Sharing a bed with our pets is a reality all pet owners face. And according to our research, two thirds (65%) of British pet owners will share the bed with their cat or dog tonight.
Which is understandable. It can be hard to resist those puppy-dog eyes, or that loving purr when our pet’s come to settle in for the night.
But did you know that by observing our pet’s sleeping position, we can tell a lot about the special pet-owner bond we share with them?
We wanted to know more, so asked 2,000 Brits to reveal the 10 most common sleeping positions we adopt with our four-legged friends, and enlisted the help of leading animal behaviourist, Professor Peter Neville, to give us insight into their meaning.
The 10 most common sleeping positions and what they mean
The most popular position among pets & owners. This is as close as your pet can be to you while keeping an easy escape route if you’re a restless sleeper.
Professor Peter Neville said:
“While ‘The Faithful’ position may seem like the actions of a dutiful and worshipping dog, you’re horizontal in bed and so there is no respectful acknowledging posturing. It’s more likely that you’re a restless sleeper and this is as close as he or she can be to you while keeping an easy escape route.”
The Knee Nuzzle
The second most popular position is the Knee Nuzzle, where your pet nestles in the bend of your legs as you lie in the foetal position.
Warmth and all-enveloping security are the key attractions here as you all curl up in that ‘artificial womb’ together. This pet can be more than happy to hand over all responsibility for their well-being to you as if they are a puppy or kitten again. In this perfectly protected environment, they don’t need to make any more decisions and literally sleep like a baby.
The Donut Divider
The third most popular position is the Donut Divider where your dog or cat curls up in a ball between your legs. Smaller pets can enjoy the comforting compression of your legs either side and blankets above and below, provided you stay still of course.
Both cats and dogs are able to hear far higher frequencies of sound that are ‘ultra-sonic’ to us, so by getting themselves in a sound proofed warm ‘bubble’ bordered by our legs can help protect them from any unwanted noises that might disturb them.
The fourth most favoured position is the Wall where your four-legged companion establishes themselves between you and your partner – a seemingly innocent position for warmth and security.
There may be an element of strategy here too as dogs, and sometimes cats, that feel especially bonded to one partner might just be keeping the other at distance.
The Pillow Bandit
In fifth place is the Pillow Bandit whereby your pet takes over the entire pillow. Normally the preserve of smaller dogs and cats who find the extra softness and comfort of the pillow.
This is a less likely sleeping position if you snore but works nicely for your pet as your face is exposed in the morning ready to be targeted with a rub or a lick to ensure that breakfast is delivered pronto.
The Under-Cover Lover
The Under-Cover Lover is the sixth most popular position. It’s the ultimate in dark safe dens to hide away in a reassuring warm heap where body smells and pheromones combine to create a comforting ‘scent fug’.
Cats and dogs are notoriously indifferent of their owners breaking wind and this paradoxically might even add to the security of an enveloping ‘common scent’ in sleeping under the duvet! Just as some people sleep better under weighted blankets, some dogs also relax better if they are lightly compressed by bedcovers.
The Cuddle Bug
The cuddle bug may also aspire to be a fully-fledged pillow bandit, and this position may just be a reaffirming step in their process of training you to accept & enjoy their advancing expectations.
Probably quite a dependent soul, who loves nothing more than to rest and snooze ever closer to your face, where he can feel your heartbeat.
A compromise position by pets who want to keep close secure contact with you for a while, and enjoy being petted on the head. Being splayed out also means they are ready to look after you if there are disturbances at night.
You aren’t sure how, but in the morning your pet is sprawled out in the middle of the bed, and you’re right on the edge.
Here’s what the experts had to say
Expert animal behaviourist, Professor Neville, gave us some insights into why our pets might be choosing to sleep in the bed with us:
“What’s clear is that sharing the bed with our pets is a normal part of our lives together and testament to the strength of the increasingly co-dependent bond between us and our cats and dogs.
For us, the main element of that bedroom relationship is based on comfort, enjoyment, touch, shared warmth, and increased feelings of security for many dog owners especially.
And while cats and dogs benefit in similar ways, cats regard us as mother figures throughout their lives when in close contact with us; predators outdoors, but forever ‘kittens’ when they cuddle up. Dogs, however, are more like 11-year-old humans in their social behaviour, often acting independently as guarders and hunters, but who all still find comfort and security close up with a parent figure or two when it’s time to sleep. This ‘regressive’ behaviour to be a youngster every night also means that they are quite tolerant of our nocturnal shiftings.
When choosing their sleeping positions, our pets are broadly seeking to maintain and enhance their close protecting bond with us, rather than any desire to control us or monopolise territory. But they do cleverly learn to use their appeal and the warm benefits they bring to us to train us to meet their individual night-time needs and desires and to shift our sleeping habits to accommodate theirs!”
According to the study, more than a quarter (27 per cent) said having their pet in bed helps them feel less alone, and 37 per cent like the warmth from their furry bodies. A further three in 10 (30 per cent) also get a feeling of ‘safety and security’ from allowing their cat or dog into the bed with them.
Whilst it emerged that more than half even think their pet is easier to share a bed with than their other human half, it also emerged 23 per cent of pet owners who share a bed with their dog or cat never think about unwanted guests when they curl up at night together.
Resident Itch Vet, Zoe Costigan added:
“Whilst there are lots of perceived benefits to co sleeping with our pets, such as feelings of calm, a sense of security and countering anxiety, it’s important to sleep healthily with our pets. Unwanted bed-guests are never a pleasure!
So, if you suddenly find clusters of itchy red bites – often around your legs or ankles – there’s a chance your bed is also being shared by a flea too.
Treating fleas can be a real headache, especially if they’ve made their way into your bed. I’ve seen so many animals and their owners suffer because they weren’t treated. That’s why I love the monthly Itch personal protection pack subscription and app. It makes it so easy to protect and the first month is even free. So, you can rest easy!”