Pets are an indispensable part of many families. Like most people, you’ll most likely display your affection by playing with your pet cat or dog, speaking to it as if it were human, and maybe even aligning meal times with the rest of the family.
But some of us take this notion further than others. For those who simply can’t get enough of their pets, they’ll even allow them to sleep in the same bed. We asked 1,000 UK pet owners about how involved their pets are in their sleeping habits, and looked at the evidence that might suggest it’s a good idea.
Women prefer sleeping with pets
At 36%, over a third of pet owners we surveyed said they regularly allow their cat or dog to sleep in their bed with them at night. One in five of us claims to be completely against it.
Women appear to be more accepting of the idea, with 42% of them saying they allow their pets to hop on the bed on a nightly basis. This compared to just 30% of men.
It’s a trend that we may be increasingly adopting too. The younger our respondents were, the more likely it is they would sleep with their pets. The youngest generation (18-24 year olds) were the most likely to regularly sleep with their pet (43%), whilst the oldest generation holds the strongest feelings against it (33% said they were completely against it).
Spread the respondents across the UK, and habitants of south coast city Southampton were the most likely to regularly sleep with a pet (46%), followed by Leeds (44%) and Belfast (41%).
Cats and dogs based in Manchester are the ones left looking elsewhere for somewhere to sleep. 29% of Mancunians said they were against pets in their bed, with Cardiff second (28%) and Bristol third (26%).
There is evidence out there that suggests it’s not a bad idea too. On cold nights in particular, a dog’s warmth can keep us toasty in bed. Aside from their fur coats, a dog’s body temperature is three to six degrees higher than a human’s.
Instinctively, you might think your quality of sleep, or your pet’s behaviour may be affected by sleeping on the bed every night. Recent studies have shown it doesn’t necessarily negatively affect your quality of sleep, and sleep health expert Martin Reed said if it works for you, then carry on:
“If you are happy sleeping with your pet, there is no reason to stop. However, if you find sleep difficult, you may want to try sleeping without your pet for a week or two to see if that has any effect on your sleep. You can always start by not allowing them on the bed, and then progress to not allowing them in the bedroom.”
We also spoke to certified dog trainer Kristi Benson, who said dogs won’t develop any behavioural issues as a result of sleeping on the bed:
“You may have been told that allowing a dog on the bed will make the dog dominant, or cause jealousy issues between the dog and the people.”
“Luckily for these people and their dogs, modern dog training has consigned all those ideas to the waste bin. Dogs sleeping on the bed are not gaining any status in the relationship or likely to develop worrisome behaviour problems from it”
Pets make for better mental health
We also asked pet owners if they thought that their cat or dog had a positive impact on their stress levels, to which 77% agreed.
Again, the science is out there when looking for an explanation. A 2015 study in Japan found that a hormone associated with human bonding and love also applies to interactions with your pet dog. Levels of Oxycontin were found to increase in both humans and dogs when engaging in 30 minutes of eye contact.
The affection we get from pets can have a powerful affect on our mental health, as Dr. Kelly Kandra Hughes confirmed:
“In order to meet our highest potential, humans' more basic needs of safety and belonging/love need to be met.
“Having a pet is like a two-for-one with our lower needs -- they provide us with unconditional love and companionship and help us feel more secure in our living situations.”
Pet ownership is also good for our physical health – particularly if you have a dog. Due to the increase in exercise you inevitably get from walking a dog, canine ownership has been linked to a reduction in your risk of cardiovascular disease.
But pets still know how to embarrass us
Despite the raft of benefits pets bring to our lives, they can still be more than a little troublesome around the home. We asked respondents to tell us the most embarrassing or naughtiest thing their pet has done, and pet owners across the country will recognise the list of misdemeanours well.
The top two are classics when it comes to pet misbehaviour. 31% of pet owners have found their beloved pet pooch eating without permission or weeing indoors.
Other common areas for disobedience occur when guests come to town. Whilst 15% of pets have eaten a guests food, and 10% have chewed on their shoes, 16% have committed quite possibly the most embarrassing of acts on their guests – by humping their leg.
Do you let your pet hop on the bed and snuggle you at night, or should a pet stick to their own bed? Let us know on Twitter @Time4Sleep