Do Cats Dream and Have Nightmares?

cat is dreaming
(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

Cats can be mysterious creatures. We wonder why they stare at us, if they remember us when we’re gone, if they love us or if they just show us affection to get that much-loved treat of the day.

A burning question for some is if cats dream. When they twitch in their sleep resting in their cat tree, is it because they’re dreaming of playing with us? Or did an errant flea happen to jump onto their skin and bite them? To uncover some of the mystery, I’ve done some research to determine whether cats dream, and the discoveries have been interesting.

cat has nightmare terror dream

Do Cats Dream?

Quite simply, the answer to whether cats dream is yes. They do dream. Scientists have studied and put to rest the question of whether animals dream. They’ve conducted research on rats, finding that their brain pattern is as active in sleep as it is when they’re running around chasing cheese through a maze.

Why Do Cats Dream?

Mammals seem to dream to restore body systems and processing information gained throughout the day. Young animals may dream more than older animals. This is due to the fact that they have to process more information since they’re experiencing the world for the first time.

It’s no wonder that kittens are known for their curiosity. They have a lot to take in and then dream about after they are born.

What Do Cats Dream About?

So what exactly is it that felines dream about? Probably us, their owners. Food, playing, and destroying the house, the common feline activities that the animal knows and loves. They relive it in their dreams.

Do Felines Dream And Have Nightmares?

And a less pleasant fact is that cats can have nightmares, too, just like us.

You may assume your cat is having a nightmare when he or she wakes up with a start. That is if you’re not the one who startled them awake with your clumsy human walking.


But even though we know cats can have nightmares, the reason for their sudden awakenings is not always because of that. So don’t assume your cat is having bad dreams just because he or she suddenly brings itself from dreamland.

A more likely reason that your cat is waking up with a start is that when sleeping, the muscles that control movement are resting, just like our eyes and our brains. Sometimes our muscles are in a more active state even though we’re sleeping, and the action from our dream unconsciously comes out through our limbs, startling us awake. This is the same for cats and other mammals.

Seen your cat yawn?

But as stated above, bad dreams can happen in cats. Because cats experience REM sleep – rapid-eye-movement sleep – just like us.

This is the type of sleep where dreaming becomes most common. Studies also show that all mammals’ brain makeup is pretty similar. So if we dream, it’s only a matter of fact that cats dream as well. And those dreams can be either good or bad.


Evidence of Bad Dreams

Some people have reported cats who, due to being lost or coming from abusive homes, would make anguished noises in their sleep or jolt awake with fearful eyes. Or perhaps you have a scared kitten.

Cats nightmares are usually based on real experiences, and it is advised not to always wake them up when you think they’re having a nightmare. They may initially scratch or bite if woken, protecting themselves from the scary dream.

So nightmares are an unfortunate reality that comes along with the activity of dreaming but don’t worry. We can try to reduce our fuzzy friends from experiencing this by giving them the love, cuddles, and attention they deserve.

Can Cats Have Night Terrors?

Night terrors are a more elevated form of a nightmare that causes sudden involuntary movement and extreme fear. We all experience it and so do cats. If twitching, biting, mewling, swinging their paws as if in a fight, your cat may be experiencing night terrors. Again, this is something they share with humans.

Cats may have a traumatic past, and it’s coming back to them in their dreams.


It can be difficult to see your pet experience trauma, even unconscious trauma, so there are ways that you – as an owner and friend of your pet – intervene and comfort them or try to prevent night terrors from happening again.

If the cat is not being violent while asleep (scratching the box in an extreme manner, biting), you can attempt to gently wake them and then show them love and affection. Give them a treat, pet their heads, and cuddle them close.

The safest thing to do is try to prevent the night terrors altogether instead of intervening during sleep and risking the chance of getting hurt.

Before your cat sleeps, make sure to play with it so he or she can get rid of excess energy and gain positive experiences before he or she closes their eyes for the night. Play with them, love them, and then send them to bed. Experts agree that this is the best way to try to prevent such a thing as night terrors in your pet.

You can’t control what your cat dreams, but you can definitely give them more positive experiences to dream about than negative ones.


Why is my cat sleeping in litter box


Cats dream, just like us. Those dreams may be good dreams or bad dreams. Keep your cat happy, and you’ll be able to keep his or her sleep happy. Dreaming about their next meal is where we want our cats’ minds to be.

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