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What do cats dream about? Here’s everything you need to know!

What do cats dream about? Here’s everything you need to know!Updated on July 29, 2021 | Published on July 7, 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Johanna Lamm, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist

What Do Cats Dream About? Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

It can be an interesting thought: What do cats dream about?

Well, if you have a cat and you’re watching them sleep for 12-15 hours, there’s no wonder you have had this thought and you are here… reading this

To provide some weight to this thought, so many sleep researchers globally have studied sleep patterns of different animals and concluded that cats follow the same REM [Rapid Eye Movement] and non-REM [Non Rapid Eye Movement] sleeping patterns as humans. The REM sleep in cats is more in comparison to humans.

It’s easier to understand human dreaming than animal dreaming since they can speak. For animals, their brain has to be studied and we have tried to gather information on what they dream about, why they have particular dreams, and do they also have nightmares.

You’ll be shocked to read how the cats follow the same dreaming patterns as humans.

So, first, let’s begin with the most obvious question.

Summary in Infographics

What Do Cats Dream About - Here’s Everything You Need to Know!
What Do Cats Dream About – Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

Do cats dream?

SUMMARY
Yes, cats dream and also experience REM sleep just like humans. They sleep for almost 15-16 hours a day, almost twice as compared to humans.

The answer to your question is ‘YES!’ Cats can dream. But of course, that’s very difficult to believe, unless I can back it up with solid scientific research. So, here it is.

According to animal scientists, dreaming is a universal phenomenon even among mammals because of similar brain structures, the brain activities during sleep as well as sleep behaviors. They use the time of sleep to restore the energy required for their next hunt.

Cats are comparatively intelligent compared to other animals.. So, they can dream but their dreams are less abstract than ours.

Cats sleep for about 15 hours to 16 hours a day. This number is twice as much as the human sleeping hours. In their frequent REM dream, they dream about their usual, daily cat business.

Michael Jouvet conducted a study that showed REM is experienced by cats in a similar pattern as humans. He proved that cats have a low voltage of electrical activity in their brains. So, the twitching is related to REM sleep.

Do kittens dream?

Like the cats, kittens also dream. However, the REM decreases with age. So, adult cats are capable of dreaming less than younger ones. This means that the kittens dream more.

This is also possible because the kittens are exposed to new information daily that they need to process along with their brain development.

I am sure you are already questioning…

How do cat dreams work?

To understand their dreams and cat naps, it is important to know about the types of sleep. REM- rapid eye movement sleep and non-REM sleep. Dreams occur during the REM stage as there is the random and fast movement of eyes with closed eyelids.

It cannot physically act out such dreams since your body movement is shut.

Dreams in REM sleep are long and detailed. Such dreams are more creative and imaginative at certain times. In non-REM sleep, dreams are usually short and just a manifestation of daily activities.

When a cat is having REM sleep, a cat twitches or you find paw movements. A cat can also move her mouth but will not be able to pounce or climb anything. The twitching in a dream indicates that the signals are being sent to the brain.

The interesting fact here is that the sleep cycles in cats are shorter than in human cycles. Cats experience three times more REM sleep than humans i.e., every 25 minutes.

Whereas humans get REM sleep every 90 minutes. From this, we can conclude that cats get REM sleep even during short naps.

When a cat is not in REM sleep, it is in deep sleep. In this phase, your body revives.

But,

What do cats dream about?

SUMMARY
Cats dream about their daily activities like chasing, killing, running away, and sometimes also their owners, meals, and their favorite toys.

Dreams are a mirror of daily activities. So, there’s a high possibility that a cat is re-living its day. Dr. Dodman says that just like humans, cats also dream about things of the recent past like stalking a bird or rat.

If you’re wondering whether your cat dreams about you, the answer is ‘Maybe’. Your cat can relive the experiences it had with you in waking life to their dreams. It can dream about getting petted by you or about you calling out its name.

Apart from that, they can also dream about:

1. Chasing

If they’re chasing in their dream, they are likely to be moving their heads in the dream as if they’re tracking stimuli. The zombie cats are extremely mobile in their REM sleep.

2. Killing

In real life, you’ll find cats killing or trying to kill something the majority of the time. So, this is one thing that will certainly be manifested into their dreams. Dreaming cats can be trying to kill rats or birds. They can also dream about killing you.

Adrian Morrison, a vet, proved from his study that cats move their heads in REM sleep when they’re tracking something. We know our feline friends love to play and hunt in real life.

3. Running

You’ll find them running in dreams to take off cat errands like waking life. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re chasing something in their dreams.

4. Avoiding threats

If you tried scaring your cat away with a cucumber or something else recently, the poor cat can be having nightmares about the stressful experience she just dealt with. Or maybe they can dream about trying to outrun something.

5. Their day

When you study dog dreams, you’ll realize that they dream about everything that has happened throughout the day. It can be playing with dog owners or with other animals. These dreams can also be about spending time cuddling with humans.

Similarly, the cats also remember and organize the events that took place throughout the day. They put together their events and look for a bigger picture.

Apart from these, cats can be dreaming about human families, meals, favorite toys, or their daily interaction with you. 

Why do Cats Dream?

SUMMARY
Cats dream for the same reason as all the other mammals. Dreams allow us to adapt to daily experiences and process underlying emotions.

Like all mammals, cats dream for the same reason. Sleeping helps us to come to terms with our daily experiences. The dreams that we see allow us to process the undergoing emotions and help us to frame memories. Your dream may have stories that seem odd to you but the activities in the dream are based on your standard life.

Sleep researcher, Matthew Wilson conducted an experiment on rats and found that every move that they make in a maze builds a unique signature of brain activity.

When you monitor the same rat’s brain activity while it is sleeping, you find the exact location of it in the maze and whether they are running or standing.

Can cats have bad dreams? (Can cats have nightmares)

Well, there’s no evidence to state this point. But we all know at times our cats wake up fearful.

Like humans, cats can have bad dreams or nightmares too. They process stress through nightmares. These dreams are all based on real experiences.

Other than these primary questions, there is so much more that a cat parent wants to know. I have tried to cover a few below! 

Other FAQs about Cat’s Sleep & Dreams

I am sure you have a lot of questions about your furry little bud. Don’t worry, I am sure you will find it below!

1. Do cats Sleepwalk?

This is a very rare occurrence. If you find your cat sleepwalking, it can be because it is suffering from some brain injury.

Do you want to know what they do when they sleepwalk? Basically, they pounce, hunt, or run.

2. Do cats dream in color?

Cats are unable to see the colors like humans. They are capable of seeing muted shades of blue and green.

By this, we can conclude that they cannot dream in color but in the same muted shades that they are able to see in real life.

3. Do Cats have REM sleep?

You’ll find the eyes move rapidly when they’re in REM sleep. This is the part when the brain mirrors the daily activity into the dream. It might seem like it’s easy to wake your cat at this time, but that’s not the case.

The older cats dream less as they don’t have sufficient information to process.

4. Do cats dream about their owners?

Yes. It is likely that they dream about their owners if you were a part of their day.

5. Do cats snore?

Cats don’t snore as regularly as dogs but yes, they do. It is more common to find overweight cats snoring since they have fats accumulated around their necks. At times, even their sleeping positions are a result of snoring.

The snoring factor also depends upon the breed of cats. Persian and Himalayas cats snore more due to their facial structures.

6. Do cats sleep well?

Like humans, cats also experience trouble in sleeping and reaching the REM stage. Cats also suffer from lack of sleep or insomnia and sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition where your cat finds it difficult to breathe while they are sleeping. This keeps their nervous system to stay alert. If a cat is restless, crying, or complaining about meows, then it means they are sleep deprived.

To help them sleep well, play for some extra time or provide them with larger meals before bedtime.

7. Do cats dream similar to humans?

Have you ever woken up from a dream and sat wondering about its meaning? Do cats face the same thing? When you’re in your non-REM sleep, your brain captures images that you see throughout your day and organizes these dreams to understand their meaning.

This is similar to how film editors take different clips and organize them to form a storyline. Humans and animals watch these edited clips during REM sleep because the serotonin system change.

8. Why do cats cry in their sleep?

If cats cry in their sleep, they generally are in need of food, water, or your attention. It is a slight chance that they are bored because they aren’t tired of the day yet.

Female cats also cry in heat.

9. How do you know your cat is dreaming?

You’ll get to know that your cat is dreaming if you find them twitching or making movements in cat sleep. But this is not always true. The best possible way to know that your cat is dreaming is when you find them sleeping in a totally relaxed position.

10. What does it mean when my cat makes noise, moves, or twitches in sleep?

When you find the cats making noises, moving, or twitching in sleep, it means they are in their REM sleep. This is the stage of sleep when dreams occur. This only means that your cat is in deep sleep and is dreaming. There’s nothing to worry about.

If your cat is sleeping longer, you should be proud of yourself for making her comfortable at your place. If she doesn’t have healthy sleeping patterns or her habits change, consult the vet!

11. What does it mean when my cat is simultaneously asleep and awake?

If you think that your cat is just about to sleep, yes, she is. Cats never deny sleeping. They can be totally active at one moment, playing with you or doing some serious stalking, and can be sleeping the next moment.

Cats are most active during twilight. For the rest of the day, they keep switching between sleeping and waking up.

If you find your cat simultaneously asleep and awake, it’s their talent. They can sleep while sitting and their sense of smelling and hearing are also active during their sleep.

In the end,

Remember to

Never Wake a Sleeping Cat!

You shouldn’t wake your cats if you find them twitching or making movements while they’re asleep even though you want to wake them up from the bad dream. This is quite intrusive.

Also, there’s a chance that your cat can bite or scratch you if they wake up on a defensive impulse.

Further, if you think your furry friend has been having disturbed sleep for several days, it’s best to consult a vet and see if there’s any underlying medical condition.

It’s always wise to be preventive!

If you want to know ‘What do Dogs Dream about?‘, then click here.

Article Sources


1. https://metro.co.uk/2018/08/18/what-do-cats-dream-about-7852968/
2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2869.1993.tb00052.x
3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0028390882901745?via%3Dihub
4. http://sommeil.univ-lyon1.fr/articles/jouvet/picps_65/
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2625318/