Do cats dream?

As the saying goes, let sleeping cats lie – well, dogs not cats. But do cats really dream? And why do they twitch while snoozing? We dive into sleeping kitties and exactly what's going on.

Do cats dream when they sleep at night?
Do cats dream when they sleep at night?  © Unsplash / Vuk Vukovic

The hustle and bustle of our daily lives is a lot to think about.

It might even mean that your fluffy fellow at home fails to catch your mind.

But what do cats do when you're out and about? Most of the time, it sleeps.

Cat breeds with big ears: Top 10
Cat Guide Cat breeds with big ears: Top 10

Many pet owners have wondered about a particular mystery: Do cats dream, and how can we tell?

In this cat guide, TAG24 takes a look at cat dreams, diving into whether your kitty even experiences nightmares. Also, why does it twitch at night, and what do you need to know about that wink-catching cat of yours?

Here's the A to ZZZs.

Do cats dream when they sleep?

Cats are like humans, and many other mammals, in that they go through various sleep phases each and every night. These phases are called REM and non-REM sleep cycles. And no, not the classic 90s band, but the REM that stands for "rapid eye movement."

Once a cat – or human – enters REM sleep, they are also considered to be in a deep sleep state, which is when dreaming occurs. While the science is still developing on sleep in general, it is now clear that cats do dream during this phase.

Now, don't worry too much if you notice your cat twitching or murmuring while sleeping, they are likely experiencing a deep sleep state. It is actually relatively rare for a cat to enter REM sleep, especially when its humans are awake, so this is actually a sign of great comfort and trust – as the cat has managed to relax and get some good snoozing going.

Keep in mind: If you notice that your kitty has been a bit restless, unable to sleep deeply, or uncomfortable, make sure to offer it a new, soft, quiet, and trouble-free space for it to sleep in. It will want to feel protected, with a good view of its surroundings.

What do cats dream about?

Research has confirmed that while it is impossible to truly discover what cats dream about, their "alertness" during sleep indicates similarity to the human condition. As a result, certain assumptions can be made as to what cats likely dream about.

Here are a few possible cat dreams:

  • Hunting for prey
  • Interacting with other cats
  • Affection and interactions with their humans
  • Observations and impressions from the day
  • New experiences or stimuli
  • Playing with their favorite toy
  • Eating food, drinking water, and consuming treats
  • Traumatic experiences or anxiety (aka nightmares)

While it seems likely that cats do dream about similar things to humans, there is no solid way to discover the contents of a cat's reveries.

But we can dream.

If your cat dreams when it's sleeping, it feels safe and confident.
If your cat dreams when it's sleeping, it feels safe and confident.  © Unsplash / Kate Stone Matheson

Do cats dream about their owners?

While it is impossible to say exactly what cats dream about, as we don't have a window into their sleeping brains, we can safely assume that they do, from time to time, dream about their owners.

Cats enter similar states of REM sleep to us humans and, as a result, it's likely they imagine and see scenarios from their day in their sleep. Researchers generally believe, though, that cats dream more of hunting than they do of their humans.

What do cats dream about when they twitch?

Cats twitch for a variety of reasons, including annoyance from pests like ticks and fleas and even as a symptom during cat pregnancy. This twitching can occur both when they are awake and when they are asleep, but twitching during some ZZZs can be indicative of something else.

Twitching during a cat's dream has been theorized to indicate that hunting is the subject of their dreams. They likely dream of an animal that they commonly interact with in everyday life - so mice and birds - and imagine themselves chasing them down.

Do cats have nightmares?

Cats likely dream about hunting, mostly of mice or birds that they have seen before.
Cats likely dream about hunting, mostly of mice or birds that they have seen before.  © Unsplash / Dorothea OLDANI

The answer is more or less the same, in that it is possible cats do have nightmares.

Animal writer T.J. Banks has presented anecdotal evidence that certainly suggests as much, claiming that her rescue cat would often wake up suddenly and violently.

Other incidents of trauma have reportedly been reflected in cats' sleeping habits, with other signs of stress appearing alongside frightened felines' habit of waking up suddenly and aggressively from their sleep.

These cats were keeping a huge secret from their owner!
Cats These cats were keeping a huge secret from their owner!

Nightmares could also be a good explanation for flicks and twitches while cats are napping.

What do cats have nightmares about?

Banks also claimed that other cat owners had reported similar sleeping incidents with their cats after traumatic experiences. It is likely that cats have nightmares of violent interactions, and things that have been truly awful throughout their lives.

Some possible cat nightmares may be about:

  • The death of a fellow cat
  • Death / disappearance of a beloved human
  • Attacks from an animal or another cat
  • Abuse at the hands of humans
  • Near-death experiences (for example, with cars)
  • Major injuries

To note: Remember that if you ever get worried about your kitty, you should take it to a veterinarian for professional and personal advice. They may be able to provide you with some answers or medicinal help.

Should you wake up a sleeping cat?

Of course, much like dogs, you should never wake a sleeping cat and frighten it. If they have reached a level of deep sleep, they are feeling comfortable in their environment and are getting a good deal of rest - even if they are twitching and may be having nightmares.

All in all, there is much evidence to suggest that cats do in fact dream – which is purr-fectly adorable.

Cover photo: Unsplash / Vuk Vukovic

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