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Do cats dream? Your cat's sleep secrets revealed!

Kitten sleeping on a blanket

They may sleep long enough but do cats dream?

© Pixabay

Cats seem to spend most of their lives asleep. But if that is the case, do cats dream while they sleep? We reveal the sleep secrets of these notorious nappers.

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:23

If you are a cat owner, you'll already know that cats spend an extraordinary amount of time asleep. A cat sleeps for around 15 hours a day. That's more than most other mammals and about twice as much rest that humans need. 

But with all that sleep, do cats dream during all that time asleep and what on earth do they dream about?

Do cats have dreams and nightmares?

As surprising as it may be, it's believed that cats do dream. In the 1960s, Michel Jouvet first suggested that cats experience REM sleep, making it possible for them to enter dreamland like us. REM or rapid eye movement is the last stage of sleep, and it's during this stage, people are likely to have the most vivid dreams. REM sleep in cats works just the same. Jouvet proved that cats have a low voltage of electrical activity in the brain during their slumber. Cats also twitch their eyes and have a relaxed muscle state, just like sleep in humans.

Check out our top tips on how to care for your cat.

While cats do dream, some of their dreams may not be pleasant for your feline friend. Your cat's dreams are based on real experiences. Therefore some of their dreams may relate to a bad event that happened during the day. When you see your cat jolt awake out of deep sleep and seem frightened, there's a good chance they've just had a bad dream.

What do cats dream about?

It's impossible to know exactly what your cat is dreaming about. We barely know what our cats think while they are awake! However, it is likely that when your feline friend is dreaming, they are recalling the day's events, good and bad. As they move their head and twitch during their sleep, your cat may be reliving the moment they hunted a bird or mouse or were involved in an incident with another cat or dog. As they nap, your furry friend could be dreaming about the food they had earlier or even the cuddles they had with you on the sofa.

Do cats dream about us?

As your cat recalls their entire day while they sleep, it's more than likely that you will feature in their dreams. It might be that your feline friend dreams about the cuddles they had with you that day or even just fantasizing about what food you may give them later on.

How do I know my cat is dreaming?

If you notice your cat twitching, stretching, whimpering or moving their paws in a running motion, these are all signs your cat is in dreamland. When cats twitch in their sleep, it's due to the signals sent to their brain during the dreaming phase. Dreaming is your cat's way of understanding the information processed in their brain.

When do dreams occur?

Humans' dreams occur during the REM sleep stage, often around 90 minutes after a person falls asleep. During this time, your brain receives signals which are crucial for learning and memory. But some of these signals are random, and these are what are responsible for dreams. As your brain tries to interpret these signals, it creates a sort of story to make sense of them – a dream.

The cat sleep cycle

Cats have two sleep cycles, and these are called REM sleep and deep sleep.

REM sleep

The REM stage is when a cat is most likely to dream. They may squeak, twitch their tail or ears, or move their eyes or paws during this time. Despite all of the twitching a cat does while dreaming, they will also experience muscle tone loss, known as atonia.

Deep sleep

For the rest of the time your cat is sleeping, they will be in a deep sleep. Deep sleep is important for a cat as it helps to rebuild and repair its body.

Do cats dream? It seems that our whiskered friends are more like us than we realised and do, in fact, experience dreams like their owners. But what exactly they dream about remains a mystery. We just hope their dreams are full of adventure and fun.

Frequently asked questions

Why do cats sleep so much?

Should I let my cat sleep in bed with me?

How can I soothe a stressed cat?