Cats are one of the domestic animals that we can observe sleeping for a greater number of hours. Therefore, it is logical that, as caregivers, we ask ourselves if, at least at some point in their rest, cats dream or have nightmares. This concern may arise, especially if we observe our feline moving while sleeping and even emit some sound as if it were totally immersed in a deep sleep.
In this article, we are going to explain what the cat’s dream is like. We will never be able to ask himself if he dreams or about what, but we can draw conclusions based on the characteristics of his dream.
To try to find out if cats dream or if cats have nightmares, we can look at how their sleep periods go by. Most of the time cats rest in very frequent light sleep. The human equivalent would be naps, with the difference that cats would sleep them numerous times throughout the day. But this would not be the only type of feline dream, although perhaps it is the one that we will be able to observe the most.
The following types of sleep are considered to be distinguished in this species:
These different phases would alternate throughout the day. When a cat lies down to rest it begins to fall into a light sleep of approximately half an hour. After this period he reaches a heavier sleep, which is considered deep sleep, which lasts about 6-7 minutes. After this period there is a return to a lighter sleep phase that takes about 30 minutes. It remains in this state until it wakes up.
This is the usual sleep cycle for a healthy adult cat. The oldest or sickest specimens, as well as the youngest, will present some differences. As an example, kittens less than a month old only experience the deep sleep type. This lasts a total of about twelve hours out of 24. After the month, kittens acquire the pattern explained for adult cats.
We do not know what cats dream of, but it is easy to verify, for any caretaker, that they sleep a lot of hours. Approximately, and on average for a healthy adult cat, about 16 hours a day. The average is between 14 and 16 hours. In other words, a cat sleeps peacefully twice as much as is recommended for adult humans.
The well-known zoologist Desmond Morris, in his book on the behavior of cats, proposes a comparative clarifier. According to his calculations, a nine-year-old cat would have been awake for only three years of his life. The hypothesis to explain that this species can spend so much time sleeping throughout its life, unlike what happens to other predators, is, according to this expert, that cats are such good hunters, so effective, that they manage very easy to get hold of the prey that covers their nutritional needs. Thus, they can spend the rest of the day resting.
Now, if suddenly our cat stops playing, interacting or preening and spends the day lying down, we may be facing a health problem. In this case, it is advisable to go to the vet for a review to differentiate between a sick cat or a very sleepy cat.
If cats dream they would do so at a specific stage in their sleep cycle. This would correspond to deep sleep or REM phase or rapid eye movement. In this state, the cat’s body relaxes completely. We can notice it because many times he is lying on his side, stretched out completely. At this moment is when some signs appear that can make us think that he is immersed in a dream.
Among them, we highlight the movement of the ears, legs or tail. The muscles of the mouth can also be activated with sucking movements and even vocalizations, purrs or sounds of different types. Another very characteristic movement is that of the eyes, which we will appreciate moving under the closed or half-open eyelids, while the rest of the body remains relaxed. In some cases, we may notice that the cat wakes up scared as if he came back from a nightmare.
In any case, all these movements are completely normal and physiological. They will be performed by all cats to a greater or lesser extent. They do not indicate any pathology nor do we have to intervene to wake up the cat. On the contrary, we must assure our feline companion places to rest, which must be comfortable, warm and sheltered, especially if several cats or animals of different species coexist in the home that can be disturbed and make it difficult to rest.
Both the possibility of cats dreaming and experiencing nightmares seems plausible based on scientific studies of brain function. Now, what they specifically dream about is more subject to our interpretation. Unfortunately, it is impossible to answer this question because, for now, there is no way of knowing what cats dream about. If you dream something, it probably won’t be the same as the dreams that we humans experience, however, we insist, there are no studies that show what cats can be dreaming or if they really dream.
In line with the above, it is impossible to know if cats have nightmares or any other type of sleep. Sometimes, as we said, we can see that our cat wakes up scared and we tend to believe that it may be due to a nightmare. However, this can be caused by something as simple as having perceived a sudden sound that we have not heard.
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