The Family Bed: should you share with your pets?


11th January 2016


Do you sleep with your pets? Do you have a family bed?

A recent Mayo Clinic survey gives a positive nod to this sleeping arrangement. Also called ‘bed-sharing’ or ‘co-sleeping’, this practice is utilized by more families than will admit to it. Great Aunt Alice might have a coronary if she knew you were sharing your bed with your dog, your cat and your kids, so just don’t tell her! Here’s why the family bed may be the greatest new ‘old’ idea of the millennium.

Pets feel more secure and sleep better when they’re in close proximity to their parents. Ditto for the parents. Believers in the practice swear the bonding that occurs is so formative that pets are easily trained without any expertise. Potty training is almost never an issue as the tiniest puppy or kitten will let you know immediately when nature calls. Verbal command training is also easily accomplished with little rewards needed, other than praise.

Old habits, new world

Modern man can’t take credit for group sleeping. It began with the original domestication of the wild dog, who joined man in the cave, sat with him around the fire and snuggled with him at night for warmth while sleeping.

When we brought our beloved Rocky, a sweet male Golden Retriever, home from the breeder at 9 weeks old, we set up a wooden play pen for him in our family room/open kitchen. Socialization was our objective, and it worked. The pen was his den, but 10 minutes didn’t pass without someone quietly speaking to him or gently caressing him. At bedtime, my husband took to the couch right beside Rocky, and took him into his arms and soothed him back to sleep when he became lonely. Without a doubt, the bond those two developed was responsible for the ease of his potty training – not one accident ever – true story.

Relationships, human to human, or human to animal are all about constant proximity and bonding. The family bed ensures a mutual understanding of expectations without harsh training or discipline. It also works for older dogs who are past the socialization window. 

Sleeping with kittens


Kittens will readily sleep with you, and as they mature will naturally gravitate from the family bed because they are nocturnal and (sometimes) aloof. As we all know, a cat will sleep where a cat wants!  But a cat who was welcomed to the family bed as a kitten will likely return on and off as an adult. We’re not advocating tucking our fur babies under the sheets with us – on top of the duvet will do nicely thanks! And do make sure your pets aren’t contaminated with any parasites before you begin this experiment.

Today’s experts agree on this – training is all about bonding and respect at any age. The family bed makes that easy for both pets and parents.


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