Sleeping With Your Pet, Not as Risky as They Say

I’m sure by now you have all heard about the latest CDC report “Zoonoses in the Bedroom.”  It states people can get the plague by sleeping with their dog or cat.  I took the time to read the full report, and I’m under-impressed by the findings.  Maybe it’s all the time I spend as a realtor, looking over numbers to determine the true value of a property.  In my opinion, the numbers in this report just don’t add up to the risk factors they are alleging.

The report begins by addressing how many million pet owners are in the westernized world, which has grown greatly in the past thirty years.  In 2008, it was reported that 62% of American households had a pet, and between 50%-60% of those people slept with their pets.  To give you an idea of how many people this is, consider the census, which estimated there were 112,362,848 American households in 2008.  Using the census number, we can determine about 28 million people or more slept with their dog or cat in bed with them, which is an important number to keep in mind.  The report then goes on to discuss an outbreak of 7 cases of the plague in 1974, and 23 cases in 1983.  It also states that a handful of cases of cat scratch fever have been associated with sleeping with, or being licked by a household pet.  The report additionally lists several other different diseases, all with a handful of documented cases.  However, at no point do they back their findings with statistical analysis, giving the percentage of chance that we are putting ourselves in a harmful situation.

Therefore, 28 million people are doing this so called “risky behavior” of sleeping with their pets, with only maybe 50-75 total cases of documented diseases over the past 30 years.  I feel sleeping with your pet is worth the risk.  Every day, we do things far more hazardous than the risk associated with sleeping with your pet.  Based on the numbers provided by this report, I would say you have less than a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of getting a deadly disease from sleeping with your pet.  Let us compare that with some other things that could kill you.  According to, you have a 1 in 100 chance of dying in a car accident, 1 in 20,000 chance of dying in a plane crash.  Does hearing those statistics make you commit to never driving or flying again?  Of course not!  Driving and flying are deemed worth the known risks.  Looking at similar odds to sleeping with your pets, is one you can’t prevent, because there is a 1 in 200,000-500,000 chance of dying from an asteroid impact.  You also have a 1 in 615,488 chance of dying from fireworks discharge.  Would that statistic make you never watch another fireworks show?  Probably not!  I bet you don’t enjoy fireworks half as much as you enjoy sleeping with your loving pet.

In my opinion, this article is causing unnecessary alarm.  The article begins by saying the problem is that people are making their animals too much a part of their family, by allowing them to live and sleep in their same quarters.  However, it also continues on by saying a well-cared for pet should not be carriers of any of the diseases mentioned.   So in sum, if we have pets that are well taken of, then their people couldn’t possibly be at risk when sleeping with them.   Now really, shouldn’t we treat our pets like they are members of the family, making sure they get routine medical and dental checkups, and watching over them with the same love and care you would any other member of the family?

Overall, my fear is this study will create paranoia, causing people to banish their pets to the backyard, where they’ll suffer from the harsh elements and possible attacks by other predatory animal, such as coyotes.  In conclusion, if sleeping with your pet is wrong, I don’t want to be right.


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