Many people love having their dogs and cats sleep with them. But if your slumber is being disturbed by a noisy, restless or bed-hogging pet, it may be time to make some changes.
Many people happily sleep with their dogs and cats. It can be very comforting, and a wonderful bonding experience. However, even the most lovable pet can sometimes overstep his bounds, or be disruptive or restless at night, making the experience uncomfortable and even negatively impacting your sleep patterns.
It’s natural for pets sleep with us
Your dog views you and your family as his pack. You’ve probably noticed that your dog likes to be touching you when he’s sleeping; perhaps his paw is on your arm, or he’s curled up close to your body. Cats are somewhat more independent, but they will form groups called clowders and pile on top of each other to sleep. Your cat will often do the same to you, perhaps sleeping against your back or curling around your head.
Drawbacks of sharing your bed
If you are a deep sleeper and/or have a quiet pet who doesn’t disturb your night’s rest, then you have nothing to worry about. Many people find the gentle breathing of a dog or the purr of a cat to be comforting and sleep-inducing. Children often like to sleep with the family pet because it gives them a feeling of security. But if you (or anyone else in your family) find that your dog or cat repeatedly wakes you up during the night, then you may have to look at making some changes. Here are some common problems that can arise from sharing your bed with your dog or cat:
- Jumping on and off the bed. Cats are nocturnal so they usually come and go during the night. You may or may not be aware of this, depending on how deeply you sleep. Certain dogs may also move around a lot during the night, waking their owners as they jump on or off the bed.
- Trying to wake you up. Most pet owners have experienced being woken too early in the morning by a wet nose or tongue, or a soft paw or meow. This can also happen in the middle of the night if the dog wants to go out, or the cat wants attention.
- Wanting to play. This is more an issue with cats than dogs. Cats tend to be more active during the night, and may wake you by playing with something under your bed or attacking your feet whenever you move them.
- Being noisy. Snoring, meowing, whining, loud purring, licking and chewing are some dog and cat sounds that may disturb your sleep.
- Hogging the bed. Dogs can become bed hogs, taking over the space and pushing you (or your partner) to one side. Even cats can make sleeping uncomfortable by curling up in the very center of the mattress, or on your chest or pillow.
Solutions for peaceful slumber
1. Get him his own bed. If your dog or cat is disturbing your sleep but you still want him nearby, buy him a pet bed and put it on the floor near your own bed (but not where you’ll step on it if you get up in the night). Dogs are more easily trained to use pet beds than cats are, but toys and treats can help both species associate the bed with something positive. The bed should be comfortable and away from drafts.
2. Give him some evening exercise. Being tired is a good way to get the night off to a good start. Take your dog for a walk in the evening and have a play session before bed. Engage your cat in some interactive play before bedtime, though keep in mind that she’ll probably still wake up to play at intervals. You can help keep nocturnal play periods from disturbing you by putting noisy or squeaky toys away.
3. Take care of his needs before bedtime. Make sure your dog goes out to relieve himself before you go to bed so he won’t wake you at 4AM wanting to pee. (If you have a cat, you can’t really control when or if he’ll need to use the litterbox during the night.) Give your pet a small healthy snack before bed to tide him over till morning. This can help prevent him from waking you up too early for breakfast.
For many people, one of the joys of pets is having them on the bed at night. If you find your dog or cat is impacting the quality and quantity of your sleep, however, take the above steps to make it a more restful experience.
Darlene Arden is a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, an author and speaker. Her books include the award-winning The Complete Cat’s Meow and Rover, Get Off Her Leg! She is dedicated to the human-animal bond and enhancing the live of animals and their people.