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Do cats dream?

February 02, 2019 2 min read

Your cat likely sleeps up to 15 hours a day. With so much time spent slumbering, your kitty is most likely also dreaming, suggests researchers who’ve studied cats and sleep.

American sleep researcher and founder of the Sleep Research Center at Stanford University, William Charles Dement, discovered cats experience REM (rapid eye movements) sleep and non-REM sleep just like their human parents. And just like humans, cats also become atonic during REM sleep, losing muscle strength so as to prevent acting out a dream sequence.

Likely you’ve noticed your sleeping cat twitching, making odd sounds or moving his paws as if running. The experts say your cat is experiencing REM sleep, the deeper sleep when dreams occur. What your cat is reliving in his brain while dreaming, however, is speculative since unlike humans who can vividly recall a wild dream or nightmare, cats simply can’t articulate what’s got them unsettled while sleeping.


What do cats dream about?
A 1960 study of cats and REM sleep, conducted by sleep researcher Michel Jouvet, revealed cats demonstrated hunting-like behavior while in REM sleep. They hissed and arched their backs as if they were hunting prey. Scientists concluded cats likely are dreaming about being on the hunt.

Hunting is not the only thing they process during sleep, however. Cats could also be dreaming about their human families, food, toys, or treats. Researchers suspect cats dream about their experiences throughout the day, and that includes their interactions with you. If they have a bad experience, your cat could very well have a nightmare about the negative events of the day and react with meowing, hissing, or sporadic movements while sleeping.

Never wake a sleeping cat!
If your cat is out like a light and begins making odd sounds and twitching, you may be compelled to rouse him from his “bad dream.” Not wise, the experts say. Your cat may be startled by being suddenly awakened and might scratch or even bite you. Leave your cat to sleep and give them a little extra love when they wake.

Do cats dream in color?
Scientists can’t be wholly certain whether cats dream in color, but because they can see colors like their human parents, albeit limited colors, experts suspect cats do indeed dream in more than black and white.

Why do cats dream?
Cats are a very organized species with uncanny long-term memory capabilities. Dreaming lets them process certain events of the day and categorize them properly in their brains.

When your cat sleeps, he’s recharging for the next hunt or playtime session. Dreaming is his way of putting that mouse skittering in his head into perspective and lodging good memories - like playing with you - in his memory bank. So the next time you see your snoozing cat caught up in what appears to be dreamtime, sit back and watch his movements. Maybe you can figure out what he’s dreaming about. 


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