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Do cats dream?

Posted on: February 9th, 2011 by

Arden Moore's book cover.

Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore

Q. I love watching my cat sleep. He moves a lot and even makes little squeaking sounds at times. His legs quiver and his whiskers move. Is he dreaming?

A. Cats do dream, but we can only speculate on the subject matter. It might be that your cat is reliving the brilliant capture of a wayward fly buzzing near a sunny window or a particularly speedy spring down the hallway. Perhaps he is recalling with amusement how he charmed that final piece of broiled tuna off your dinner plate and into his own bowl.

We do have scientific evidence that cats dream. As with humans, feline sleep falls into two types – REM (rapid eye movement, which is when dreams happen), and non-REM (deep sleep). You will know your cat is in REM sleep because he is apt to twitch his legs, wiggle his whiskers, and subtly move his eyes behind his closed eyelids.

Studies using electroencephalograms (EEGs) to read brain activity in sleeping cats have indicated that cats are in the REM sleep stage for about 30 percent of their sleeping time and that their brain wave patterns during REM are similar to ours. In comparison, we spend about 20 percent of our sleep time in the REM stage (although human babies spend up to 80 percent in REM).

When cats are not dreaming, they are in the deep sleep phase. This is the time when the body goes to work repairing and regenerating bones and muscles and bolstering the immune system to fend off disease. The only movement you can detect during this sleep stage is the quiet up and down of breathing.

Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”

Pet expert Arden Moore spends time with her pets.

On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Arden Moore, who also hosts a weekly radio show called “Oh Behave!” on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com) by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).

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2 Comments

  1. treishacruz says:

    I wonder what they actually see when they’re dreaming. My dog does that too. lots of twitching and even snore. :) Great blog, It explains well.

  2. kingarthur1999 says:

    I had stroked my cat to sleep, and then he started to wriggle around and squeal occasionally! I was worried. But thanks for clearing it up :)

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