If you're someone who enjoys sleeping next to your cat or dog, the pros will likely outweigh the cons — regardless of what anyone says. But once you stop to think about all the gross things pets can track into your sheets, you might have to reconsider.
On the bright side, "for [people] who experience a stressful day at school, work, or [for those who] are feeling anxious about the next day’s to-do list, snuggling with a pet has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety that they may carry with them to bed at night," Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, senior manager of veterinary outreach for PetSmart Charities, tells Bustle. And when it comes to waking up, nothing's better than being greeted by a dog or cat.
It's still a good idea, however, to bear in mind all the health risks and other gross side effects that can occur when your pet sleeps in your bed. "For [anyone who is] concerned ... it may be better to keep [your pet] on the floor or in a bed of their own," Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert with Rover, tells Bustle. "However, for many of us, allowing our pet to sleep in our bed is a bonding experience — and nothing else matters." Below, experts weigh in on a few gross things that can happen if you let your pet sleep in your bed.
They Can Add To The Dust Mite Population
Dust mites already exist pretty much everywhere, and will be in your bed whether your pet joins you or not. But letting them sleep with you certainly won't help the situation.
There is, however, something you can do to lower the risk. "Dust mites build in your pillow over time ... so consider changing your pillow, and your pet's pillow, every two to three years," Dr. Landis-Hanna says. "Washing it in hot soapy water and drying it on high heat may help."
They Can Leave Behind Clumps Of Hair
Not everyone is bothered by pet hair — which is likely everywhere, if you have a dog or cat that sheds. But if it bothers you, there is something you can do.
"One way to prevent this furry-bed-syndrome is to bathe your pet regularly, about every two weeks," Dr. Landis-Hanna says. "Additionally, brush your pet with a soft bristle brush at least five minutes twice a day. Brushing not only minimizes hair in your bed, but increases human-pet bonding."
They Can Exacerbate Allergies
Because of all the hair, dander, and dust mites, it may not come as a surprise that letting your pet sleep with you can increase allergies, and it may even cause "difficulty breathing at night (which can also lead to sleep disruption)," Brantner says. "Of course, [letting your pet sleep in your bed] every now and then won't hurt." But if you suffer from itchy eyes or sneezing, it may be something to reconsider.
They Can Keep You Up At Night
As mentioned above, some people benefit from having their pet sleep next to them. But for light sleepers, it may not be the best choice. "Some sleep studies have shown that those with insomnia or difficulty sleeping may be awoken more frequently with either a person or pet in the bed, as any motion of the other individual may cause awakening," Dr. Landis-Hanna says. "But if you are a sound sleeper, there is likely no safety risk to allowing your pet to sleep with you."
For the best of both worlds, "a good compromise may be to have your pet sleep next to your bed," Dr. Landis-Hanna says. That way, you can enjoy each other's company, while still getting a full night's sleep.
They Can Leave Ticks Behind
Dogs and cats are magnets for ticks, so it's possible they can carry a few into your bed. "When pets sleep in their owner's bed, everything they picked up during the day may wind up on the bed or on their owner," Dr. Richter says. "Some of the most common gross or surprising things are fleas and ticks. In addition to being gross, ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme, which is a very serious medical condition in people." If you live in an area with a lot of ticks, it may be a good idea to keep your pet far away from your bed.
They Can Track In Poison Oak
If your pet walks through a patch of poison ivy or poison oak, it's not outside the realm of possibility that it'll end up in your bed. "Pets can pick up poison oak resin and then get it on their owner either directly or by it getting on bedding and then contacting the owner," Dr. Richter says. "While dogs tend not to be very sensitive to poison oak, they can certainly transport it to their owners, who are."
They Can Barf On Your Sheets
Your pet may find its way to your bed to barf, whether you let them sleep there or not. But having them spend the night only increases these chances.
As Dr. Richter says, "Occasionally, a pet with gastrointestinal distress may vomit or have diarrhea on their owner's bed. This is both gross and a potential vector for disease transmission if the dog has contracted giardia or gastrointestinal parasites." And that just may not be worth the risk.
They Can Deposit Fleas
If your dog or cat has fleas, watch out. These parasites "lay eggs at the base of your pet’s hair, and if your pet is in the bed with you the parasite could transfer to another surface, like your sheets or covers," Dr. Gruener says. "A common example of this pet-to-surface transfer is getting fleas in your bed, and eventually on your body."
That's why, due to the parasites and bacteria they carry, it's not always the best idea to let your pet sleep on your bed. The choice, however, is up to you. If you aren't grossed out by hair or dirt, or aren't worried about things like poison ivy, keep doing your thing. There are plenty of positives to outweigh the negatives, and all those bonding moments just may be worth it.