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Do Cats Dream? What Do They Dream About?

cat sleeping in cat bed

If you own a cat, you’ve likely seen it twitching and swatting at the air while sleeping. It may look very much like your cat is dreaming of catching a mouse or a bird, causing many people to ask us if it’s possible for cats to enter dreamland. The short answer is yes, it’s quite likely that your cat is dreaming!

Keep reading while we look into if feline dreams are the same as ours and discuss what your cat might be dreaming about to help you understand your pet better.

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Cat Naps

Cats sleep quite a bit each day, spending between 12 and 16 hours sleeping each day. Much of this is light sleep, intended to help your cat get the rest it needs while keeping aware of its surroundings. However, there is still plenty of time for deeper dream-quality sleep, and your cat will likely spend several hours a day in dreamland.

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cat sleeping with its belly up on a cat bed
Image Credit: Jim Black, Pixabay

REM Sleep

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is a sleep stage in humans characterized by the eyes moving back and forth quickly and an increased heart rate. Breathing also becomes faster during this time, when scientists believe dreams occur. REM sleep occurs in cats as well, and that’s when you are likely to see them twitching having physical reactions to their dreams in their sleep. Some studies show all mammals, including cats, dream because of how the brain deals with the information it collects throughout the day.

cat sleeping in cat tree
Image Credit: Piqsels

What Do Cats Dream About?

While no one is exactly sure what cats are dreaming about, we can rely on studies of the human mind to make an educated guess. Dreams are the brain’s way of dealing with things that occur throughout the day. The mind sorts and stores information so we can begin fresh again the next day. A study in 1960 by Michel Jouvet stated that cats exhibit a hunting behavior during REM sleep while they’re dreaming, meaning they are likely reliving previous experiences. Some cats will even hiss and arch their back in reaction to mental images seen while dreaming.

cat sleeping near window
Image Credit: tache, Shutterstock

Do Cats Have Nightmares?

While we have no way of knowing what happens in a cat’s dream, we can sometimes tell by its body language that it is engaged in a more intense hunt than normal, and it’s very likely that your pet is experiencing a nightmare, or at least, what we would consider one. In rare cases, the cat will awaken from the dream suddenly and begin running around your home as if still in the dream. It’s not uncommon for its hair to stand on end and for your cat to be vocal at first, though it will usually subside once it is fully awake. Cats that have frequent nightmares might be experiencing excessive anxiety during the day. If you think this is the case, a trip to the vet is always a good idea.

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Feline Dreams

Humans, cats, and all mammals have several traits in common, including REM sleep when dreams occur. Humans have dreams, so, likely, cats do too. Dreams are possibly the brain’s way of organizing and storing data it collects throughout the day, and if we don’t get enough rest to allow REM sleep to occur, we can begin to suffer health problems. It’s likely the same for cats, dogs, and other mammals.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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