Are you jealous of your cat’s ability to sleep so peacefully—anytime, anywhere? You know that no-care-in-the-world look that Gonzo and Gertrude share from a curled up, snuggly posture. Cats do love to sleep, and many spend about two thirds of their days sleeping or relaxing in near-sleep suspension. My cats seem to smile in their sleep, the most innocent and precious look in the world—what do you think is making them so happy?
A smile during an afternoon snooze may indicate that your cat is enjoying a pleasant dream. Although we can’t really prove what cats dream about, or that they dream at all, we can make assumptions based on comparisons to humans when they dream. The electrical activity that takes place in a sleeping cat’s brain is very similar to other mammals, including people and dogs, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, is also very similar; so dreaming is thought to happen in our pets like it happens for us.
Cats experience REM (Rapid Eye Movement) when they are fast asleep. In humans, this deep sleep stage is where dreaming occurs. Although you can’t sit down and ask you cat about his or her dreams and actually hear about his in-sleep adventures, we can make educated assumptions about kitty dreams. The most vivid and active dreams take place during REM, while non-REM dreams are usually fragmented, impressionistic, snippets of activity. Like human dreams, feline dreams are most likely a mix of realistic experiences and nonsensical images.
Watch your cat to know what’s going on during sleep. You can see the twitching of the eyes and muscles that signal REM sleeping. These are especially common in kittens, and the occurrences decrease as kittens grow. Cats dream about what they know. Therefore, a cat may be involved in a fun game of chase during sleep, or a serious escape from an enemy. Less intense dreams may involve playing with a toy, or even engaging with you as you dangle a kitty tease to entertain him. However, most dreaming takes place when a cat is fully relaxed in a deep sleep, so the cat won’t show any signs.
Cats may dream about their feline friends, or even their canine companions. Birds that they see out the window, or other cats in the neighborhood could also enter their dreams. Young kittens may dream of mama or the littermates, or familiar sights and smells from their past. Cats probably have sweet dreams and nightmares, depending on memories recalled at a given time. Some experts suggest that cats can sleepwalk, but this is cause for concern. Sleepwalking can be related to brain damage or lesions around the brain. Discuss any perceived sleepwalking with your veterinarian, who may suggest some testing.