Picture this. Your cat’s cosily curled up on your lap, their paws are twitching gently, and you think to yourself, “Is my cat dreaming right now?” We’ve all been there. But can cats really dream? Let’s find out…
Do cats dream?
Let’s get straight to it, yes. Animal scientists have figured out that all mammals have a similar brain structure to ours. That, coupled with the high amount of brain activity during sleep – and their snoozy behaviour – suggests that dreaming is universal in all mammals, including your cat.
How (and why) do cats dream?
To understand dreaming, you first need to know how sleep works. Snoozing aids growth and repair, and it allows the brain to process new information gained throughout the day. Young animals (and humans!) sleep much more than older ones, probably because they have more new information to process. But if you think your cat is sleeping too much, take a look at our handy guide.
Just like us, cats enter periods of REM sleep (meaning ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ – named after the twitching of eyelids that happens during). During this period of sleep, your cat’s brain is more active and resembles the brain activity of an awake animal. This is what causes vivid dreaming. And since the sleep cycle repeats all night long, your kitty can have multiple dreams in one night.
Did you know that your cat’s sleep cycle is shorter than yours? Cats experience REM sleep three times more frequently than us – they can even enter REM sleep during cat naps. This means they probably have thrice as many dreams as we do, too!
Signs your cat is dreaming
While dreaming, your cat is likely to exhibit some strange sleepy behaviour. This is completely normal. In fact, it means your cat is having a good rest. And it means that you’ve done your job as a pet parent in making them feel safe and secure in your home. So, just what kind of bizarre behaviours might you see?
- A meow, whimper or gentle purring
- Leg movements – just as if they were hunting or climbing
- Sudden spasms or shivering
- Eyelid twitches (this is the biggest indication that your kitty is dreaming)
What do cats dream about?
This is the million-pound question. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the answer! But because of the parallels between your cat’s brain and yours, we can only assume that their dreams are like ours.
They’re likely to be reimagining the events of that day. Their dreams could involve hunting a fishing rod toy, a delicious meal, scratching up your furniture, or simply spending time cuddled up with you.
Do cats always sleep well?
Like people, cats can have sleep problems too. Most cats need to sleep for 18 hours each day. And you won’t be surprised to hear that a sleep-deprived cat is a loud cat! That’s because they’re restless and crying out for some help.
If you think your cat isn’t getting enough rest, you should always pay a visit to your vet. You could also try some imaginative ways to encourage your cat to sleep more. These might include additional playtime to burn off extra energy, getting them a playmate, or giving them a big meal before bedtime (no, a cat didn’t write this!)
If your cat is crying, whimpering or making light growling sounds when asleep, then they may be having a bad dream. We recommend never waking your cat if you think they’re having a nightmare. We know it’s difficult not being able to comfort your distressed feline, but as they wake up, they might be confused over what’s a dream and what’s reality. And you certainly don’t want a confused cat lashing out at you!
Do cats walk or move around in their sleep? It can happen, but it’s super rare. Although they may twitch their whiskers or move the odd paw, sleepwalking in cats is a sign of brain damage.
The trick to good cat dreams? Simply give them a contented life! As they sleep, cats process the day’s events. So, by making sure they have a happy day, you're encouraging a happy sleep. If you notice any signs of stress in your feline, now might be the time to introduce them to a calming supplement.
Now it's time to sit back and curl up with your sleepy cat, while watching their whiskers twitch and little paws move. And don’t forget to share any adorable sleepy pics with us on Facebook and Instagram!