If you own a cat (or several), then you probably know what happens when you shut any given door at home: they most likely sit outside of it and meow until it opens. This might be why you let your cat sleep in your bed with you, or you just might enjoy the sensation of dozing off to sleep while your furry family member purrs nearby. Either way, anyone who owns a cat has probably questioned at some point whether letting a cat sleep in your bed can hurt your health or not.
It's a reasonable concern. From animal dandruff, to litter box hygienics, to sleep disruption, your cat could bring a whole host of non-human worries into your bedroom. And the simple truth is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer: it totally depends on your pet's personality and general behavior, according to Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a practicing veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, a site that reviews products for dogs.
"Most cats are very clean animals and are all the time grooming themselves and sometimes even the owners," she explains. For that reason, you shouldn't be very concerned about dandruff or litter box issues. If you do find litter box remnants in your bed, Dr. Ochoa says, then it might just be a matter of finding another type of litter that's easier for your cat to groom off of their paws.
But even if your cat is clean, this won't necessarily save you from dealing with allergy woes. If you're at all allergic to cats, then you should definitely keep them out of your bedroom, according to Dr. Meng Chen, MD, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Allergy and Immunology at Stanford's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research.
"Cat allergens are very sticky and can hang around for months even after cleaning, and even if the cat is removed from the environment," Dr. Chen explains. "For this reason, it is important not only that the cat does not sleep in the bedroom, but also the cat should not be allowed in the bedroom at all." This is only if you're experiencing allergies, to be clear.
Another aspect you should consider is potential sleep disruption. Since cats are often nocturnal, there's a possibility your furry pal is going to walk all over you while you try to sleep, thus getting in the way of your REM cycle.
But there's no real consensus on how cats affect sleep quality, overall. A 2015 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine and published in the Mayo Clinic Proceeding journal suggests mixed results when it comes to pets potentially disrupting sleep. In the study, which involved a questionnaire and subsequent interview with 150 patients, 41% of pet owners described their pets as being beneficial to their sleep. Meanwhile, an additional 20% of pet owners disagreed and said their pets were in fact disruptive to their sleep.
The best thing you can do is keep an eye on one or all of these factors, whether it's an allergic symptom showing up, or a cat paw waking you up in the middle of the night. And if you do need to start conditioning your kitty to leave you alone after you go to bed, you can check out these tips to train your cat to let you sleep.
Krahn LE, Tovar MD, Miller B. (2015) Are Pets in the Bedroom a Problem? Mayo Clinic Proceedings. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(15)00674-6/fulltext
Ochoa, S. Veterinary Consultant for DogLab. https://doglab.com/team/
Chen, M., Clinical Assistant Professor of Allergy and Immunology at Stanford's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research. https://profiles.stanford.edu/228963