Zzz... Do Cats Dream?
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Zzz... Do Cats Dream?

Est. read time: 4 min.

Your cat sleeps the majority of the day, so it’s only natural to wonder: Do cats dream? Chances are you’ve noticed your cat’s eyelids, ears, whiskers, or even limbs twitching while he’s asleep. These are all classic signs of dreaming. But what do cats dream about? Let’s explore.

Do cats dream? Yes.

As we mentioned earlier, cats sleep a lot12 to 18 hours a day, in fact. Most indoor cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dusk and dawn. The rest of the day (and much of the night) the typical house cat is snoozing. 

Amazingly—but perhaps not surprisingly—cats are never far from sleep. “In fact, cats challenge the commonly held notion that it's impossible to be simultaneously asleep and awake,” explains Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in integrative sleep and dream medicine at the University of Arizona's Center for Integrative Medicine. “Not only are they able to sleep while sitting up, their sense of smell and hearing can remain active during most of their sleep.”

How do we know that cats dream?

We know that cats dream because cats, like humans, experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, one of four sleep stages that occurs every 90 minutes or so. It is during REM sleep that most people dream, or at least remember their dreams. REM is also associated with maintaining important neural pathways and learning new information.

In the 1960s, scientists confirmed that cats enter the REM sleep stage. John Cline, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says, “As in humans, cats in REM sleep show a low voltage EEG [electrical activity in the brain] with characteristic eye movements. There is also a loss of muscle tone, presumably to prevent acting out of the dream content.”

What do cats dream about?

So if they do, in fact, dream, what do cats dream about? Although it’s impossible to know for sure, signs point to cats dreaming of a mix of mundane daily activities (much like humans’ dreams) and more exciting adventures, like stalking mice or birds.

Veterinary neurologist Adrian Morrison says, “Cats in REM sleep also will move their heads as if they are following or watching something. The research suggests that cats dream of being on the hunt, rather than merely lazily watching the world go by.”

Do you think your cat dreams about you? It’s a sweet thought, but somehow we find that less likely than fantastic cat and mouse games.

Do cats snore?

In addition to the rapid eye movement and twitching that cats exhibit while sleeping, you may have noticed your furry family member making, um, noise? Cats are such refined creatures that they’d never acknowledge it, but some cats do indeed snore.

During deeper, non-REM sleep, it can be normal for cats to snore. Snoring in felines can be attributed to several things, including:

  • Sleeping in a strange position
  • Being overweight (therefore putting pressure on their nasal passages)
  • Being brachycephalic—AKA a short-nosed or smush-faced breed, such as a Persian or Himalayan

Should you ever be concerned about your cat’s snoring? If you think your cat is having trouble breathing and trying to compensate through open-mouth breathing, you should take him to the vet right away. Other symptoms to watch out for include nasal discharge (from one or both nostrils), facial swelling, sneezing, coughing, or a change in voice.


Cover photo by Jonathan Fink on Unsplash

white kitten lying on its back sleeping with paws up; do cats dream?


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