Do Cats and Dogs Dream?

I found myself enjoying a quiet moment at home the other evening (not easy with little legs, a.k.a Jesse, around!) and my mind did that wandering daydream sort of thing for a while. Well, I must’ve nodded off and that got me to thinking about dreams. Currently my favourite topics seem to be sunshine and foreign shores – can’t think why, can you?! – but I wondered what the Underhill furries had been recently dreaming of.

In case you’ve ever wondered: yes, cats and dogs do dream……

and there have been studies that prove it. Research studies were conducted on rats, monitoring their brains whilst they were awake and performing specific tasks and then comparing their brain activity when they were sleeping. Scientists saw that certain brain areas were stimulated (whether awake or asleep) identically, which suggested the rats were dreaming about the tasks they had performed in the laboratory.

Although the fact that animals do sleep and dream is known and accepted, the exact purpose of it remains a mystery and so we can only surmise that it is for the same reasons as us. In humans, sleep is the time when our body’s rest and repair themselves; all the sensory experiences and information gathered throughout the day are sifted through and processed (made sense of) by the brain during sleep, too.

I’ve always wondered what my family’s furries dream of;

do they dream of playing with toys or hunting, or maybe outdoor activities and adventures? Are the contents of their dinner bowls top of their dreams? The answer is probably all of the above, whether singly or in combinations thereof. I suspect that I, in common with every other fur-parent on the planet, am completely fascinated by the sights and (sometimes) sounds that come from kitty and pooch when they’re in the throes of a dream. The love-in between fur-parent and baby is mutual; just as we find joy and happiness in their faces and smell, so do they in us – and they will dream about us, just as we do about them.

When our pets are in REM/ Rapid Eye Movement sleep is when the magic happens; you can expect to witness flickering eyelids, cute twitching noses and more irregular breathing. In particularly vivid dreams, there may be growling, barking, hissing, meowing, and maybe even whimpering as well. Personally, I love it when their paws and/or lower limbs start to twitch –and when they ‘paddle’ their paws as if they’re running, it’s just so cute!

When your fur-baby dreams, they are often reliving events of the day………..

So if Fido usually barks at the neighbourhood cats, and he barks in his dream, then he may well be telling them to get off his patch – or possibly letting kitty next door know what he thinks of him/her! Twitching kitties could well be re-enacting that day’s hunting exploits, savouring any highlights. Bizarrely, smaller dogs dream more often than their larger counterparts; strange I know, but true. Also, kittens are more likely to dream than mature felines because the amounts of REM sleep needed by cats’ bodies decreases with age – perhaps as well when you consider that your average puss packs in a whopping 15 hours of sleep per day. That’s a lot of cat naps!

If you’ve never seen an animal dream, especially if they’re really going for it, then you may wonder whether they’re having a seizure. With a seizure, the limb movements will be more pronounced and prolonged, and the limbs themselves will have stiffened and gone rigid. Drooling, excessive salivation and foaming at the mouth may also be seen during a seizure, but are not present in a dream-state.

By the way, if your precious pet seems to be getting agitated whilst dreaming, resist the urge to wake them. If they are having an unpleasant or distressing dream (where they may be feeling threatened, for example) then they could potentially end up scratching, nipping or biting you: not nice for either of you, and totally avoidable. I know it’s hard to not wake them, but remember that it is just a dream and it will be forgotten about quickly.

Now you don’t need me to tell you that a comfy bed = good sleep, so do your furry parent duty and invest in a good quality ‘slumber central’ for your beloved companion. Blankets, bed buddies (toys) and snuggly softness are all factors that contribute to quality kip, and your fur baby will love you all the more if you provide these creature comforts.

Whilst you’re providing all the luxury and pampering that is expected from you by your furry family member, the team here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre are ready, willing and able to take care of the essentials: healthcare and vaccinations. If you have any concerns about your pet, then please ring our lovely reception team to arrange an appointment.

Until next time; stay safe (in lockdown 3.0!), stay well, and be happy 🙂

I’d like to dedicate this blog to Angelina who has been helping me with the creative flow of these blogs since they began some 94 blogs ago! Thank you so much for your help Angelina, you will be missed.