Categories: sleep

Why does my cat twitch in her sleep?

All observant cat owners and lovers will be aware that their cat dreams and when they dream they twitch their whiskers, eyes, legs to varying degrees and move their mouths. They also might make some noises. They are going through a period of deep sleep and they dream just like humans. I have watched my cat dream many times. My assessment is that they are replaying activities that they’ve recently experienced or offloading anxieties. Perhaps they are processing them to be able to live with them more easily.

Dreaming cat. Screenshot from the animated .gif below.

This may be because the experiences that they are most likely to relive in their dreams are possibly bad ones which frightened them. I get this impression from my cat’s actions and sounds when he is dreaming. He seems to be frightened and sometimes I want to wake him up to prevent him experiencing a frightening situation again. Although I am sure he has nice dreams sometimes; probably chasing a mouse.

Cat dreaming and twitching. This is an animated .gif on a loop. The cat seems to be drinking in his dream. Perhaps he was particularly thirsty. Source: Igmur.

So, this is not really twitching in the conventional sense e.g. due to a neurological condition. It is movements which are vestigial to the real movements that took place perhaps a day or two beforehand. A lot of people believe that domestic cats sleep for very long period during the day. I believe that they are wrong. Domestic cats do rest curled up for long periods and during these times they are snoozing (sleeping very lightly) but fully alert to sounds and other activities around them. Their ears follow sounds while snoozing. They will fall asleep and sometimes enter deep sleep but these are for relatively short periods of time compared to the overall length of time that they are snoozing.

As cats can dream they can also have nightmares just like us. They also have emotions just like us, although perhaps not the complex versions of our emotions. They feel some of these emotions when dreaming. Please respect the cat for the incredible companion animals that they are.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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