In the human world, weighted blankets have been deemed a dreamy sleep solution by many who suffer from insomnia or anxiety. Full of tiny beads that provide a potentially comforting weight, these wildly popular blankets (the U.S. reportedly spends more than $220 million on them per year!) are now a nighttime necessity in numerous bedrooms across the country. But what about those bedrooms where pets also slumber? Are weighted blankets safe for dogs and cats?
To prevent this question from keeping pet parents up at night, we consulted some experts on the matter. If you share your bed with your fur baby and are considering purchasing a weighted blanket, here’s what you need to know before betting cozy.
What Are Weighted Blankets?
“Weighted blankets can be used for at-home therapy and provide similar benefits to deep pressure therapy (DPT),” explains Dr. Abe Malkin, MD, medical director of Concierge MD LA in Southern California.
DPT is the use of gentle pressure, such as a hug, to help calm the central nervous system; and according to Dr. Malkin, "the blanket acts like a hug, using deep pressure to make you feel more secure. They have been shown to help calm a restless body, relax the nervous system, stimulate the release of serotonin and induce and improve sleep troubles throughout the night."
Usually filled with tiny glass or plastic beads to provide that pressure and weight, weighted blankets are great for just about anyone who might be in the market for a more relaxing, restful night’s sleep. Studies have shown them particularly beneficial for people who are less inclined to get great sleep, including people with insomnia, anxiety, depression, autism, PTSD, OCD, restless leg syndrome and chronic pain.
With weighted blankets typically weighing anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds, "you want to select a weighted blanket that is about 10 percent of your body weight," says Dr. Malkin. "They work best when [the weight is] evenly distributed from your chest to your toes. I also recommend a blanket with breathable material to avoid overheating."
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Dogs and Cats to Sleep Under?
Did you catch that part about choosing a weighted blanket that’s about 10 percent of your body weight? That’s super important, especially when we start talking about using a weighted blanket with dogs or cats around.
Though not that heavy for us humans, our weighted blankets can feel like a Goliath weight on top of our tiny fur friends. The biggest issue that occurs when a cat or dog sleeps under one is that it could end up being too heavy for them to easily get up or move around.
"Some dogs may panic underneath the blanket and this can cause a heightened sense of stress," warns Dr. Tori Countner, DVM, founder of Balanced Pet Vet in San Diego, California. "Additionally, in cats, small dogs, older dogs or dogs with underlying respiratory conditions, the weighted blanket may be too heavy and can cause respiratory distress."
Similar to the weighted blanket recommendation for us humans, any blanket or weighted product your pet sleeps beneath should be less than 10 percent of their body weight. So, for example, a 10-pound cat shouldn’t be under more than one pound, and a 20-pound pup should only curl up under a blanket that’s two pounds or less.
So, your 18-pound weighted blanket? That might not be the best bedding for your kitten or petite pup!
Another thing about human weighted blankets is that most are made with tiny beads to give them their heft. This could pose a choking risk to pets.
“If your dog is a chewer, or tends to chew and destroy things when anxious, they could easily swallow the beads,” says Dr. Countner. “Ingestion of the beads or part of the blanket can become a medical emergency due to blockage in the GI tract, so be wary.”
You don’t have to get rid of your weighted blanket if you have a cat or dog, but do be mindful about the way you use it. If your pet sleeps in bed with you, make sure they’re sleeping on top of the weighted blanket and not underneath it. And when you’re not using the blanket, keep it out of your pet’s reach to prevent chewing (especially if it’s beaded).
Are Weighted Dog Blankets and Cat Blankets a Thing?
While your weighted blanket may not be the safest bedding for Fido to burrow beneath, there are weighted dog blankets and other sensory products made just for pets, such as burrowing cave/covered cat and dog beds and hug-like Thundershirts, that can offer similar benefits.
A few popular weighted blankets include:
What Are the Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Pets?
In the same way that humans can reap the calming, therapeutic rewards of a weighted blanket, pets can also benefit from using these similar, pet-approved sensory products. This is especially true for our sweet fur friends who are prone to anxiety.
In dogs, signs of anxiety can include:
- Following you around the house
- Destroying toys or your belongings
Dogs may also experience gastro-related distress such as:
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- More subtle signs, like licking their lips or excessive yawning
As for cats, they are different in how they show their stress because they're more independent, says Dr. Countner.
According to Dr. Countner, a few signs of stress in cats include:
- Hissing or aggressiveness
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
Reach out to your vet if you notice any of the aforementioned signs in your dog or cat to ensure that there's nothing more serious at play.
If it’s determined that your pet suffers from anxiety, a sensory pet product could help ease some symptoms. For example, many dogs and cats have a reduced stress response when wearing a Thundershirt. These come in all sizes and work by creating a sort of cozy, swaddling effect. There are also weighted dog blankets you can try.
How To Keep Your Pet Safe Under a Weighted Blanket
Monitor your pet when they’re trying out the weighted blanket. Ensure they can move around comfortably and easily. If they enjoy the sensation, they will stay and may even seek out the piece of bedding later when looking to snuggle or sleep.
"Some dogs and cats prefer to burrow under covers or retreat to a safe space with a covering over their heads for protection. It is in their instinct to seek out cozy places to feel warm and safe," says Dr. Countner.
For both cats and dogs, Dr. Countner recommends trying a covered bed, like the Frisco Igloo Covered Bed. Alternatively, you can try setting up a crate with blankets over the top to create a safe space your dog or cat can retreat to.
More Ways to Help Your Pet Get a Good Night's Rest: