Last updated on December 12th, 2021
As a pet owner, whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, there’s one question that you may have asked yourself at some point: Do cats dream? While the jury is still out on this question, the fact remains that cats do dream.
Cats can dream but they do so in pictures from their memory bank as opposed to thoughts since they can’t think or process thoughts as humans do. There is no solid consensus on what cats dream about and it’s not clear whether they dream about the same things humans do.
For humans, dreams occur during the REM sleep state (Rapid Eye Movement), which generally transpires after 90 minutes of falling asleep.
During this phase, important signals for learning and memory are sent to the brain, and these signals are responsible for dreams.
A story-like dream is created when our brain tries to interpret and understand these signals.
As opined by French neuroscientist Michel Jouvet in the 1960s, felines experience REM sleep phases as well, and hence, they may have dreams as well.
According to Purina, they mentioned that as cats grow older, the amount of REM sleep they get tends to decrease.
This is why kittens are more likely to get into dreamland faster as opposed to older cats.
Also, we can safely assume that kittens have a lot to learn in life since their brains process more information during sleep when compared to older cats.
Can Cats Have Bad Dreams?
Have you ever seen your feline companion twitching their whiskers or paws in sleep? Did your kitty ever appear frightened after waking up?
Cats are popular for being carefree nappers, and if you’re a cat owner, you know that they’ve been sleeping almost the entire day, an average of 15 hours each day.
Surprisingly, extremely tired cats can even manage to extend their sleeping time for up to 24 hours!
Given the long naps our feline pets love to take, they’ll have lots of opportunities to dream.
However, do they have bad dreams? What kind of nightmares can cats typically have? Should you be concerned about it?
Cats do have bad dreams, however, you need to know that they can’t recall dreams after they’re over since they don’t exhibit the same memory patterns of brain activity during sleep as humans do which means that they won’t have anything to worry over after a dream since they can’t remember it.
Since your cat probably had a scary dream, they’ll be frightened when they’re awake.
How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Having A Bad Dream?
Cats can have bad dreams about a rough day they would’ve had and while most of them sleep for about 12-16 hours per day, it’s still worth knowing if your cat is having a bad dream.
The easiest way to know if your cat is having a bad dream is by looking for signs of different sleeping behaviors and patterns such as:
- Fast breathing
- Ears are pulled back
- Legs look like they are in a running motion
- Eyes are twitching
- Whiskers are twitching
- Meowing while sleeping
- Making other odd noise
- Dreaming and hissing at a predator near them while feeling trapped and not knowing that they’re in a cat dream
I once remember a time when my cat was sleeping peacefully in her little bed and then she suddenly started making crying-like sounds and was peculiarly twitching her tail.
It was quite scary for me because I’ve never seen her behave in this manner while sleeping.
After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and realized that she’s safe and that everything is alright, she’s sort of relaxed now but I wonder whether she might’ve been having a nightmare too.
Thanks to sleep researchers, we now know that our little furballs can have bad dreams as well and that we need to take care of them during these stressful times.
Do Cats Have Nightmares?
Cats do have nightmares and the experience is a case whereby their brains seem to be stuck in a cycle of fear and terror. This kind of realistic experience makes them feel trapped. Like humans, cats also experience the “fight or flight” response during their nightmares.
Cats experiencing nightmares display different bodily behaviors. They can be seen twitching their paws, whiskers, or even growling.
There are many instances in which cats appear scared or frightened after waking up.
At times, some felines who’ve had traumatic experiences, such as the death of one of their human parents or avoiding an accident, may lead to anxiety and mental distress.
However, we can only speculate what a cat may have been dreaming of since they cannot explain their dreams to us.
Our furry friends can only make gestures and articulate about what was bothering them during sleep.
I wonder: since cats have nightmares during the night, do we call it daymares when they sleep and have bad dreams during the day? I digress.
Why Do Cats Have Nightmares?
Cats have nightmares because of unpleasant experiences and some of these reasons include:
- Separation anxiety
- Unnecessary fights or scary encounters with other cats or dogs
- Being ill-treated, abused, or physically harmed by someone
- Being lost or abandoned by the pet owner
- A bad fall it may have had while jumping over an object
- Almost being involved in an accident while spending time outdoors
These types of traumatic events can lead to occasional nightmares for your feline friend.
Some domestic cats may seem to act hysterically during sleep, especially after getting spayed.
You might hear little murmurs and cries or notice sudden jumps and quivering acts if your kitty got spayed recently.
I’ll share one of my experiences. My kitty usually sleeps in the same room with me, and she’s gotten accustomed to seeing me beside her after waking up.
One day, I was in the bathroom when she woke up. I was terrified upon hearing her loud and terrible meows and cries.
I rushed back to my room immediately, and there she was making unnecessary noises, but when she saw me, her meow started to quiet down, and then she went back to looking like a curled-up ball.
I cannot explain in words how relieved and comforted she felt when she saw me. I went over to pet and cuddle her just so that she knows that I’m nearby.
Should You Wake Your Cat Up From A Nightmare?
Experts and veterinarians recommend that you shouldn’t wake up a cat when they’re having a nightmare especially if they’re making odd sounds or twitching their paws, even though cat owners may be tempted to do so.
Waking up your cat so suddenly when they’re having a nightmare is a bad idea, because they may be so startled and terrified that they could bite or scratch you!
According to experts, there’s no need to worry when your kitty is having a nightmare.
The fear or anxiety goes away when they wake up, and they’ll start getting relaxed.
Once your feline has awakened, you can gradually start comforting and showing them care and attention.
So, the next time your kitty shows abnormal movements or produces weird sounds during sleep, watch out and wait until they get up or calm down.
However, if you find that the cat is behaving way too abnormally during sleep and it persists for a long period, you can try calling their name gently, maybe 2-5 times.
If you have a metal bowl that you use to feed them in, you could try hitting it to make a sound since they would be familiar with the noise every time eat.
Sometimes it may comfort the frightened animal and make them get a more peaceful sleep.
Can You Pet A Cat While They’re Sleeping?
As mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to disturb your cat during sleep, even if it’s an affectionate act like petting. When cats have bad dreams, they’re normally in a frightened and puzzled state.
Hence, any form of petting will be greeted with a grumpy facial expression or an aggressive attitude, such as in the form of bites and scratches.
How to Prevent Your Cat From Having Bad Dreams?
It often becomes difficult for new pet owners to manage felines when they’re having bad dreams, especially during the night and this can lead to them spending sleepless nights petting their cats.
To avoid such stressful situations while ensuring that all members of the household get great sleep, here’s what you need to do:
Give your pets a good meal before bedtime:
Hunger may sometimes startle a cat during sleep. Besides, a good meal makes your curious little companion have a deep sleep.
If your cat has the habit of hunting food around the house at night, make sure to hide goodies and treats outside the bedroom so that you can sleep well. You can thank me later!
Play with them before bedtime:
Playing and showing affection before bedtime can comfort your cat to the point where they’ll have a peaceful rest.
Address any medical issues right away:
Physical and mental conditions or diseases can also be a contributing factor to bad dreams.
Consult your vet whenever you notice abnormal signs or symptoms to prevent sleep deprivation and nightmares.
Spay or neuter your cat:
When cats reach sexual maturity around the age of 6 months, or in other words, hit puberty, they tend to behave unusually due to hormonal changes.
This may also be one of the causes of disturbed sleep and bad dreams.
It’s better to spay your cat as it will help calm them down, and they won’t go crazy with the desire to search for a mate when they are sexually receptive.
This will also induce some good sleep in both your cat and the inhabitants of your house, including yourself.