Dreaming can be a rich part of the life of a human being, but what about our animal companions? When you notice your kitty cat dozing, as cats often do, people often wonder do cats dream just like we do?
It’s easy to see your cat lying there asleep and interpret her twitching whiskers, swishing tail, and perked ears as evidence that she is dreaming. Since cats sleep on average a minimum 15 hours per day, it’s likely that at least some of that time is taken up by dreaming. But is this really the case?
Do Cats Dream Really?
Scientists have done many studies to answer the common question do cats dream, and in short the answer is yes, cats do dream! Additionally, their dream material is much the same as ours, at least in the sense that cats dream about what has gone on during the day.
Dreams occur during REM sleep for both cats and humans, and the hippocampus is largely responsible for retaining memories in both mammals. Cats spend about 30% of their sleep time in the REM stage, compared to 20% for humans, and the brain wave patterns displayed by a cat during REM sleep are very similar to their human counterparts, including the activity of the hippocampus. This implies that cats are dreaming about things they remembered during the day.
Researchers have found that rats’ brain activity during the day is identical to that while sleeping. Extrapolating that data to other mammals, it seems that cats do dream indeed. One French researcher conducted an experiment in 1951, in which he disabled the locus coeruleus of his feline subjects. The locus coeruleus is an area of the brain which controls motor function during sleep, preventing sleepwalking. After the locus coeruleus was turned off, these cats displayed behaviors typical of wakeful cats, like playing, crouching, and stalking prey, although they were fast asleep.
So What Do Cats Dream About Then?
As researchers found that cats do indeed dream like us, the next obvious question was what do cats dream about? According to studies, sleeping cats are dreaming about the typical things they would be doing in the daytime. Their brains are simply repressing the movements that go along with those dreams in order to provide their bodies with rest and rejuvenation.
Cats dream about their daytime activities; their favorite toys, catching a tasty mouse, or chasing their tails. Just like us, cats use their time in sleep to relive the events of wakefulness so that the brain can process and organize the information. This is why young kittens dream may dream up to 80% of the time compared to 30% for adult cats. Their young brains have so much new information to interpret that the additional dreaming time is necessary for them to make sense of it all.
It seems that cats, just like humans, have a rich and varied dream experience. So next time someone asks do cats dream or what do cats dream about, you’ll have the answer!
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