Spending the night cozied up to your fur-baby may sound relaxing, but sleeping with a cat comes with health risks.
Cats are champion sleepers, clocking around 15 hours a day, but their sleep cycles aren’t the same as ours. A cat who snoozes the day away might be ready to compete in the Kitty Olympics come 2 a.m., racing around the room and leaping off furniture. Athletic feats aside, cats may snore, scratch, or simply prod you for attention during your sleeping hours, which can take a toll on your ability to get good rest and leave you feeling drowsy and sluggish the next day. One Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders study found that more than 20 percent of patients who sleep with their pets say the animals disturb their sleep.
Exposure to litter box debris
Litter boxes are dirty places, and cats’ paws can capture bits of cat litter and waste, which can end up in your bed. While rubber mats placed outside the litter box can cut down on the amount of litter and waste that gets tracked through the house, you can’t eliminate it entirely from your bed without making the bed a cat-free zone.
Allergies and asthma
Up to 30 percent of people have some kind of allergic reaction to cats and dogs, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and allergies to cats are twice as common as reactions to dogs, experts say. Doctors recommend removing cats from the home if someone is allergic, but there are less drastic measures you can take to ease allergy and asthma suffering. By keeping your bedroom door closed and using a good HEPA filter, you can eliminate allergy and asthma triggers while you’re sleeping.
A threat to young children
The old wives’ tale about cats sucking the life out of sleeping children isn’t rooted in fact, but it’s still a good idea to keep cats out of the rooms where babies sleep. Cribs are attractive napping spots for cats, given that they’re high up, protected on multiple sides, and soft. But a cat could inadvertently smother a sleeping child. Play it safe and keep the cat out.
Cats can be hard to evict
Cats are creatures of habit, and they often don’t adapt well to changes in their environment. If you suddenly decide that you no longer want your cat to sleep in your bed, the animal might respond to the loss of their territory with destructive behavior, including scratching furniture and spraying. Experts recommend providing your cat with new toys to play with or a cat tree to climb at night to give them something else to focus on. Make sure you know the silent signs your kitty is depressed.
Parasites and fungal infections
When you share your bed with a cat, you’re also sharing a bed with any parasites the cat is harboring. And some of those parasites could make your life miserable. Fleas can’t live on people, but they do bite, leaving behind itchy welts. Similarly, cheyletiella mites can jump from cats to humans, causing an itchy rash. Feline intestinal parasites including roundworms and hookworms can also cause illness in people, which is transmitted through exposure to cat fecal matter.
Spending up to eight hours a night in close proximity to a cat means you’re likely getting some exposure to the animal’s secretions and excretions. While your odds of contracting an ailment from your cat are low, very young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk. Around 25,000 people per year contract cat-scratch fever, a bacterial infection that can be fatal for those with weakened immunity. As the name suggests, cat-scratch disease, or bartonellosis, is transmitted through the scratch or bite of an infected cat. It causes swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, muscle soreness, and other symptoms. The disease typically doesn’t have long-term health consequences, but it can linger in the body for several months after the initial infection. Salmonellosis is another bacterial infection that cats can transmit to people. Cats that spend part of their time outdoors may eat birds or small animals, and that puts them at risk for contracting it. Humans can become infected through contact with a sick cat’s feces. In humans, the illness causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain.
Giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and toxoplasmosis are diseases that can be transmitted from cats to humans, though it is highly unlikely to become infected by direct contact with cats. To keep cats healthy, keep them indoors and schedule annual exams with your vet.