Do cats dream when they sleep?

If you’re a cat parent then you definitely already know how much cats sleep, but for those of you who don’t have a feline friend at home, they sleep a lot. But do cats dream? There’s scientific evidence to suggest that they do, but it’s not quite that simple. We decided to find out more.

 

The sleeping habits of cats

Cats can spend around 75% of every day sleeping. In our past blog post about why cats sleep so much, we discovered that some cats will sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Exactly how much a cat sleeps will depend on factors like age and environment, but as a rule, most cats will spend around 16 hours of their day asleep. But, as we discovered in our past blog post, not all of this sleep is deep sleep—it’s not called cat-napping for nothing! 

Just like us humans, cats have periods of light sleep and deep sleep. During the day, cats sleep very lightly and will wake up after just a few minutes—or if anything catches their attention. Their senses are always alert and ready to respond, a result of their prey-hunting nature. This light sleep makes up the majority of cats’ time asleep, around 70%.

 

How do we know when cats are dreaming?

The other 30% of cats’ sleep is made up of deeper sleep, known as REM (or rapid eye movement). Scientists have studied sleeping cats, monitoring their brain activity to distinguish the different phases of sleep. From their studies, scientists could see when cats entered the REM sleep stage—and, as its name suggests, this phase of sleep is often signalled by rapid eye movements. In addition, cats in the REM sleep phase may change their posture, move their paws and claws, and twitch their ears or whiskers, all signs that they’re having an experience similar to how humans dream. 

It’s impossible for scientists to know for certain, but based upon sleep phases and brain activity, it seems likely that all mammals dream—or at least they demonstrate the same features of dreaming as we do. This BBC Future article takes a closer look at how scientists are investigating animals and their dreams. 

 

What do cats dream about?

We’ll never know for sure, but experts suggest that cats’ dreams serve the same purpose as ours—processing what has been experienced and seen throughout the day. Kittens tend to spend a bit more of their sleeping time in the REM phase, which may be because they have a lot more new information to be processed every day. 

Unfortunately, our cats can’t keep a dream diary. The next time your cat starts moving or twitching in their sleep, perhaps they’re dreaming about the bird they saw in the garden, the dinner you gave them last night, or practising their mouse-catching skills. But just like their thoughts, the content of cats’ dreams are destined to remain a mystery to us. 





27/04/2022 by NatuTeam

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