Do Cats Dream When They Sleep?

Many of our readers asked us if their cats could dream while they were sleeping...here is what we found.

Can cats dream?Flick image by: Bruno Caimi
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The first thing many cat owners probably already know is that cats sleep an average of sixteen hours during a 24 hour day, and that they are most active in between sunset and sunrise. Meaning that that they sleep generally during the day and end up being active around the end of the day. Which can come as a nice surprise to first time cat owners.

Just like us, cats of all ages either doze in a light sleep or sleep very deeply. When your cat dozes (which lasts about twelve minutes to a half hour), he will carefully rest his body so that he can spring up and into action at a moment's notice.

Throughout deep sleep, cats experience rapid (or fast) brain motion. Deep sleep has the tendency to last between 4 to 6 minutes, after which the cat returns to dozing. This dozing-deep sleep pattern goes on till the cat gets up.

Kittens and elder cats have the tendency to sleep more than the average adult cat.

So, Can Cats Dream?

If you have actually ever watched your cat while sleeping, jerking, chattering or moving their paws, you probably have wondered if they are actually dreaming. The answer is yes, like many other animals, felines do dream.

As we know, human beings routinely dream throughout their sleep, and for many years it was unclear if animals could also dream. Throughout the years scientists kept track of the brains of rats while awake and carrying out simple activities, such as running around tracks for food or treats. Once they had enough data, they compared the rats' brain activity while sleeping and discovered exactly the exact same patterns as rats showed while performing their activities. This point out that rats were certainly dreaming. In fact it is likely that mammals dream. However, it raised a question, "Why do we dream?"

To understand dreaming it helps to understand the process of sleep. Be asleep is a natural state defined by reduced consciousness and the decrease or cessation of sensory and voluntary muscular activity. In other words, you don't perform any activity, eat, drink or walk during your sleep. Doctors still do not know the reason that sleep is so vital to animals but it appears to help in growth and repair work of our body systems. Throughout sleep the brain likewise appears to process details acquired and experiences that have actually taken place throughout the day.

There are 2 major types of sleep - rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM) sleep and non rapid-eye-movement sleep (non-REM) sleep. During REM sleep, as the name recommend, the dreamer's eyes move quickly and arbitrarily and their brain activity mirrors that of the animal when awake. The dreamer may appear somewhat active during this stage of sleep, they are really challenging to wake up. Dreaming takes place generally throughout this REM stage of sleep. Young animals spend more time in dream sleep than adult ones, most likely due to the need to process new info.

cat dreamingFlickr image by: hyper7pro
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What Do Cats Dream About?

Perhaps about their favorite treat? Food? Jumping around the furniture? Playtime with their toys? Scared about something?

The answer is probably all the above. Anything your cat does throughout the day is being processed while they sleep and relived in dreams. Thus the twitching whiskers, the weeping and the running paws that we typically see. Dreaming is the animal's attempt to understand the info being processed in the brain. The neurons are firing and our brain constructs a storyline to fit.

Naturally, much like humans, the imagine animals might not constantly be pleasant or based upon reasonable experiences. Problems and more uncommon dreams may be our method of figuring out how to behave during their awaking hours.

Unlike us, our cats' dreams are most likely to be filled of going after toys, finding a lap to snooze or finding ways to encourage owners to feed them again!



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