By Jason DeRusha

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We know that Americans love their pets, but the number of us who allow our pets to share our beds is a shocker. At least 50 percent of dog owners and 63 percent of cat owners sleep in bed with their animals. So, is that a good idea?

“They’re lovable. They want to be loved,” said Debbie Baker, a Mahtometi dog owner.

Because so many of us allow our pets in the bed, researchers at the University of California-Davis looked into whether that arrangement is causing people to get sick.

In a review published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”, researchers found evidence of chagas disease, which can cause life-threatening heart disorders, cat-scratch disease, and even bubonic plague.

“There is some risk, but that risk is really low,” said Dr. Jeff Bender, a veterinarian and public health specialist at the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Science.

Researchers also wrote in the article “Zoonoses in the Bedroom” about parasites being passed from hookworms and roundworms.

The two cases of bubonic plague in the U.S. last year were both traced to fleas, in homes where the dog slept in the bed, according to a report at

“Plague is really rare in the U.S.,” said Bender, “but it’s transmitted by that flea. Pets can get those that carry organism.”

The bigger risk, according to Bender, is allowing our pets to lick us. There have been cases of meningitis and staph infections transmitted by licking.

However, before we totally gross you out, “the risk is really low,” according to Bender.

Zoonoses interests researchers because in general, humans and animals have different kinds of viruses and bacteria, and they don’t often send illness back and forth. For example, you can’t catch the common cold from your pet, and it’s rare for influenza to be shared, he said.

So, if your pet is healthy and you’re healthy, it’s probably OK to snuggle in. On the other hand, Bender recommends that young children and people with compromised immune systems kick their pets to the floor.

Comments (15)
  1. tiredandretired says:

    I meant “in your jeans”…

  2. TERRY NEITZEL says:


  3. Nancy Aleshire says:

    The biggest sources of illness are co-workers, people in doctor offices, people on the bus, schools and daycares. I have been sleeping with my cats for years and never have gotten sick from them. Aside from an occasional bite and cat hair on Kiki’s pillow, I’ll continue sleeping with her. She let’s me know when the paper is here and if there is severe weather.

  4. David Sanders says:

    What would be the difference between sleeping with them or petting them. If I followed all studies I’d be locked in a patted sanitized room. Study water long enough and you will find its bad to drink it.

  5. red says:

    There is nothing wrong with your doggie pal sleepig with you. My dog always wants to to sleep at the end of the bed, will get up in the middle of the night to eat and then comes back later on when she is finished. If the weather gets nasty, the doorbell rings and if the kids get up she will warn me. David, you are darn right on the water being bad to drink

  6. Augustine says:

    I have a Jack Russell Terrier who is not convinced she’s a dog! She can sleep on my bed, but I would never allow her to lick me in my face!!

  7. Augustine M. Green says:

    My Jack Russell Terrier is not convinced she’s a dog, so she feels she has to sleep in the bed. This is Ok, but I can’t imagine her licking me in my face!! Yuk!!!

  8. Jennifer Collins Taylor says:

    When my husband became quite ill for a long period of time, our cat could not stay away from him. Amos had to be touching John any time John laid down. The cat slept on John’s chest, wrapped himself around John’s head, etc. It was almost as if AMos knew John needed comfort and companionship. I know that it brought me comfort to know that John was not alone when I left to go to work each day. Long comment, I know.

  9. JamieinMN says:

    This is a ridiculous article. I saw this two weeks ago and then received an email about it from Dr.Jon from

  10. Grandma Kathi says:

    I ahve been sleeping with my pets for 60 years and have never gotten sick from them. Getting sick from my co-workers is another story.

  11. Gloria says:

    Interesting information; however, last evening when this story aired on the 10:00 p.m. report, the word “staph” was spelled “staff”. It is correct as written in the article above. I just thought WCCO should be aware that someone didn’t proofread very well before airing this story.

    ‘CCO remains my favorite source for local news.

  12. Kathleen says:

    How many of our pets help us through hard times? There have been times in my life that I have gotten up and gone through the day because my dogs counted on me – thay are always there for me, and love me no matter what I do. Letting them on the furniture or to sleep in bed with me seems a small price to pay for THEIR unwavering love and affection.

    I agree that co-workers and the public are the most likely sources of illnesses! I work in a public school and have had every illness that goes around.

  13. karen says:

    i lseep with my cat, she keeps me warm and i love her there

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