner. They notice the absence of all the showered love their owners have left for them.What is only kitten syndrome? ›
Single kitten syndrome is the idea that young kittens, when raised with other young kittens and cats and then adopted into a home by themselves, can become aggressive, anxious, stressed, and even develop behavioral issues like inappropriate chewing/scratching and inappropriately using the litterbox.Do male cats prefer female owners? ›
According to a new study, cats experience the greatest fondness for female owners. Cats attach to your veterinary clients—your female clients in particular—as social partners and it's not just because they want to be fed, according to research in the journal Behavioral Processes.How do cats pick their person? ›
According to a study done by the nutrition company, Canadae, they discovered that the person who makes the most effort is the favorite. People who communicate with their cat by getting to know their cues and motives are more attractive to their cat companions.How do you tell if your cat is securely attached? ›
A securely attached cat doesn't feel stressed when you leave the home, while an insecurely attached kitty is more likely to show signs of distress. Secure Attachment: The good news is, if your cat is indifferent to your arrival, but doesn't go out of her way to avoid you, she's probably experiencing secure attachment.Why does my cat bite me gently? ›
When your cat nibbles you playfully, she's really offering her affection. This is much different from a fearful or defensive bite that's meant to cause harm, and the feelings behind it are different as well. Love nibbles are a ticklish, funny little quirk of lovable cats.What does it mean when a cat lays on your chest? ›
It's Simple: Your Cat Loves You. You're not just a comfy cat bed; your cat loves you too, and laying on your chest is one way they show their love. That's what all those head butts and all that purring mean. They often do other things to get your attention too!
Why does my cat bite me then lick me? ›
If your cat licks and bites you repetitively and seemingly with intent, then fear not, your are being groomed. This is a part of normal cat interaction and often happens among siblings and preferred humans. They might not be fond of other people but this is a sure tell that they like you!What do indoor cats do at night? ›
Where Cats Go at Night. It's natural to wonder where the heck cats go at night. At home, they're usually sleeping, playing, cuddling, eating, or sleeping some more.Where your cat sleeps on your bed and what it means? ›
If your cat sleeps on your bed, he may choose a position that lets him see out your bedroom door more easily. If he's curled up in a ball under your bed or in a quiet corner, then he may be hiding. Cats who sleep under the covers might love being close to you, or they might be hiding to feel safer.What does it mean when a cat curls up next to you? ›
When your cat is curled up near you, they're simply letting you know that they feel safe. This is your feline friend's way of letting you know that they trust you.Are cats protective of their owners? ›
Cats are often stereotyped as standoffish and aloof, even to the people who love them most, but the truth is that cats can be just as protective of their people as dogs are of theirs. Put simply, cats love their family and their family loves them right back.Why should you not wake a sleeping cat? ›
Cats who are deprived of these stages of sleep can become lethargic or irritable. If your cat is in REM stage, you probably want to let them sleep to allow them to restore their body's immunity. Kittens especially need sleep to allow them to build their bones and muscles – so avoid waking them at all if possible.What age should you let your cat out at night? ›
We would recommend letting your kitten out with supervised access to the outside once they're about 4 months old, and have been neutered, had all their vaccinations, and are fully settled into your home.Do cats know when you kiss them? ›
Cats do not understand kisses in the same way as humans do. This is because cats interpret emotions and communicate affection very differently from humans. However, many cats do know that a kiss is a human's way of showing love and affection. Some cats will like kisses while others will not.Do cats know that you love them? ›
All in all, even the most aloof and brooding cat will be able to pick up on your warmth and devotion. Whether they choose to admit it or not, they can sense when a person loves them (and hates them). So always make sure you're emitting good, kitty-positive vibes, and your cat will be sure to indulge in the lovefest.Why does my cat follow me to the bathroom? ›
Your cat might follow you into the bathroom simply because they love you and want to be with you all the time. Although independent animals, felines still form close bonds with their humans and your cat even misses you when you're not around.
Do cats prefer warm or cold? ›
Cats prefer warmth but will be okay in rooms hovering between 50-60 degrees. This is not ideal for them though, and you'll likely notice your cat seeking out additional heat by snuggling up to a radiator, blanket, or you!Does purring mean my cat is happy? ›
In many cases, soft, gentle purrs signal your cat's satisfaction with the world, providing an audible sign of her contentment. But purring doesn't always indicate happiness; some cats also purr when they are hungry or stressed.Do cats like a quiet house? ›
Cats like peace and quiet. Household conveniences, like vacuum cleaners, can easily disrupttheir nap time.What if a cat sleeps near you? ›
Lying next to you, but not on you, doesn't mean your cat is not bonded to you. In fact, sleeping next to you means your cat trusts you enough to be in a vulnerable position while sleeping. Some cats are not comfortable sleeping on their cat parent because they prefer the security of a small buffer zone.Can I lay my head on my cat? ›
Is it OK to rest your head on your cat? It really depends on your kitty and what they will tolerate. I wouldn't recommend putting the full weight of your head on your kitty because they may not protest (cats are experts at hiding pain), but they would probably move away if you were making them uncomfortable.Can my cat sleep in my room with the door closed? ›
Cats establish territory. They see you as a cohabitant of their territory. So, by closing the bedroom door, you're preventing them from accessing their territory. They don't like that, so they meow to get you to open it.How do cats pick their favorite person? ›
According to a study done by the nutrition company, Canadae, they discovered that the person who makes the most effort is the favorite. People who communicate with their cat by getting to know their cues and motives are more attractive to their cat companions.What does cat loaf position mean? ›
The cat loaf pose typically indicates relaxation.Will a cat bother you while sleeping? ›
Your cat is most likely seeking attention, leading to a disturbance in your sleep cycle. Your good night's sleep is extremely important to your health and shouldn't be interrupted by your kitty.Can cats sense when you're awake? ›
Cats know your regular schedule: knows when you normally wake up, provide breakfast and dinner, clean the cat box, bedtime, playtime, etc. Consistency is very important to a cat. Regular interaction with their human and animal companions is an important parts of cats' worlds.
Does cats like being picked up? ›
In addition to being petted, do cats like to be held? Sometimes. Most cats love to snuggle, and they're typically responsive to being held if you introduce them to it gradually. The best way to approach your cat for a hug is to start with a few soft pets, then carefully pick them up.Are male cats more affectionate? ›
Myth: Male cats are more affectionate towards humans and bond really well with their owners. Female cats are aloof and, because of their mothering instincts, prefer other cats to humans. Reality: This usually comes down to your cat's individual personality.At what age can a cat sleep with a child? ›
This is because, unlike dogs, cats tend to cozy up on the chest or close to the face of their sleeping humans, which could be disastrous for a small child. If you want your cat friend to be able to sleep in bed with your child, wait until your kids are at least four or five years of age.Should I shut my cat out of my bedroom at night? ›
Should I keep my cat in at night? Cats Protection recommends that you keep your cat in at night to keep them safe. Increased risks during night time include: Road traffic injuries and fatalities.Why do cats freak out when you close the door? ›
Because of their territorial nature, cats believe they actually own your house. When you close a door, it is no wonder that many cats will try to open, scratch, or attack it in every single way. They may simply find your attempt to close a door as a sign that undermines their absolute reign of the territory.Can my cats safe room be my bedroom? ›
A safe room is a separate room where she can start to explore her new home, such as an office, a spare bedroom, or even a bathroom. Some people like to use a utility room; however, we don't recommend using a utility room because noise from the washer or dryer can scare your new cat.