Do Cats Dream?
Those twitching little whiskers 🥺
It seems like your cat’s always sleeping, but does that mean he’s dreaming, too?
Just like dogs, cats actually can have dreams while they’re snoozing. So if you catch your BFF’s whiskers twitching during a nap, he’s probably off in dreamland.
We spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B. Vet, to find out more about your cat’s dreams and if you should step in when he’s having a nightmare.
Do cats have dreams?
Cats dream just like we do! The cutest part is you can actually see when it’s happening.
“Cats do dream,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo. “You can see them dreaming when they have twitches [or] move their mouths or paws while sleeping.”
And according to David M. Peña-Guzmán, author of “When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness,” there’s actually proof that animals dream the same way we do.
Peña-Guzmán figured this out by examining electrophysical evidence across a ton of animal sleep studies.
“In the middle of the sleep cycle, typically there is a moment when the electrical activity, the patterns of neuronal activation that we see coming out of the animal brain begin to resemble those of the waking state,” Peña-Guzmán told the University of Chicago’s “Big Brains” podcast. “They match them one to one to the point where we can start making some pretty impressive inferences.”
What do cats dream about?
It turns out there’s no real way for us to know what cats dream about.
But when cats dream, their brains are working like ours are when we’re asleep. So, there’s a chance they also dream about the people, places and events in their lives — just like we do.
“There have been studies that measure the electrical waves on cat brains while they sleep, and they seem to be similar to those of humans when we sleep,” Dr. Bustamante said. “This means that they probably dream about things they did throughout the day. Therefore, they can be dreaming about you!”
Why is my cat twitching in his sleep?
Dogs aren’t the only animals who twitch in their sleep — cats do it, too.
“Their whiskers, eyes, mouth and skin can all twitch when they sleep,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Healthy pets can also have fast breathing during short periods of time in their sleep, which is a normal part of dreaming.”
Can cats have bad dreams?
Yes, cats can have nightmares.
If your cat’s twitching a lot, you might be worried that he’s having a bad dream. But you should let him sleep through it and wake up on his own.
“Even though you might be tempted to wake up your cat in case he is having a nightmare, don't wake them up,” Dr. Bustamante said. “He might be startled and could hurt you.”
Since we have no way to tell what our cat’s dreaming about, we can’t actually know whether or not the dream he’s having is good or bad anyway.
So you should only wake your cat up if you think he’s having a health emergency.
“If you are worried that there could be something else happening, such as breathing problems or neurological signs while sleeping, you can gently wake him up using a towel to protect your hand,” Dr. Bustamante said. “If signs resolve when awake, then he probably was simply having a dream.”
So the bottom line is that cats can dream, and they usually dream about the same kinds of things we do. And if you notice your cat having a nightmare, just leave him alone. He’ll wake up from it eventually and won’t have to deal with that scary dream anymore.