Cats Do Have Dreams
6 November, 2012

When I came home the other day, Sammy, my cat, was sleeping (big surprise).  However, instead of greeting me at the door, as he usually does, he let out this loud yelp-meow.  He then shook his head and realized I had just walked inside.  I figured that he must have been in the middle of a dream.  It is a well known fact that cats do sleep a lot, but do they sleep enough to dream?

Our cats are usually only half-asleep

When our cats are awake, their brain broadcasts little bunched-together irregular peaks. But when napping, the cat’s brain produces long, irregular waves called slow-wave sleep which usually lasts fifteen to thirty minutes total. As he or she sleeps, a cat generally lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath him. Sometimes he actually sleeps sitting up, in which case his muscles stiffen to hold him upright; this way our kitty is ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

More than a catnap

As it turns out, cat dreams occur during rapid sleep.  This happens when they twitch their paws or have a sudden quick, almost startled reaction.

When our cats move from light into deep sleep, their bodies relax. They stretch out and roll onto  their side. Their brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together, and are very similar to his or her waking patterns. However, cats are fully relaxed and hard to awaken during deep sleep (referred to as “rapid sleep” because of the quick brain wave movement). This phase usually lasts only about five minutes, and our cats return to slow-wave sleep-and thereafter alternate between the two until he or she wakes up.

Cats sleep shorter sessions

The cat’s senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to seventy five percent of sleep, so the kitty can awaken quickly at a loud sound of his owner calling him or her. Slower wakeup times are characterized by a predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs each in turn are flexed. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening.

While we, humans, may sleep seven to eight hour sessions, cat sleep more commonly consists of short and long naps throughout the day. Habits vary between cats but very old and very young kittens sleep more than robust adults. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days.

Cats are nocturnal

Most cats are really active at night as they are nocturnal animals.  However, they can also be active in the early morning before the sun rises.  That’s why most of our cats either keep us up at night or wake us up in the morning.  However, they do usually adapt and sleep on their owner’s schedule and spend more time with us when we are home.

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