Cats have nightmares regardless of their size.
For many, it’s as simple as spinning in the middle of the night. Perhaps their demeanor is their survival mechanism, allowing them to regulate their bodies wake up and breathe calmly before engaging in active playtime.
So, do cats have nightmares? The answer is yes and no.
Cats may dream, but it’s hard to tell because they can’t tell you what’s bothering them or what they’re dreaming about. The Mayo Clinic suggests that a cat’s dream is similar to a waking dream and that cat’s can dream for up to 20 minutes at a time during REM sleep.
While it’s impossible to know for sure if a cat is having a nightmare or a playful dream, there are some signs you can watch for to know the difference.
For example, if your cat’s eyes are open with a tense body or claws are out, then they’re most likely having a nightmare and not playing.
Do Cats Have Nightmares?
Yes, cats have nightmares but it’s very different from us humans and pet’s dreams.
Your cat companion may appear to have a nightmare and feel like they’re escaping from the open door or window they escaped from the previous night, however, it’s nothing more than playful dreaming that will seem scary or anxious to you as an owner.
But don’t get the idea that they wake up with anxiety symptoms.
They are less concerned about financial difficulties, global issues or the state of their love life than we are.
That doesn’t mean your kitty isn’t aware of their surroundings, but they aren’t obsessing about them as much as we obsessed as human counterparts do.
Cats may feel a broad spectrum of unpleasant feelings, including fear, anxiety or even pain.
If your pet is twitching and squirming in their sleep, it may simply be a reaction to a nightmare.Pets often dream about chasing after mice and birds or about playing with their favorite toy.
However, some pets have nightmares that cause them to twitch and squirm in their sleep.
While it’s easy to forget our pets are having nightmares when they twitch and squirm in their sleep, it can often be an indicator of them having a nightmare.
For example, if a pet is twitching and squirming in their sleep and they wake up with wet eyes or drool dripping from their mouths, they may have had a nightmare.
Nightmares can occur due to stress or anxiety, and pets can have the same type of nightmares we do.
Cats might also experience nightmares about separation from you, so they’ll become anxious when you leave the house or when their humans leave for work.
Painful landings, separation anxiety, and battles for territory can all trigger nightmares in cats.
How To Tell if Your Cat Is Having a Nightmare
When you know your cat had a nightmare during the night, there are a number of things you can try to help them get back to sleep without making them more upset.
Your cat may wake up frightened and bewildered, and you can easily make them feel more scared by yelling or startling them when they’re not ready or able to cope with being awake and alert.
Twitching of the face, Limbs twitching, producing various vocal sounds, and going into a deep sleep are common reactions of cats who have experienced a bad dream.
Deep Sleep vs. REM Sleep
The two main cycles of a cats sleep are deep sleep and REM sleep.
Each is equally vital, yet different.
Deep slumber is just as it sounds – It is a deep state of rest that your cat enters and stays in for about 40 percent of a night’s sleep.
A cat will not experience dreams in this state because they are simply too unconscious to experience anything.
The cat will breathe slowly, move slowly, and their heart and bodily functions slow down as do their brainwaves.
Deep sleep is essential because it allows time for a cat’s brain to reorganize memories from the day before and process events to prepare for the next day.
Dreams arise during REM sleep – It is during this cycle of sleep that most of your dreams occur.
This is due to the brain being more active during REM sleep than during deep sleep.
During this period of sleep, your eyes move rapidly behind your closed eyelids, you may act out your dream, and your heart rate and breathing increase while your blood pressure rises.
REM sleep may not always last as long or as deeply as other cycles of sleep at night.
Your cat cannot keep or recall dreams that occur during REM – they simply don’t function that way due to the way a cat’s brain works.
This will ultimately cause your cat to awaken at some point during REM cycle and sleep more soundly and for longer periods once the dreaming and dreaming activity ceases.
REM sleep is as essential to cats as it is to humans and is vital to their health and well-being.
What Should You Do If Your Cat Is Having Nightmares?
The effects of a nightmare on a domesticated cat can be startling and disturbing, especially to the cat owner.
As a pet owner, you make every effort to keep your cat happy, healthy, and content.
However, there is little you you can do to control or stop nightmares from occurring.
It is vital not to wake your cat up during a dream as they may injure themselves in their sleep.
The cat will be confused and disoriented once they awaken and may seem disoriented and discombobulated for a day or two following a nightmare.
It may also struggle for a day or two to find it’s food bowl and litter box and may seem to be “spacey” or dazed for a day or two following a nightmare.
As a result, your cat may cry out in the middle of the night or may not eat or drink as much or as well during this time or may take frequent naps or sleeps throughout the day following a nightmare.
Your cat will almost invariably sleep better and have more energy and positive attitude following a nightmare so that they can eventually return to normal.
This is just a natural reaction to the traumatic nightmare experience they have just had.
A cat experiencing a frightening or terrifying nightmare may exhibit one or more of these behaviors.
They cry, they hiss or growl, they scream and run away, they poop their pants, or they are very quiet and motionless as if paralyzed with fear.
A additional shock will invariably re-activate the nightmare and your cat will once again cry out in pain and fear in their sleep and exhibit the same behaviors described above as they experience.
In older cats, this may cause them to cry out and have some difficulty getting up and walking throughout the day following such an event and may also cause them some discomfort in their joints and muscles the next day.
Keep an eye on your cat and if you notice any of these behaviors and have any other concerns about how your cat is behaving following a nightmare, you should consult your holistic veterinarian as soon as possible.
A cat experiencing night terrors will have all of the symptoms of nightmares described above – they cry out in fear as they lay there paralyzed, they may also run and bite or scratch as they run from it and they may actually scratch and bite themselves in their sleep.
Once you’ve determined an adequate dose of Nature’s Sunshine’s Calming Aid for Cats for your cat, you may add half of one tablet to the food.
Begin by providing one half a tablet per day for 3 days and increase to 1 tablet per day for the next 3 days.
A cat in a stressful situation may experience a nightmare because of the startling sensations caused by such a stressful event.
However, the cat will not remember the actual dream and therefore it does not create the same anxiousness in the waking hours when they awaken.
This means you can provide your cat with reassurance that he’s not being attacked, hurt or in danger and this will help him feel calmer and more at ease when he awakens from their nightmare.
Say your cat’s name softly and gently pet him until he wakes up and calms down.
Make use of your sleeping cat’s sense for smell at night by placing your pillow next to his and rub your cheek against his to reassure him of your presence.
Continue doing so until he calms down and returns to a normal sleep state.
When this happens, avoid staring at your cat as this may reactivate the nightmare and cause him to be startled again and wake up.
When your cat is awake, you may help calm him down by gently petting him until he feels relaxed and at ease again.
Allow your cat to sleep in another room to help prevent the nightmare from happening again or by simply shutting the room door so that he can’t enter.
Do not immediately pick your cat up when it wakes up and do not keep him awake by talking to him or playing with him.
It may take some time before your cat fully recovers from the nightmare and returns to normal sleep pattern again.
Also Read: Why Does Your Cat Only Cuddle at Night?
While cats may dream about anything and everything, their sleep cycle is different than humans’ and it’s harder to know if they’re having a nightmare or playful dream.
As cats continue to sleep and dream, it’s likely we’ll have better knowledge of their behavior and sleep patterns in the future and will be able to better understand their sleep cycle and dreams.
Until then, it’s up to you to watch for signs of stress and to comfort your cat when they become agitated or agitated.
Don’t worry about what your feline is dreaming about as they seem to forget their nightmares the next day and go on with business as usual.
However, substantial study on the matter by researchers is not likely to be conducted in the near future.
When your cat is sleeping but still twitching, kicking, wailing, or showing other signs of distress, they may be having a bad dream.