Is it healthy to sleep with your cat or dog? – Ouest-France evening edition

For a soft purr or a reassuring presence, many people share their nights with their cat or dog. Should you let your pet sleep in the room? Scientists have found that this presence affects the quality of sleep.

There he is, lying on your bed, all four paws in the air and purring all he can. Every night, it’s the same story. You have scruples about kicking your cat out of bed. So you crack up and let him sleep on your pillow… In a 2015 study, American scientists claim that the presence of pets in the bedroom can have beneficial effects on the sleep of their masters. These researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, a facility specializing in sleep disorders, asked the following question to 150 participants: do your pets prevent you from sleeping?

A soothing effect

Nearly 56% revealed that they let their four-legged friend sleep with them. Of the participants who said they slept with their cat or their dog, 41% considered that they had a more peaceful sleep when their furry friend sleeps by their side… According to the researchers, the nocturnal presence of pets creates a climate of safety and relaxation . In this study, a woman described her two small dogs as “hot water bottles” and explain “to feel soothed when [son] cat sleeps against his chest ».

But from a scientific point of view, this study is questionable, believes Jean-Yves Gauchet, veterinarian in Toulouse. “These are observations that should not be generalized”, he said. This supporter of “purr-therapy” makes above all the difference between cats and dogs: “The cat is reassuring because it purrs and cuddles up to you like a baby. The dog is less taker of caresses, it’s not the same, analyzes the specialist. The purring of the cat emits soothing and beneficial sound vibrations, a bit like music. It has therapeutic effects as if it were a medicine. When the cat purrs, nothing can go wrong! »

It’s 5 a.m., the cat wakes up

But as adorable as they are, your pets can quickly prevent you from sleeping a wink: 20% of participants in the American study say they are bothered by their little beast during their sleep. And at night, cats are much more restless than dogs. “Cats live out of step with dogs,” notes Jean-Yves Gauchet.

Cats are dusk and early morning hunters, and often sleep the rest of the time. “That’s why they get up at 5 a.m. and ask to go out,” explains the veterinarian who believes that “the master is still a winner, even if he is awakened in the middle of the night by his cat”. Why winning? Just because “the cat will have helped its master to fall asleep in complete serenity”.

What about allergies then?

Hairballs can also cause allergies ranging from simple itchy eyes to asthma attacks in the middle of the night. In France, pets are present in more than one in two homes. About 1.6 million French people are allergic to animals, or 2.5% of the population.

According to Dr Nhân Pham Thi, head of the allergology and environmental medicine unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, “it is difficult to predict the occurrence of an allergy to an animal”. It is the proteins released by the animal through its saliva that are responsible for the allergy. “Proteins can be perceived as an attack by the immune system, explains the specialist. But some studies have shown that an animal presence from the birth of a child can immunize him. »

In a stressful situation, the immune system is at bay, which can promote the development of an allergy. On the contrary, if the presence of the animal reassures and calms the nerves, “the risks of allergy are potentially lower”, says Dr. Nhân Pham Thi.

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