If you own a cat, you’ve likely seen them twitching and swatting at the air while sleeping. It may look like your cat is dreaming of catching a mouse or a bird, causing many people to wonder if it’s actually possible for cats to enter dreamland. The short answer is yes, cats do dream!
Keep reading as we look into whether feline dreams are the same as ours and discuss what your cat might be dreaming about, so you can understand your pet better.
Cats sleep quite a bit each day, spending between 12 and 16 hours asleep. Much of this is light sleep, intended to help your cat get the rest that they need while keeping aware of their surroundings. However, there is still plenty of time for deep dream-quality sleep, and your cat will likely spend several hours a day in dreamland.
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, which is when scientists believe that dreams occur. REM sleep occurs in cats too, and that’s when you are likely to see them twitching and having physical reactions to their dreams in their sleep. Some studies show that all mammals, including cats, dream because of how the brain deals with the information that it collects throughout the day.
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 backs in reaction to mental images seen while dreaming.
Do Cats Have Nightmares?
While we have no way of knowing what happens in a cat’s dream, we can sometimes tell by their body language that they are engaged in a more intense hunt than normal, and it’s likely that your pet is experiencing a nightmare or at least, what we would consider to be one. In rare cases, the cat will awaken from the dream suddenly and begin running around the home as if still in the dream. It’s not uncommon for their hair to stand on end and for your cat to be vocal at first, though that will usually subside once they are fully awake. Cats that have frequent nightmares might be experiencing excessive anxiety during the day. If you think that this is the case, a trip to the vet is always a good idea.
- Related Read: Do Cats Like Music?
Final Thoughts on Feline Dreams
Humans, cats, and all mammals have several traits in common, including REM sleep. This is when dreams occur, and just like humans, cats do dream. Dreams are possibly the brain’s way of organizing and storing data that 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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