Should you sleep with your pets?

Ransom Riggs

I know what you're thinking, you dirty birds -- no, not that way. I mean, should you share the Tempurpedic with Rover and/or Fluffy -- and if you choose to, what consequences could it have? It's more of an issue these days, as our domesticated animals' habitats have migrated from back yard to porch to sleeping inside and finally, in some cases, the bedroom. (Though I'm sure a fair share of old prospectors preferred to bunk with the dog rather than freeze their way through a winter in an unheated shack alone. Slate tells us that "the rock group Three Dog Night takes its name from the supposed [Australian] Aboriginal practice of judging the coldness of an evening by the number of dogs required to keep warm.")

We certainly don't need our pets to keep warm at night anymore. Nevertheless, a recent survey found that about 62% of American pet owners keep their dogs and cats inside at night, and about half of those allow their pets to share the bed with them. Confession time: I'm one of the latter. That said, we've just got one little Tonkinese kitty (pictured above, in bed of course; how can you resist?), who doesn't go outside, devour mice or do anything particularly unsavory, as cats go -- but one overriding issue, cleanliness aside, remains. Cats are nocturnal creatures. The cat spends most of her day sleeping in our big red Ikea Poang chair, and when night comes, it's time to stalk, skulk, run and play -- even if her playmates are trying to catch their forty winks. The last thing you want when you're deep in dreamland is a cat pouncing on your stomach. (On the other hand, a little purring ball of fluff can be a great sleep-inducer. So does the good outweigh the bad?)

With dogs, it can be even worse: bed-sharing becomes a dominance issue. Once you allow a dog in the bed, according to some animal behaviorists, your role as leader of the pack is greatly diminished. (Not all experts agree about this, and anyway, most hard-core pet sleepers wouldn't care if you told them their pets were poisoning them in their sleep -- the animals are like a security blanket.)

I spilled my guts a little, now it's your turn: who sleeps with their animals? Of those who do, who's woken up regularly by the cat or the dog -- and doesn't bother changing their sleeping arrangements?