We’ve all been there, we see an adorable bed that we think our kitty will love, but when we get it home, they can’t be bothered with it! 😞
Um hello, cute, new little bed here, love it please!
Your cat 🐈 insists instead on taking over that old shipping box 📦 or squeeze into a basket 🧺 you have out for other purposes.
Perhaps you’re a pet parent that wants your kitty to snuggle up in a cat bed at night time instead of having them sleep in your bed with you.
Or perhaps you’re like me who, when single used to snuggle up at night with a bunch of kitties but happen to get a partner that is allergic to cats, so now the bedroom is off limits.
Whatever the reason we all want our fur babies to have a comfy place to settle in for the evening or even just a nighttime nap.
There's just one little problem here; how do you convince a cat to do, well, anything?
As fiercely independent animals, cats are wonderful companions, but they can be hard to train. Is it even possible to convince your cat to sleep in their own bed at night? What about getting them to sleep in that new cute bed that’s in your living room?
Truthfully, the answer is yes!
However, it may be harder with older cats, cats that aren't used to being trained, or cats that have separation anxiety or other clinginess issues.
Let's talk about how to get your cat to sleep in their own bed, shall we?
There's a surprising amount of argument as to whether or not it's a good idea to let your cat sleep in your bed with you at night.
On one hand, having a snuggly cat is one of the best feelings as you're trying to go to sleep. A warm, purring little cuddlebug is a great companion, and we all love seeing our feline friends seek us out for comfort and companionship. Some health experts even say that having a cat in bed with you can be a stress-reducing and soothing way to fall asleep faster and sleep better. I should say my husband has his doubts about this theory 😊
On the other hand, cats are often awake and active at night. They nap all day, and at night they can get the zoomies, get into trouble, or even get frisky. What happens if you're trying to sleep, shift around, and suddenly find your toes attacked through the blankets? What happens if your bored cat decides to walk across your pillow and step on your face? This kind of disruption can hurt your ability to sleep through the night and leave you feeling tired the next day.
On top of all that, there are associated issues relating to cats being animals. If your cat happens to get fleas, finding them in bed with you is a nasty surprise.
Not to mention that if they happen to have indigestion, the last thing you're going to enjoy is waking up to a hairball in the process of being deposited on your bed. For that matter, if you roll over in your sleep and roll onto them, neither one of you are going to have a pleasant time.
Based on the above, the answer is evident: only you can decide.
However, despite the several benefits that some experts and cat lovers claim, the cons may outweigh the benefits though. The main reason being serious health related concerns.
While the odds of contracting a disease from your cat are very low, when they do occur, they can be lethal.
And exposure to and accumulation of your cats’ excretions and secretions on your bed linens only increases the risk. Especially for individuals with weak immune systems, older adults, and children.
In 2011 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a research paper titled Zoonoses in the Bedroom. The paper details a number of maladies — plague, parasites, other bad bacteria, and yes, cat scratch fever — that people have contracted from sleeping next to or being licked by pets (not just cats).
The document also discusses a case where a 60-year-old patient with chronic eczema passed due to septic shock and renal failure caused by Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria found in the gums of dogs and cats, after his dog licked his legs.
In another instance, a 69-year-old man who had recently had a hip replacement was infected by Pasteurella multocida bacteria. The man stated he shared his bed with his dog before and after the surgery sleeping under the covers on the same side of the bed as his affected leg.
While the cases above might be isolated cases, the truth of the matter is, sleeping with your fur babies does increase the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease.
But again, it’s a personal choice. So long as you’re informed you can then make the determination that you find best.
In case you’re wondering, I slept with my kitties for the first half of my life, however for a couple of reasons, I no longer do.
The first thing you'll want to consider is preferences.
Cat beds come in a huge range of different types. Some are open, and others are enclosed. Some are soft, others are firm. Some are fuzzy, others are low-pile.
One of the main reasons why your cat might not be sleeping in their bed is really just because they don't like it.
So, what can you consider checking for preferences? Sadly, you can't just ask them, but you can consider specific factors and swap beds until you find one they like.
These specific factors include things like:
Texture. Some cats prefer firmer surfaces, while others like softer surfaces. Some will prefer fuzzier beds, while others want something flatter, or a tight-knit surface instead. If your cat bed is at one extreme in one quality or another, you might try picking up a different bed and see if they like the different texture more.
Temperature. Is it particularly cool or particularly warm where you are? Remember that cats have a slightly higher internal body temperature than we do, so what we find room temperature might be a little cool for them, and what we find warm might be unpleasantly hot for them. Often, a plush, fuzzy cat bed traps a lot of heat, so if it’s already warm it might end up as unpleasant for more than a short nap, especially if you've left it in their favorite sunbeam.
Shape. Oddly enough, our feline companions tend to have preferences for particular shapes just as much as textures. The difference between a square bed and a circular bed, even if they're otherwise identical, can but the deciding factor. One way to test this is to get two beds of different shapes, cover them with the same sheet or blanket you know they like elsewhere, and see if they prefer one over the other.
Covered or not. Some cat beds (like, for example, the cat cave in our store) are covered and enclosed spaces. Some cats, particularly rescues, outdoor cats, and strays, tend to prefer a hidey-hole where they can sleep with their backs to a wall in relative security. They want to feel enclosed and safe, so an open bed won't work for them. Other cats are the opposite and will settle in on a perfectly open bed. An easy way to test this is to use a cardboard box with a hole cut in the side to cover their bed and see if that makes them more likely to sleep in it. Just make sure not to pull the box off to check!
One final thing to consider is location (more on this below). You can narrow this down in a few ways. First, start by watching your fuzzy friend and see where they normally doze. Do they curl up on the floor or a couch, or do they tend to find a higher shelf to nap on? Height can make a big difference!
Another aspect is competition for the space. A bed isn't going to do well in a busy hallway, in front of your door, or in another place where your cat will be disrupted when they're dozing.
Any time you're testing one of these changes, give it at least a few weeks to see if your cat will adapt to it. Fur babies can take some time to warm up to a new change in their environment, even something as simple as a bed.
They may not like the residual smells on it, or they want to make sure it's not dangerous, or whatever. If you put it down, and your cat doesn't sleep in it for a few days, that doesn't mean they don't like it; it just means they aren't sure about it yet.
Now that we know some reasons your kitty isn’t sleeping in their bed, it’s time to talk about ways to get them snuggled up.
Beds are meant to be a place of comfort, relaxation, safety, and security. You want your cat to feel at ease in their bed.
One way you can do that is by giving them little bits of encouragement to use the bed. Now, I don't mean picking them up and putting them on the bed and petting them until they settle down – though there is nothing wrong with this approach if your cat is open to it. But remember, cats tend to be independent, so if you're trying to make that decision for them, they might reject it.
Instead, just make being in the bed a rewarding experience. One good way to do that is to position a treat in the bed every so often. You don't need to drag your cat to the bed so they can witness you giving them the treat, though.
Just put the treat on the bed, and wait for your fur baby to find it. It won't take long, so long as your treats are kept as treats and are associated with high-value activities.
In other words, if you give your kitty treats just for being adorable, searching for the reward may not be very appealing.
If you don't want to use treats for this purpose – like if your common cat treat is a little tuna, and you don't want to just leave fish sitting on their bed – you can try catnip.
Cats have good eyes and ears, but it's their noses that really shine.
Scent marking is incredibly important among felines, even those who have been spayed/neutered or otherwise aren't going to be aggressively marking territory.
As you might expect, there are two scents that are of prime importance here. Theirs, and yours.
Cats use scents to mark their own territory. If their scents disappear, or if they're overridden by the scent of another animal, they'll feel like they're in competition for their space. They may not want to use a bed that isn't firmly theirs.
P.S. If you don't have a cat bed yet for your furry best friend, check out our awesome cat caves! They're even customizable and we can add their name to it.
This is why cat experts tend to recommend cat beds that are porous and will absorb cat scents passively.
You should still clean your cat bed occasionally, but try to make sure it has a removable cover, so the foam inside can still absorb and keep their scent. Even then, washing their bed may mean they won't like it for a few days or weeks before they get used to it again.
If your cat is very clingy and likes to be with you every waking hour (and most sleeping hours), their own scent won't be enough. So, instead, you need to mark their bed with your scent.
Since humans don't exactly have scent-marking organs, you have to find a way to do this marking. Usually, one of the best ways to do it is to wear a t-shirt for a few days and then use that now scent-soaked shirt as a prop for your cat's comfort. Alternatively, simply pick a few pieces of clothes from your laundry basket.
Put the shirt in the bed and encourage your cat to climb in and snuggle, not with you, but with the shirt 😊. Chances are they'll feel comforted enough by it that they'll keep the space.
I like to use throw blankets as scenting objects. When I throw my Sosa’s blankets in the wash, I always sit with them for a while before I put it back in the spot it came from. It’s even better when she comes to sit on my lap while I’m using the fresh blanket.
Case in Point: Sosa recently had an accident in her Snugloo, which resulted in me spraying a little Lysol to sanitize and then a little soapy rag to clean the spot. I left it to air out, but after a couple of days she gave it a good sniff and walked away. I took a small throw blanket and snuffed it inside the Snugloo to re-scent it and now she’s back to sleeping inside.
Each cat and dog should have their own bowl (and even possibly feeding location if they're defensive about food), and likewise, each cat should have their own litterbox.
Why would a bed be anything different?
Giving each cat their own bed is a good way to ensure that they have a space of their own, not a space they have to share with someone else. It might even help to have the beds separate enough that they're in different rooms.
On the flip side, if you have multiple kitties that are big cuddlers, make sure to get a bed that fits them both.
At some point we couldn't find a cat bed big enough for our three kitties so we got them a medium dog bed to share. It worked like a charm.
What are the three most important things to consider with real estate, you got it, location, location, location.
Consider your kitty’s bed a little place they can call home inside their larger home. I mentioned location as a potential problem earlier, and this should be one of your main considerations if a bed is being avoided.
When trying to pick a location for your cat bed, consider the rooms your kitty spends the most time. What about the places within that room? Are they sprawled out on the floor? Curled up in a tight ball on the comfy sofa? Perhaps there is a bookcase that the light to snuggle on or on top of a high piece of furniture.
Use these clues as ideas on where to place the bed. You can also use the locations as clues as to what type of bed your kitty might prefer.
For example, a kitty who prefers to lay stretched out might need a bigger open bed so they can lay comfortably. An older kitty or one that tends to snuggle into blankets might prefer a cave style bed that holds in their body heat.
Also consider air currents. Did you place the bed too close to the vent during the summer? The cool air might be a turn off, but it might be an enticing location when the heat is turned on.
Just remember it doesn’t make sense to put a bed in the office because you have the perfect nook for it if your cat never naps in your office in the first place.
Use Gentle Dissuasion
Sometimes, it's not that you want your cat to sleep in their bed and more that you just don't want them to sleep in yours.
In that case, there are a variety of strategies you can use to gently repel them from your bed in a way that doesn't ruin their positive relationship with you but makes them less likely to be comfortable on your bed.
Washing your linens frequently to remove both your scent and theirs can help. Avoiding ever rewarding them or playing with them on your bed can help too – this includes the adorable play time when they help you change the sheets!
The less beneficial you make your bed, the less likely they will be to want to hang out there. Plus, if you identify that your feline friend doesn't like a particular texture, you can get a blanket of that texture and use it for yourself.
If you’re trying to get your kitty to avoid a specific chair, you can lay down a piece of foil as the crinkle noise is generally off-putting. You can also gently relocate your fur baby to a more preferred location.
Give It Time
The key to remember about all of this is that training any animal, and especially cats, takes time.
Whether you're trying to get them to learn a trick, break them of a bad habit, or just use their own bed, it will take weeks or months of diligent and consistent effort to train them.
There's no easy conversation to have, no switch to flip, that can make your cat do what you want them to do overnight.
Take time, use patience, and keep it up. Eventually, you'll have a cat that sleeps where you can mutually agree that they should sleep. What more could you want?
I have this general theory that if you plan to get rid of a bed, they’ll start using it. We had a cat bed in our living room for over a year – we never actively encourage any of our kitties to use it, but it was there if they were interested.
It wasn’t until I picked up the bed to move it – got distracted and sat it back down that suddenly it became a new favorite spot – insert eye roll here. Cat logic at its best.😊
Have you ever had to convince your furry friend to sleep in their own bed rather than yours? If so, how did you go about it? Was it a relatively simple process, or perhaps, did you have a bit of difficulty? I'd love to hear all your stories, and I'm sure other readers would as well! So be sure to share yours in the comments section below!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).