Cats and Sleep

Should You Share Your Bed With Your Kitty?

For some cat owners, theres nothing better than having a warm furry body to cuddle with in bed.

The faint or rumbling purr of mine lets me know all is well, says feline caregiver Jeanne Brown, who has several cats that love to snuggle with her in bed at night. Also, the little bit of added warmth of a fur baby is reassuring, at least to someone who is always cold.

Brown isnt the only one who enjoys sleeping with her kitties. Each night millions of Americans jump into bed with their feline friends. For many, their cats are like teddy bears, providing warmth and security through the cold dark hours. But not everyone feels the same way. Sleeping with a cat can turn into a real nightmare for allergy sufferers and light sleepers.

Midnight ramblers
A common complaint Tracy Kroll, DVM, hears from owners is lack of sleep from their pets noisy nighttime activities.

Most cats dont spend the whole night on the bed, explains Kroll, a former behavior resident at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. They come and go.

Cats rest for short periods and then get up to use the litter box, nibble on food, or find something (or someone) to play with before they settle down again. During these excursions, owners are sometimes awakened by attention-seeking companions who jump on them or attack their toes.

If hes looking to play, give him something to do, explains Kroll, who suggests keeping a few favorite toys near your bed. This way, if your cat bats at your foot, you can give him a ball to play with instead.

To stop these unwanted play sessions, Kroll says owners must stop playing chase games (for example, putting your hand under a blanket so your pet will follow) during the day.

Allergy reaction triggers
For owners who are allergic to their cats, David Senter, MD, of the Allergy Clinic of Garland in Texas, recommends keeping the bedroom door shut.

Sleeping with a cat, usually close to your face or on top of your head, brings a large amount of allergen into your body during a time that you are most vulnerable to reaction, explains Senter. Your body produces protective cortisone during the morning but not during the night.

Fel d 1, an allergen from a cats skin, fur, saliva, urine, or blood, triggers an allergic reaction. Symptoms range from sneezing and coughing, to red itchy eyes and a runny nose. Still, some animal lovers refuse to give up their companions. Of the six million people in the United States who are allergic to cats, Senter says more than one third still live with one.

A bed of your own
If you need to kick your cat out of bed because of health reasons or loss of sleep, it can be done but its not easy.

Its like playing Kitty Survivor, Kroll said with a laugh. You have to outlast and outwit them. Most cats will fuss for the first few nights before accepting the new arrangements.

If your cat yowls half the night and you cant stand it anymore and bring him into the bedroom, hes learned that if he carries on enough, youll give in, she said. And that can actually make the problem worse.

Should you and your cat need to make alternative sleeping arrangements, you may need to wear a pair of earplugs or install a sound machine (to drown out cries from the other side of the bedroom door). But the most important thing to do, says Kroll, is to stay tough.