Do cats dream?

What do cats usually do when they are not grooming their fur? Sleeping! These furry friends can sleep from 16 to 18 hours a day. These sleeping marathons are common in cats that are left alone at home all day. Because of the absence of humans and other animals to play with, cats would sleep a lot. The pet would sprawl on its bed, on the backrest of couches, on the window sill and even on narrow ledges on the roof. We humans dream when we sleep. Are cats visited by the Sandman when they sleep? Do cats dream too? Cat owners observing the sleeping pet would say that cats dream. Scientists that have conducted studies on this topic would say that the brain of cats, like humans, can formulate dreams.

Because cats are well loved pets, it is not uncommon for cat owners to follow each and every movement of the pet. Just like a child, the antics of the cat would be very entertaining to its human family. Cat parents would know that these animals are great sleepers. Most cat parent would allow the pet to sleep with them thus all the funny movements of the sleeping pet will be noticed. A sleeping cat would make little movements with its legs, paws, ears and whiskers. The cat would make sounds similar to the snore of humans. What is more amusing is when the pet chatters as if it is enticing a bird or a mouse to come near. Is it possible that the cat is relieving its adventures during the day? Can the cat be dreaming?

The electrical activity of the human brain is measured and recorded by a test known as electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes or special sensors that are hooked to a computer are attached to the head making it possible to record the brain’s electrical activity. The study has distinguished the different stages of sleep. Humans have five stages of sleep. In the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, physiological stages were noted to take place. Breathing quickens as the heart rate accelerates thereby causing the blood pressure to rise. Dreaming occurs at this stage. While at the REM stage, the body is virtually paralyzed as glycine, a type of amino acid is released by the brain into the neurons that carry out impulses. Scientists believe that the glycine-induced paralysis is nature’s way of insuring that humans would not act out the dream.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) is used as well in studying the brain activity of cats. Using this test, scientists were able to distinguish cats’ phases of sleep. Cats only have two stages of sleep – the REM (rapid eye movement) and the deep sleep stage known as NON-REM. Cats have many brief periods of sleep during the day. These short periods of sleep termed as cat naps would last for a few minutes. Cats at this stage of sleep would wake up periodically as the animal’s muscles are not totally relaxed. After about 30 minutes of light sleep, the cat would enter the rapid eye movement phase. Similar to humans, it is during this stage that cat would dream. The various body movements indicate that the cat is dreaming. The cat may twitch the whiskers and the tail, flick the ears and move the paws and claws. In some cases the cat would be chattering as well. These movements indicate that the cat is relieving its experiences during the day. The wave patterns that are produced by the electroencephalogram test during this stage of sleep are similar to the brain wave patterns displayed by dreaming humans. Because dreaming cats, just like humans are essentially paralyzed, the cat owner will be saved from the razor-sharp claws of a pet dreaming of catching a prey.

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