Sleeping with your pets: Cuddly or gross?

While our dog is very cute, I know where his tongue has been and ther is no way he's licking my face or sleeping in my bed.

While our dog is very cute, I know where his tongue has been and there is no way he's licking my face or sleeping in my bed. However, I do let him take trips with us. In this shot, he's in his bed in the mini-van. He's a good little traveler!

I know several families where Fido is allowed in BED with the family but they may change that policy after reading a new study in the February issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the public health journal of the Centers for Disease Control.

While pets provide many positive health effects, Bruno Chomel, a professor of zoonoses at University of California Davism, found that sleeping with your pet increases your chances of contracting bugs and diseases ranging from worms to the bubonic plague.

In fact, of the 250 known diseases transmitted from animals to humans, more than 100 of them come from domestic animals, researchers say.

From CNN:

“ ‘It can happen,’ (Chomel) said.  ‘It’s rare when it happens and it can be bad. It’s not told to panic people or scare people, but to be aware there are things that can happen.’ ”

“Chomel and co-author Ben Sun looked through published literature about cases in which people’s illnesses correlated with sleeping, kissing or being licked by pets.”

“Some of  examples are startling:

– A man had a dog sleep under the covers with him.  The dog licked his hip replacement wound and the owner got meningitis.

– A 9-year-old boy slept in bed with a flea-infested cat and got the bubonic plague in 1974 in New Mexico.

– A newborn was sickened with meningitis.  The pet cat had stolen the baby’s pacifier and had been toying with it.

– A 44-year-old woman developed meningitis and admitted that she was “regularly kissing the dog’s face and feeding it by transferring food mouth to mouth.”

In a survey from the American Kennel Club, 21 percent of dog owners said they regularly slept with their dogs.”

From the Daily Mail:

‘In many countries, pets have become substitutes for childbearing and child care, sometimes leading to excessive pet care,’ said Chomel … ‘There are private places in the household, and pets should not go beyond next to the bed.

So how many owners are sleeping with their pets?

Well the Daily Mail reports that “among dog owners, 53 per cent considered their pet to be a member of the family, while 56 per cent of them admitted they sleep with their dog next to them.”

“Up to 62 per cent of cat owners said their pets sleep either on or in their beds.”

“And some 25 per cent of women admit to sleeping regularly with a pet, while just 16 per cent of men say they do.”

The very first night we found our little Shih Tzu, he cried and cried in the kitchen so I came down and slept next to him on the kitchen floor to comfort him. (I had bathed him as soon as we found him but I kept thinking all night I was getting fleas on me.)

Over the last seven years, he has moved up to sometimes sleeping in his bed on the floor of our bedroom but never, ever, ever in anyone’s bed.  Why don’t I want my cute little doggie in my bed or the kids’ beds?

Here’s why I DON’T allow my little 15-pound dog to sleep in our bed:

1.       I’ve watched my dog eat poop – sometimes his own, sometimes another dog’s. Either way it’s gross and no poop-eater is licking my face or sleeping with me. (It’s just a rule everyone should have.)

2.       I’m grossed out when he drags his butt across my carpet thinking about all the gross poopy germs he’s leaving behind much less thinking that poopy butt between my sheets. (I know why he does it – when his anal gland needs attention and I always have the groomer work on that area – but it is just so gross.) If my kid dragged his poopy butt across my carpet I would be upset about that too!

3.       I already have three kids climbing in and out of bed with me. I certainly don’t need to add another body to that mix.

(My husband would like to add in that our dog throws up more than any other member of our family. That’s not good either.)

I will sit on the couch and hold my dog and love him but I always wash my hands right after and won’t wear those same clothes into bed.

So what’s happening at your house? Are you or the kids sleeping with the dog or cat? Have you ever worried before about catching bugs or diseases from your pet? Will you worry now? Will this study changes your dog/cat sleeping habits?

120 comments Add your comment

JJ

January 25th, 2011
12:00 pm

Oh whatever!!!! I have slept with cats and dogs all my life, and NEVER once have I caught a bug or other disease.

I have two dogs and two cats. Both cats and one dog sleep with me on my bed every night, and sometimes the puppy crawls under the covers when it’s really cold. My other dog is too old and she can’t jump up on the bed any more, so she sleeps next to my bed on her little doggie bed.

When my daughter is home, both cats will sleep with her. She has a heated mattress pad so it’s nice and toasty for them, and they love it. The dogs always sleep with me.

shaggy

January 25th, 2011
12:01 pm

I have to disagree about the dog eating his own poop.
My dogs are very discerning in their diet. They won’t eat their own poop, just every other animal’s poop. Other dogs, squirrels, horse, cat…if it is an animal that poops, they will eat it. Then, there was this disgusting thing that looked like a huge moldy hotdog that my number 1 dog ate just the other day. I thought for about a half a second about taking it away from him, but he gobbled the bloated, blue looking treat quickly, so I wouldn’t have the chance to take it.
With that said, I would rather sleep with them than many Walmart shoppers that I see. think about it. Fido or large person wearing spandex that is missing many teeth. I will chose fido every time.

CC

January 25th, 2011
12:06 pm

I love my dogs & cats. I have 2 Lhasa’s which are very similiar to Theresa’s breed and NO, I will not allow them in the bed. I won’t crawl in the bed with socks that I’ve walked on the bare floor in and I definately won’t let them crawl in it!

Lori

January 25th, 2011
12:07 pm

My dog sleeps in my bed. She is healthy, clean, well groomed, current on flea/tick preventatives, and she stays at the foot of the bed and she doesn’t give kisses. Sure, I’d rather her sleep on the floor next to the bed on the nice doggie bed I got for her, but she won’t. She used to sleep down there with an elder dog who couldn’t get on the bed, but when that dog passed, she doesn’t want to sleep alone. I’d rather have her happy and on the bed with me, than have her stressed out and yelping all night.

Photius

January 25th, 2011
12:12 pm

YES! On letting all of my animals sleep in out bed!
NO! On ever letting our child sleep in our bed – NEVER.

JJ

January 25th, 2011
12:16 pm

Shaggy – my Lab keeps the cat box clean for me.

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JATL

January 25th, 2011
12:18 pm

@shaggy -my parents used to have a dog that would poop and turn around and eat it! Disgusting, I know and they took him to the vet, but it was just one of his “things.” GAG!

I do agree with shaggy about preferring most animals over many humans I see as sleeping partners! People carry incredibly disgusting diseases as well. I’m not big on sleeping with dogs. I have a number of friends who DO sleep with their large dogs, and their comforters and bed linens have a sheen of dirt on them. I’m just not comfortable with that! I also witness my dogs roll in all sorts of nastiness when we turn them out every day, so I’m not wild about that in my bed. I’ve always enjoyed my cats sleeping with me though, and I harbor no illusions that they also have germs. My cats are completely indoor animals, but they still use a litter box, etc. If I had some kind of surgical or open wound, and for some reason a cat wanted to lick it (which would be strange in itself) I certainly wouldn’t allow it. I would discourage a dog as well.

I wonder about the example of the dog licking the hip and giving the owner meningitis. Dog saliva is notoriously healing and incredibly sterile -especially considering what some of them eat. All of the dog/meningitis examples are curious to me -are they now known carriers of the disease?

If my kids want a cat to sleep with them (and the cat wants it) that will be fine with me. In the future when we have smaller dogs -that’s okay too (they will be bathed far more often). Right now our dogs sleep in our basement den, and the oldest can’t use the stairs anymore, so it’s kind of a mute point where the kids are concerned.

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Roswell Jeff

January 25th, 2011
12:19 pm

Funny Shaggy!

I’m torn. We currently don’t have pets – wife and son are allergic to them. We did have a dog at one time though. My wife thought she was only allergic to cats – never had any reaction to dogs, so we rescued one. Well ,after a year of having her the my wife was just miserable. It was something that just built up over time until she couldn’t stand it. I was vaccuming everyday just to get rid of the hair, but as we all know, you can’t get rid of the hair, without getting rid of the source. Anyway, we cried and boo hooed the days leading up to taking the dog back to the original rescue. The dog never slept in our bed but was everywhere else. Our dog’s hair never seemed to bother me, but I can’t stand to go in someone elses house with dog or cat hair all over the place. Doesn’t make any sense does it?

We have some friends that had a baby recently and they’ve gone on and on how their baby can’t be in any contact with children for like 12 weeks or something and on and on about germs and such. The funny thing is, they’ve got two dogs with mountains of dog hair all over the place. You walk in their house and there’s dog hair floating through the air. The dogs regularly run up to the baby and slobber all over it’s face and they think nothing of it! I say WTH?

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Techmom

January 25th, 2011
12:24 pm

We have 2 big dogs (well 3 most days since my BIL doesn’t know how to be responsible) and there is no way a dog is sleeping with me; my husband is lucky I allow him to sleep in our bed! LOL I can’t stand to touch someone/something while I’m trying to sleep. I am not a cuddler and you can keep your body heat to yourself.

We have a dog bed in our room on the floor but rarely do any dogs sleep there the whole night. They normally sleep in their crates in the basement. I don’t like to be woken up and the dogs move and adjust during the night and wake me when they are upstairs. I don’t worry too much about getting sickness from them and they are all on Frontline for fleas, ticks and the like though we still check them regularly in the summer and spray out backyard with an insecticide to keep the ticks away.

I didn’t think most diseases/illnesses could be transmitted between humans and dogs; is meningitis something that can? Based on the reports from CNN (which really make it sound like I have a better shot of winning the lottery than getting sick from my dog if you have to go back to 1974), it doesn’t sound like it happens too often.

RJ

January 25th, 2011
12:24 pm

I loved my cats growing up but I would NEVER have thought to allow them in my bed! Heck no they can’t sleep in my bed. I find that to be pretty gross. Our cats were not allowed to roam throughout the house when I was a kid. We had a child’s fence which kept them downstairs. So, they rarely got in the kitchen and if it happened my mom would wash everything down. I guess she passed that on to me. To each his own but I can’t imagine waking up to dog and cat hair in my bed.

fred

January 25th, 2011
12:30 pm

Yes we allow our dog to sleep in bed with us. I don’t like it, but it’s easier than an on-going argument with the wife. She has always slept with a dog in her bed (now she just says she sleeps with 2 dogs in bed). Our dog used to keep our cats litter box clean, we used to call that eating almond roca b/c of the way it looked. Gross. Our pooch will eat all poop, deer and cat being the favorites. YUCK. but He is part of the family, Stink and all

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justmy2cents

January 25th, 2011
12:46 pm

Our dogs sleep in bed, under the covers, with us. My boy goes straight to my feet, just out of kicking distance and promptly konks out. Hubby’s dog usually curls up in the crook of hubby’s knees.

I agree 100% with Photius regarding kids sleeping in the bed!!!!

JJ

January 25th, 2011
12:47 pm

WE have a saying in my house….”no outfit is complete without cat hair.”. I’ve decided there are worse things in the world besides a little animal hair, and I have come to terms with the fact that there will always be hair in my house, on the furniture, on my clothes……

My lab sheds like crazy. If you look at her, hair falls off. I pulled up all the carpet in my house and I put in new floors last summer, and I have to vaccuum/sweep them every single day. The amount of hair that falls off that dog….I’m surprised she isn’t bald.

The cats together don’t shed as much as the Lab. The puppy sheds very little.

BlondeHoney

January 25th, 2011
12:51 pm

I’ve got two rescue kitties, an American Bobtail and a Russian Blue, and now that my babies are grown and gone, THEY are my babies now :) They both go to bed every night the same time as I do; the Blue sleeps at the end of the bed and the Bobtail stretches out alongside me just like a person and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are 100% indoor pets and I’ve never picked up anything from them, knock on wood

DB

January 25th, 2011
12:51 pm

1. Our dog doesn’t sleep in the bed. He probably would like it, but we just never started it and see no reason to change that, now. Occasionally, he’ll sleep at the foot of my daughter’s bed when she’s in town, but usually he likes to sleep beside it. He has a huge dog pillow by a big window that he enjoys lolling on that gives him a good view of the street and the neighbors, but when he sleeps, he tends to either go into his crate or I often find him curled up on the sofa.

2. The cats pretty much sleep wherever they like. One hates the world and sleeps under a chaise in the bedroom — I never see her. The other is a little hedonist that likes her bed warm — she sleeps at the foot of our bed. Occasionally she’ll try to creep her way up towards the pillows, but that’s when she gets flying lessons. :-) I just use a pet roller and brush the coverlet clean when I make the bed. It’s part of the routine, now, and takes about 15 seconds.

I just don’t worry too much about all the exotic diseases one can catch. *shrug*.

PS: TWG: Please reconsider leaving your dog unrestrained in your car. I’m sure you’re vigilant on seat belts for the kids, but the little doggie can be injured just as easily if you have to slam on the brakes, not to mention getting under your feet and in the way in case you have to brake, accelerate out of the way of something, etc.. Our dog is a frequent visitor to the local dog park, and we never go anywhere where he is not secured in a crate in the back of the van (in fact, when we had to get a replacement van last fall, I drove my husband crazy because the new van/SUV had to have enough room for the dog’s crate, it couldn’t be in a “well”, and it had to be easy for the dog to jump up into, etc., etc.) . It has a nice cushion in it, so he’s comfortable. When we first got the dog, we thought it would be so nice to have a dog that sat there and looked interestedly out the window — ha! Silly dog is like a kangaroo, so excited, jumping all over the place from window to window, trying to worm up front, etc. One day I was going down 285 and the dog, looking out the window, accidently pressed the “window down” button. The window started going down, and the dog was all excited — I could just see him preparing to leap! We learned our lesson: that afternoon, we got the crate. If, God forbid, you were ever in an accident, you would want the responders to be able to take your dog out easily, and for it not to jump out and run away, frightened.

Stacey

January 25th, 2011
12:55 pm

@Roswell Jeff…It makes perfect sense to me that you aren’t bother by your own dogs’ hair but hate other people. I’m like that with other people’s kids (seriously).

I’m don’t like animals so we don’t have pets. I don’t hate and would dream of abusing them; just don’t like them. I’m actually afraid of dogs of all breeds and sizes. We had cats and dogs when I was a kid but never indoor pets (other than fish) so that was never an issue.

E-Lane

January 25th, 2011
12:57 pm

Our two 85lb Labradors sleep with my husband & I every night….and they’re cleaner than most people’s kids!

lovelyliz

January 25th, 2011
12:58 pm

I have a dog that sleeps at the foot of or on the other side of my bed. My 14 year old niece sleeps in her own room. Guess who has made me sicker mor often? My niece is respoinsible for far more of my ailments than is my pooch.

Ed

January 25th, 2011
12:58 pm

I’m on my second labrador retriever and each one has slept in the bed with me. I don’t fear diseases. Just keep the animal clean, well groomed, and current on all medications. Living alone the animal gives me a sense of added security. She snores occasionally but I guilty of that charge too.

CobbParent

January 25th, 2011
1:05 pm

One of my cats sleeps on the extra pillow at the top of my head. Another sleeps on her own blanket at the foot of the bed. The dog is too old to get up on the bed anymore – but I think he prefers the couch in our bedroom, which he makes his own by kicking off the pillows every night and stretching out. We have a huge bed with plenty of room for everyone and the cats don’t seem to care what the humans do in the middle so long as they don’t get bopped off the bed in the process. :)

Furious Styles

January 25th, 2011
1:06 pm

Forget sleeping with pets, what about having the pets sitting at and one the dinner table? I know at least 3 couple who’s pets have the run of the mill. Walking past and over uncovered food on the dinner table and also on kitchen counter tops while food is being prepared. Can you say super ickk! When I see that you have no regard for cleanliness by letting your pet roam around where you eat, I’ll pass every-time on the invite to dinner.

grady baby

January 25th, 2011
1:06 pm

My shih tzu sleeps with me!! When I leave the house, and my son doesn’t have class, he then goes and gets in bed with him! It’s his house, his bed, his rules!!! :) He runs the show, I pay the bills!! He loves me unconditionally!! What more can I ask for!

wooter

January 25th, 2011
1:12 pm

A non sterile environment will help build natural immunities against those very things you fear. Ask any cockroach. My dogs very infrequently let me down which is hard to say about family friends politicians or kids. domestic animals add immensely to ones life and they aren’t furniture. My dogs don’t bring flu, colds or viruses to my life as all of the above mentioned life forms have and will continue to. Still love my people friends but leave my pets alone.

Wes

January 25th, 2011
1:13 pm

I couldn’t find the incidence rate for problems occurring. It seems kind of irresponsible to just say that this is bad without saying anything more than four anecdotes one of which happened in 1974.

Think of it this way. Approximately 30,000 people died on the highways in 2009. That means that 1.13 people died per 100,000,000 miles traveled. In a large enough population pool your going to have problems. On the other hand we all still feel like the odds are good enough to get on the roads.

Did the article say what kind of risk we’re looking at?

PA

January 25th, 2011
1:19 pm

My cat shares my bed every night, usually on the pillow next to my head. Why not? He’s just about my only real friend, and likewise I am his friend.

I think it is hurting my ability to relate to people because I know I can trust my cat. I know what he’ll do at any given moment and his motives are easy to understand (usually warm place to sit, bowl of food, some cat toy to play with, etc).

People always have ulterior motives, always something up their sleeves, always look out for their own interests rather than yours, want to take what is yours, and generally cannot be trusted all that much. A cat or a dog is a much more honest creature and far less likely to steal your things, your identity, your car, demand that you send them to college or sue you for spousal or child support.

No thanks. I don’t need the baggage. A cat or a dog will work fine.

Kar

January 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

I think that this is more indicative of the fact that owners should be taking better care of their pets than whether or not having them in the bed is dangerous to the owners.

Fleas? Exposure to dangerous outdoor diseases? Eating cr*p literally?

Steven Q. Stanley

January 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

If you sleep with you parents you are probably a bad hair day away from suicide. It is always sad to see someone who sleeps with their pets, you know they are very lonely and/or depressed person.

JOD

January 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

@JATL – I share your skepticism on the dog drool transmitting meningitis. It would seem very, very rare to have interspecies meningitis unless there was already an issue in the home/environment. My 2 dogs stay at home or in our yard, so where would they pick up meningitis? I would suspect that I would bring it home or otherwise contract it before they would.

One of my dogs slept at the foot of my bed before I was married, and now she occasionally tries to sneak in at night. We work hard to keep the house clean, but don’t go crazy about it.

I would agree with anyone who doesn’t want to eat in a house with pets on the counter all of the time – it’s hard enough keeping the floors clean! The closest we ever got was right after we got our 2nd dog, who was not housebroken and half-starved…we set our plates on the dining room table and turned around to get drinks when – voila! – said mutt was up on a chair going for the chicken on a plate. I wish I had a picture of our faces, but needless to say, it was the last time that happened.

@Furious Styles – I got a giggle thinking about going to dinner with a bunch of cats and dogs at the foot of the table, napkins around their necks…

NoWay

January 25th, 2011
1:25 pm

I am with Photius. Four-legged companion animals, absolutely. HOWEVER, human children do NOT belong in bed with adults. Period.

CobbParent

January 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

“People always have ulterior motives, always something up their sleeves, always look out for their own interests rather than yours”

I have cats. I love them and they tolerate me, but I don’t fool myself that they are concerned about anything but themselves. That is the nature of the cat. I imagine that if I were to fall and die and not be found right away they would start nibbling on the more tender parts until someone came along to provide a better meal for them. LOL

Jan

January 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

For goodness sake, pets have been sleeping with their owners for years! My dog(s), have always been groomed, up-to-date on their shots and are clean and healthy. I’m sure others do the same. Dogs/cats are companion animals and having them on the bed with you keeps the ‘bonding’ process.

JOD

January 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

@Steven – I don’t know about all people who sleep with a pet being lonely. Like all generalizations, I’m sure it is true for some. Some dogs, particularly rescued/abandoned ones, just like to be with their owners all the time. My dog rides with me to drop my child off at school almost daily, just because she wants to go. What’s wrong with having a four-footed buddy? After all, they are called ‘companion’ animals.

Roswell Jeff

January 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

@ JOD,

Whenever my wife was out of town and before we had a child, I used to stop by a local BBQ joint to pick up my favorite ribs for dinner. After I got home I put my delicious oh so scrumptious ribs on a plate along with my slaw. I took them over to the table and set them down, turned around to the fridge to get a beer…
When I turned back around and headed to my seat what did I see? My little Lucy with her back legs on the chair and front legs on the table, mouth and tongue in my ribs going to town. Talk about being pi$$ed! What do I do? I scooted her away with some yelling – she manages to grab a rib and run and there I am standing, looking helplessly at the plate. Should I wash them off? That won’t work. Did she lick all of them – who knows? Finally said screw it, picked another rib off the plate, gave it to her and threw the rest away. If I remember correctly, I ate macaroni and cheese that night.

Caring Mom

January 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

I have a cat that 7 months and a dog they do not sleep in the bed with me. My dogs is small and stays in his crate at night and he likes that my cat sleeps under the bed or his small bed.

Pamela

January 25th, 2011
1:47 pm

Have you ever seen what a child picks up and puts in its mouth?? And you have a problem with dogs!!
I would have expected a mother of 3 to get over her germ-phobias or are you still washing them with clorox.

Anne

January 25th, 2011
1:47 pm

There must not be any allergy or asthma sufferers here that sleep with their pets. We don’t own a pet because my husband has severe allergies. Even if the pet never slept with us, the allergens from the outside would be brought indoors by the animal. I would have loved for my kids to have a pet, but what is the point if they have to be kept outside.

JJ

January 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

My animals are NOT allowed at the table, on the counters, etc. They have free range of the rest of the house, but not where we eat. They are actually banned from the dining room when meals are served, and banned from the kitchen when I’m cooking.

Katie

January 25th, 2011
1:52 pm

The examples used in this article are about people/parents who are already nasty. Who lets their pet lick a wound? What parent lets their children sleep with flea infested pets and also gives them a nasty pacifier? All of these situations would never happen to a remotely “normal” person. I would never let the examples listed above happen in my house. These people probably also have other issues.

I am a pet lover (currently have 1 large dog) and two children. I LOVE my dog and she is always allowed to sleep in our bed. They are pack animals and it’s their nature to be with the pack (aka, the family).

JJ

January 25th, 2011
1:54 pm

Oh and I don’t think you should crate your dogs, especially if that crate is in the basement. If a fire were to break out, they will perish. I can’t stand the thought of leaving my dog in a crate all day long…..Dogs are pack animals and do not like being alone. How would you like to sleep in the basement in a cage?

We crated our puppy when she first came home. We were gone all day long. I felt horrible, and thought if something happened, she couldn’t get out……..

Munchkin's Mom

January 25th, 2011
1:59 pm

My 17 lb Maine Coon sleeps at the foot of my bed, on top of the covers. My husband wants the cat to sleep under the covers between us, um, NO! there is not enough room in a queen sized bed for 2 adults and a huge cat.

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JOD

January 25th, 2011
2:28 pm

@Roswell Jeff – Too funny! I bet she thought she had won the doggy lottery! :o)

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JJ

January 25th, 2011
2:35 pm

Roswell Jeff – I layed some pork cops on the counter one day to defrost them. I walked out to the living room, and did something out there, and when I returned to the kitchen, my Lab had them in her mouth. I believe we ate out that night……

Come on Son

January 25th, 2011
2:42 pm

if you are a couple and your dog is used to sleeping in your bed; well how do you…oh never mind.