Your pet’s sleeping position secretly says a lot about your relationship
Lots of pets sleep with their owners, whether they’re invited or not.
Millions of cats and dogs – not so many goldfish – share their owners’ beds because it makes them feel warmer, cosier and in many cases safer.
In a survey more than a quarter (27%) said lying next to their cat or dog helps them feel less alone, and 37% like the warmth from their pets' furry bodies.
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A study of 2,000 cat and dog owners found two thirds will snuggle up with their pet at night with three in 10 of those liking the feeling of security they get from having them there.
The study of 2,000 cat and dog owners, made by pet wellbeing specialists Itchpet.com, also revealed the 10 most common sleeping positions, which include 'The Sneak', where your pet inches further and further up the bed, 'The Donut Divider', when your furry friend curls up and settles between your legs, and 'The Pillow Bandit', where your beloved four-footed family member takes over the pillow.
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Leading animal behaviourist, Professor Peter Neville, said: "What's clear is that sharing the bed with our pets is a normal part of our lives together and a 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.
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"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 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."
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The study found one in five pet owners said their furry friend opts for 'The Knee Nuzzle' sleeping technique, resting in the bend of their leg overnight.
But the most common was 'The Faithful', adopted by 32% of pets who sleep at the foot of the bed by their owner's feet.
And more than one in 10 refer to their pet's sleeping position as 'The Wall' – getting in between them and their partner.
It also emerged 41% are happy to admit they get by in harmony, and that their pet is a 'considerate bed-sharer'.
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More than half even think their pet is easier to share a bed with than their human partner.
However, it's not always easy as one in 10 pet owners confess they have been bitten by a flea in bed.
And 40% admit they only treat their pet for parasites when they have fleas, as opposed to taking preventative measures once a month, which is the veterinary recommendation.
Leading vet, Zoë Costigan, added: "While 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."
Here’s a rundown of the most common sleeping positions – and what they mean:
1. The Faithful – Lies at the foot of your bed by your feet
While this seems like the actions of a dutiful and worshipping dog, you are of course horizontal in bed and so there is no respectful acknowledging posturing here. More likely is that you are a restless sleeper and this is as close as he or she can be to you while keeping an easy escape route.
2. The Knee Nuzzle – 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.
3. The Donut Divider – Curls up in a ball between your legs
Smaller pets can enjoy the comforting slight compression of your legs on 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.
4. The Wall – In between you and your partner
This position might be an innocent warmth and security choice from your pet, but there may be an element of strategy here too.
A dog, or sometimes a cat, that is especially bonded to one partner might just be keeping the other at distance and is trying to ensure that he or she gets whatever attention might be on offer.
5. The Pillow Bandit – Takes over the entire pillow
A less likely position if you snore, this position is usually the preserve of smaller dogs and cats who find the extra softness.
As soon as the Pillow Bandit wakes, they will usually insist on waking you up too. Your face is immediately accessible to be targeted with a rub or a lick to ensure that breakfast is delivered pronto.
6. The Under-Cover Lover – Under the duvet
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 to their owners breaking wind and this paradoxically might 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.
7. The Cuddle Bug – Cuddles in the crook of your arm
This gets the pet closer to your face where he or she can probably feel the reassurance of your heartbeat, while yet also affording a quick escape route to other parts of the bed or to the floor if you turn or alter position in your sleep.
The Cuddle Bug may also aspire to being a fully-fledged Pillow Bandit, and this position may just be a short reaffirming step in their process of training you to accept and enjoy their advancing expectations.
8. The Sneak – Inches further up the bed to get closer to your head
Often also with aspirations to become a Pillow Bandit, the Sneak is 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 and hear your gentle breathing while you sleep.
9. The Superhero – Sprawls out on their belly next to you
This may be a bit of a compromise position by dogs – and only very rarely by cats – who want to keep close secure contact with you for a while and enjoy being petted on the head and massaged down their backs as you relax, but which prevents them from overheating if your bed is very warm.
It may also be that the Superhero chooses this splayed position rather than curling up or stretching out so they are increasingly ready to look after you if there are disturbances at night. Your welfare is their welfare after all.
10. The Octopus – 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
A very common position for many pet owners to find themselves in the morning. The pet starts out nicely sharing bed space with their loving owner, but gradually expands occupancy of the bed during the night, perhaps to get more comfortable and dissipate heat if you are too warm.
This pet knows how nice you are, taking advantage of your good nature as you move to accommodate them as they steadily stretch out in your half-awake state and shove you, ever so gently, to the side.
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