Bedmates: Four-legged and furry

 At Thanksgiving dinner, the topic of conversation turned from Donald Trump to Adele to the high cost of living, and dying, in Connecticut to my sister’s cat, Elijah, who used to be my daughter’s cat, named after the great Hebrew prophet who called down fire from heaven and destroyed the pagan priests of Ba’al, known for practicing child sacrifice.

Even though Eli shows no prophetic tendencies, he has quite a few idiosyncrasies. For example, he prances from countertop to stovetop; he crawls under the bed covers to hide; and he scampers for a handout when he hears a can being opened.

Sometimes, he comes out only at night and everyone has a horror story about their nocturnal encounters with Eli — from my sister to my brother-in-law and their three children — which usually occur while they’re snug under the covers. The cat slinks from one room to the next, creeping onto the beds, encouraging them to pet him and then biting their hands. To me, this sounds like a serious feline personality disorder.

They’re all a little worried about what Eli will do while they’re asleep because they’re heard the stories about cats who suck the breath out of you when you’re dozing. Some major research university is probably doing a taxpayer-funded study about middle-aged men with beer bellies who stagger into the bedroom and fall sleep in a drunken stupor until the family cat slips into the room unnoticed and does them in … and the wife gets blamed.

The entire family has taken to shutting their doors, and my sister keeps a fan blowing in her bedroom so she doesn’t have to listen to Eli’s incessant scratching as he tries to get inside.

Not to be outwitted, Eli developed a counter-strategy. He crept into the bedroom during the day and hid in the box spring of the mattress until nightfall — and then they felt the creepy cat slithering beneath them. I’m sure there’s a role for Eli on the American Horror Story TV show.

Everyone has a tale about their favorite pet slipping into bed at night, invited and uninvited. One of my daughters sleeps with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, who is an adorable little creature — but things will change the day he comes home with fleas and they start to invade the blankets. My friend Kathy says her dog’s snoring keeps her up at night, especially when the dog and her husband snore in two-part harmony.

Our dog, Bella, goes from bedroom to bedroom during the night, burrowing in the covers for warmth, and every night at precisely 3:29 a.m., she starts licking my face from one side to the other for reasons I can’t quite fathom. She probably thinks I need to do a better job washing my face, or she may like the feel of my stubble against her tongue.

Bella has also been known to jump onto the bed and commandeer someone’s pillow when they get up to go to the bathroom. There’s no social etiquette in the canine world.

Some researchers think our tendency to keep pets in the bedroom is contributing to the national epidemic of insomnia. There are more than 164 million households with pets in America — 83 million dogs and 96 million cats — and that’s a formula for nighttime disaster.

A recent study found that more than half of the owners let their pets sleep in bed. Dr. Lois Krahn, lead author of the study, who specializes in sleep medicine and psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said the team wanted to determine how pets influence sleep, so they studied 150 patients at the Center for Sleep Medicine.

One in five owners said the animals were disruptive, although two in five said the pets helped them sleep better. (Research has also shown that pets help lower stress levels, control high blood pressure and increase longevity.)

Some owners said their pets disturbed their sleep by snoring, wandering and whimpering. Thirty-one said the animals provided comfort at night. And many people who sleep alone said their pets were necessary nighttime companions.

If pets can help people with sleep problems learn to relax, I’m sure my sister, for a nominal fee, would be willing to lease out Eli as a sleep aid, or maybe for no fee at all. Just don’t let him catch you breathing through your mouth or who knows what could happen.

 Contact Joe Pisani at [email protected]

 

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