Do Cats Have Bad Dreams?


close up photography of sleeping tabby cat

Watching a cat sleep is one of the things in this world that gives me great pleasure. Looking at that rolled-up bundle of joy sometimes makes me wish I could trade places with my cat. Most of the time, cats sleep peacefully and totally relaxed, but I’ve often wondered what goes on in their little cat-brains when they sleep.Do cats dream? Can cats have bad dreams?

Cat can have have nightmares just like humans. During their sleep, cats process emotions and experiences they had during their waking hours. Cats having a bad dream every now and then is perfectly normal and is no reason for concern.

Do cats dream at all?

Yes, cats can and definitely do dream just like humans. Scientists from all over the world agree that dreaming is not limited solely to human beings. In fact, there is sufficient scientific evidence that all mammals, including cats, dream.

Cats have plenty of opportunities to dream as well. They could spend as much as 15 hours a day sleeping, which could even be up to 20 hours if they had a busy night.

During their sleep, cats, like humans, process the experiences en information their brains encountered during the day. Dreaming helps them to process emotions, reduce stress, and form memories.

white orange and gray tabby cat lying on gray textile
Photo by Fabricio Trujillo on Pexels.com

Why do cats dream?

During all that sleeping, the feline brain processes the experiences it gathers throughout the day, but not all cat naps are equal. Just like in human sleep, cat dreams are most likely to occur during the specific deep sleep called REM sleep.

Dreams during REM sleep tend to be long and detailed. It is not uncommon to see your cat’s eyes move under its closed eyelids during this state, see twitching whiskers or paw movements. Most body movements are restricted during REM sleep, so you won’t see your cat pounce or sleepwalk during REM sleep.

One of the differences between cats and humans is that cats reach REM sleep faster and more often than humans. A human REM cycle takes about 90 minutes. For cats, on the other hand, this is just 25 minutes. Because of this, cats can reach REM sleep even during short naps.

According to what Dr. Nicolas H. Dodman, author of Pets on the Couch and professor of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, told Metro.co.uk, the physiological process in your kitty’s brain is very similar to what happens when you go to sleep. He states the following:

“Cats exhibit all the physiological and behavioral characteristics of dreaming sleep in humans: low voltage fast-wave activity, fast EEG activity – where the cerebral cortex (thinking center) and hippocampus (memory center) are active in the face of continued behavioral sleep.” 

cute white kitty peacefully sleeping
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Can cats have bad dreams?

While there is plenty of evidence supporting that cats dream just like people, we can’t see what cats dream about, just like it’s not possible to see what you and I dream about. However, based on observations, we know that cats have both pleasant dreams as well as nightmares.

You can tell if your cat is having night terrors is when you notice your cat waking up suddenly while acting scared and confused or disoriented. Sometimes cats wake from bad dreams suddenly with a loud meow or a hiss.

If you notice your cat waking up from a nightmare, give it some time to adjust to its surroundings and wake up completely. It’s usually nothing to be worried about, but in some cases, frequent cat-nightmares can mean that your cat is dealing with more serious issues.

What can you do if your cat has frequent nightmares?

crop woman kissing and cuddling cat at home
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If your cat is plagued by frequent nightmares, up to a point where they occur almost daily, your cat might be dealing with trauma or other mental issues. Possible reasons for cats having persistent bad dreams could be, for example, moving house, having a history of abuse, or dealing with stress.

To help your cat deal with frequent nightmares, you can help by removing stressors such as other animals or children from their environment (even if it’s only temporary). Make sure your cat feels safe and has a place where it can retreat and relax.

It’s best not to push your cat to do something it’s not comfortable with, and don’t push it to socialize with you or other humans or animals. Let them take the initiative.

In case you see your cat waking up from a nasty dream, give it time to familiarize itself with the environment. You can softly speak soothing words to comfort your kitty and softly pet it. Once cats deal with the emotions that are causing them stress, things will get better. Make sure your cat feels safe, loved, and well cared for.

Chronic nightmares can cause sleep deprivation, which may lead to several other physical and mental problems. If your cat continues to have sleeping disorders and you notice a behavioral change, it is best to seek professional advice and consult your vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cats have insomnia?
Cats are very sensitive to stress or changes in their environment. Every cat deals with this in its own way and some cats might process these emotions in their sleep. This can lead to bad dreams. Chronic nightmares may lead to insomnia and can cause a host of physical and mental issues for your feline. Consult your vet if you think your cat’s behavior is unnatural and

What do cats dream about?
Just like humans, cats dream about things that are important in their lives, about their worries, fantasies or desires. They could be dreaming about being on the hunt, about that new neighbor’s cat, their favorite treat or toys. Or, they could be dreaming about you, their owners.

Do cats dream in color?
Cats see color albeit differently than humans but because of that, it is very likely that cats dream in color as well.

Should I wake my cat up from a nightmare?
Usually we advise to not disturb a cat when you notice they have a nightmare. Most of the times it’s not something to be worried about and your cat will wake up naturally. If the bad dream seems to last long or is particularly bad you can wake up your cat GENTLY. Make sure it feels safe by softly touching and speaking soothing words.

Why do cats twitch in their sleep?
Twitching or subtle movements are part of your cat’s REM sleep phase. During this phase, the brain often sends impulses to the muscles. It is completely normal and nothing to be worried about.

Do cats dream about their owners?
Very likely yes. Cats dream about all things that are important in their lives and their owners are the most important humans cats interact with. They are dependent on us for food, shelter and other things. Since we play an important role in our cat’s waking hours, we surely appear in their dreams as well.

Do cats have a favorite sleeping position?
Cats can sleep in several different positions. These positions can tell you a lot about the cat’s personality, their mood, their health, and what kind of sleep they are engaged in. Have a look at this article to read more about cat sleeping positions.

Cat & Friends

At Cat & Friends we are passionate about everything feline. We are a team of cat parents and writers who love to write about everything related to cats. Our goal is to provide the most helpful and accurate information about our little furry friends through extensive research and experience.

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