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Do Cats Dream? What Do They Dream About?

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Many cats have strong, radiant personalities that are hard to ignore. But how much do we really know about their inner world, and is there more to their naptime twitches and restlessness? If you’re a cat owner, you may have been wondering about what goes on when your cat sleeps, or more specifically, whether they dream during this time.

Not only do cats dream, but their sleep patterns also consist of different phases similar to human sleep. However, the most intriguing question seems to be the objective of their dreams and whether their owners play a role in them.

Do Cats Dream When They Sleep?

It is no surprise that cats spend the majority of their day sleeping. However, what may come as a surprise to some cat owners is that their mind doesn’t go blank when they’re asleep. As with all other mammals, the sleep process in cats comprises different stages of consciousness. Each stage entails different brain activities, breathing patterns, movements, and heart rates. 

Studies have shown that all mammals, including cats, can experience dream mentation1, which is different imagery and thinking that occur during sleep. Therefore, this suggests that cats can dream when they sleep.

What Do Cats Dream About?

While we cannot know for certain what cats dream about, we can make some assumptions based on expert insight. 

Cats are observant, conscious creatures that are aware of the world around them. In his book, When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness, author David M. Peña-Guzmán states that animals have rich interior lives that could be displayed through their dreamscape2

This means that, similarly to humans, cats could be replaying fragments of their memories, thoughts, and emotions in dreams as “reality simulations.”2 Unfortunately, though, known details of cats’ dreams rely solely on assumptions since the primary factor in dream analysis is a verbal report from the subject3

Can Cats Have Bad Dreams or Nightmares?

Can twitching whiskers and abrupt movements indicate that your cat is having a bad dream? While it is possible for cats to have unpleasant dreams, these movements don’t necessarily mean that your pet isn’t enjoying their nap.

We already mentioned that cats could relieve certain moments from their memories in their dreams.2 Therefore, it is possible that your cat is replaying an unpleasant encounter with the neighbor’s pet, dreaded bathtime, or that bird that teased them on the other side of the window. However, this doesn’t mean you should wake them up, as this could scare them and result in a fresh scratch or an angry bite on your hand.

REM Sleep in Cats

Since sleep cycles are similar in all mammals, we can use the findings on human sleep to help understand this process in cats. Brain activity patterns during sleep can be categorized into two distinctive stages4: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep.

In a full sleep cycle, we go through three different NREM stages before drifting into REM sleep.4 The REM stage is when the brain is the most active (almost as active as when we’re awake), and it’s also when dreaming occurs.4 As the name implies, REM sleep is characterized by the movement of the eyes behind the eyelids.4

While our eyes stay active, the rest of the body is still, and the focus is on mental activity. This is also true for our pets. Other than twitching, we don’t see much movement in sleeping cats, which helps prevent them from acting out their dreams and potentially harming themselves, as is the same for humans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats twitch when they sleep?

Cats dream during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which is characterized by twitching, especially in the facial area.1 Your cat could be reliving a day filled with activities or even having a bad dream, resulting in abrupt movements of their whiskers, eyes, mouth, and body.

Do cats dream about their owners?

While the content of animals’ dreams remains unclear, their brain can comprehend, memorize, and process daily events.2 Mixed with emotions, there is a possibility that these memories could be combined on a subconscious level, resulting in dreams as we humans know them.2 

Whether you’re a figure in your cat’s dream isn’t guaranteed. However, being that you’re a key part of their daily routine, it is possible.

Do cats sleepwalk?

According to animal experts, instances of sleepwalking in cats could be a result of brain damage5. However, they add that healthy cats typically do not sleepwalk and this is a rare occurrence.5

What colors can cats see?

According to experts6, some researchers believe that cats are only able to see blue and gray colors, whereas others believe they can also see yellow.

Olivera Jancikin

Olivera Jancikin

Content Writer

About Author

Olivera is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about sleep. She firmly believes in the benefits of daytime naps on top of getting a full 8-hour sleep at night.

Combination Sleeper


  • 1. Manger, Paul R., Siegel, Jerome M. “Do All Mammals Dream?”. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 2020.
  • 2. Peña-Guzmán, David M. When Animals Dream. Princeton University Press. 2024.
  • 3. Malinowski, J. E., Scheel, D., McCloskey, M. “Do Animals Dream?”. Consciousness and Cognition. 2021.
  • 4. “Sleep”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified June 19, 2024.
  • 5. “Do Cats Sleepwalk? What Cat Owners Should Know”. Animal Path. Webpage accessed October 12, 2024.
  • 6. Llera DVM, Ryan., Buzhardt DVM, Lynn. “Do Cats See Color?”. VCA Animal Hospitals. Webpage accessed October 12, 2024.