Do cats have nightmares?

Cat owners would know that there are two things their pets love doing most – grooming and sleeping. Cats practically sleep their lives away. Because these fur balls do a lot of sleeping it would not be uncommon for them to dream. Studies have proven that cats dream and because they do, they also have nightmares.

In the wild, cats would spend a large part of the day sleeping. Cats are nocturnal hunters and as such they would need to conserve their energies during the daytime to get ready for the hunting activities that will be done from dusk to dawn. Cats in the wild do not sleep as deeply as much as domestic cats do. These feral cats have to fend off the attacks of their predators thus their sleep would usually be cat naps. At the slightest sign of danger, these cats would awaken instantly. The sleeping patterns of domestic cats are different. Without the need to hunt and to be alert for possible predator attacks, the pet that is provided with a comfy bed in a temperature controlled home would be enticed to spend the day having a close eye. Cats that are left at home with no toys and no other animals to play with will sleep a lot because of boredom. Pet cats would sleep deeply. The sleeping pattern is one of the unique behaviors of cats. These animals have an unaccountable desire to sleep in most unlikely places. Cats will be seen precariously balanced on ledges, at the back of couches or on top of bookshelves. Cats have the inclination to climb trees to sleep on the swaying tree limb. Imagine what will happen if the cat had a nightmare. Although cats have the capability of landing squarely on their feet, a cat that is having a nightmare and falls off from its perch can sustain serious injuries.

Cats have two types of sleep – one is cat nap and the other is not unlike human’s deep slumber. Cats, like humans would go through several stages of sleep. It is during the REM or the rapid eye movement stage that the cat can have dreams and nightmares. Watching the pet sleep can be a highly entertaining experience for cat owners. Just like humans, sleeping cats would make small meowing sounds, would flick the tail or move the paws as if running. The quietly sleeping cat would suddenly move the head and paws as if catching butterflies. These movements would be amusing. The cat owner would think that the pet is dreaming. However, a cat that is thrashing the paws as if trying to escape, one that is making distressed or agonized vocalization is possibly having a nightmare. Animal behaviorists believe that nightmares can occur in cats and that nightmares are more common in abused cats. Cats relive past experiences through dreams. A cat can relive an unpleasant or traumatic experience again and again and this usually happens when the cat is sleeping. The cat would make trashing movements and anguished noises.

A cat that is having a nightmare is a pitiful sight. Sleep is important thus waking the pet may not be a good idea. However, it would help if the pet would hear verbal reassurance from the owners. Talking to the pet calmly and calling its name would let the cat know that it is not alone. Petting or cuddling the cat may not be a good idea as it would startle the cat. Place a hand right in front of the cat’s nose instead. Cats have very sensitive scenting abilities and the familiar smell of the owner would have a calming effect on the pet.