Lorraine writes, “I just got a new kitten. She is ten weeks old. She is a love, but, she keeps me up a lot at night. Would it be cruel to keep her out of my room at night? How long will this last? Also, she constantly kneads on my chest and seems to be licking me. Is she looking for her mother?”
It’s OK, Lorraine, you are not a bad person.
I am one of millions of people who suffer with sleep apnea. After my first sleep test the attending nurse asked me if I had pets, and whether they slept with us.
She informed me that pets are one of the most common causes of sleep disturbance. I repeat, “most common.”
Our Pearl and Peyton used to sleep with us. They weren’t good sleeping partners. They would alert at every little noise and frequently stood up to reposition themselves through the night. After we lost Peyton we transferred Pearl to the laundry room to sleep. She was the rowdier of the two at night.
Martha was a different matter. She had two sleeping positions. She would begin every night one one side of my leg. Sometime during the night she would move to the other side of my leg. Most mornings I woke up with her there.
If I were sick, she would stay in bed with me all day and all night, just getting up to eat, drink and go to the bathroom.
I was never aware of her waking or disturbing me, but she could have done so in ways I just wasn’t aware.
Lack of sleep can kill you. Daytime somnolence is one of the most common side effects of sleep disturbance, whether by pets, sleep apnea, children, psychological problems or other causes.
Falling asleep at the wheel is commonly reported, and the resulting accidents can take your life and the lives of those who share the road with you.
Long term the incidence of heart disease and cancer is higher in people suffering from sleep disturbance.
Thirty-six percent of cat owners and 29% of dog owners let their pets sleep with them.
Some of the pet owners I’ve asked don’t care if their pets do interrupt their sleep. Their babies are staying in the bed anyway.
So, Lorraine, you are wise to think of your health and let the kitten sleep somewhere else. Besides, think of how happy she will be to see you every morning!
As for the kneading and licking, they can sometimes be juvenile behaviors, or may persist into adulthood. While it is sometimes conjectured that a kitten so-behaving was weaned too early, there is no solid evidence that assumption is true.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.