Cats are cats while humans are humans. As a result, it is unwise to make too many assumptions about one based on the other. Still, cats can resemble humans in some surprising ways, with an excellent example being how cats seem to dream. There are some serious limits to cat-human communication. Thanks to that, researchers can’t just ask cats whether they dream or not in the same way that they can ask humans. Instead, interested parties needed to approach the issue through indirect means, which happens a lot in science. Still, researchers have carried out multiple experiments that suggest that cats can dream. In fact, the evidence suggests that the ability to dream is actually quite widespread. Something that might surprise those who assumed that dreaming was particular to humans.
At this point, it is important to note that there is both REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Both terms are very literal. After all, REM stands for rapid eye movement, which is what the eyes engage in during the first kind of sleep and what the eyes don’t engage in during the second kind of sleep. Under normal circumstances, people are paralyzed during REM sleep. However, this is good because people also tend to dream during REM sleep, meaning that this is what prevents us from acting out our dreams during the night. In the 1960s, scientists became more and more aware of people who would act out their dreams. Due to this, they realized that if they could induce a similar state in animals, they could use that to determine whether animals dreamed or not. The 1960s being the 1960s, a pair of French scientists cut out a part of the brainstem called the pons in cats, thus preventing the latter from becoming paralyzed during their REM sleep. As it turned out, their feline test subjects didn’t lie still. Instead, their feline test subjects proved to be very active, so much so that some of them even acted out what looked a lot like hunting scenes. In other words, those cats were going through their day’s experiences, which is very similar to how we might go through our day’s experiences when we dream.
Later experiments have been less cruel. However, they have revealed the same results. For instance, a pair of American scientists monitored the brain activity of rats both while they navigated a maze and while they were sleeping. The brain activity proved to be very similar. In fact, the brain activity was so similar that the researchers were able to gauge the rats’ location in their mental image of the maze by making comparisons with the data that had been collected during the daytime. Similarly, another pair of American scientists studied the brain activity of zebra finches, which showed that they practiced the notes of their song during their sleep in much the same manner that they practiced the notes of their song during the day-time. This suggests that dreaming isn’t limited to humans. Indeed, this suggests that dreaming isn’t even limited to mammals. Of course, these studies don’t actually confirm that these animals dream. They certainly suggest it. Unfortunately, our inability to communicate with these animals in the same way that we can communicate with other humans means that we can’t confirm our speculation, meaning that researchers are forced to make do with the best guesses based on the evidence that has been produced so far. Still, that evidence is pretty convincing to say the least.
What Do Cats Dream About?
Moving on, cat owners might be curious what cats dream about. If so, the evidence suggests that they dream about much the same things that we do. For example, the aforementioned studies suggest that they dream about their previous experiences. Some of them might have come from the day-time. However, some of them might have come from further back instead. Similarly, if cat owners wonder whether their cats ever dream about them or not, well, it seems reasonable to speculate that there is a decent chance of this happening at some point. After all, cat owners do interact a lot with their cats, meaning that it would be weirder if they didn’t feature in those experiences than if they did. As for whether cats have more fanciful dreams or not, that one remains unanswered for the time being. Still, there might come a time when our ever-improving understanding of the brain will enable that question to be answered for us as well. For the time being, it remains beyond our capabilities.
What Can You Do If Your Cat Isn’t Sleeping Well?
On a final note, cats need to sleep for the sake of their health just like how we need to sleep for the sake of our health. In fact, cats sleep more than we do. For comparison, adult cats will sleep for something like 50 to 70 percent of their day. Meanwhile, kittens and older cats might sleep as much as 80 percent of their day. If cats aren’t getting enough sleep, cat owners should definitely do something to help them out with this problem.
For example, it might be helpful to spend more time playing with the cat. Essentially, cats that get more physical stimulation and mental stimulation have an easier time falling asleep than those that don’t, which should be wholly unsurprising. Similarly, it might be helpful to get two cats so that they can keep each other company. There is an issue in that the two cats might wake up during the night to play with one another. However, cat owners might still consider that to be better than one cat seeking them out during the nighttime instead. Besides these, it might be useful to schedule one of the cat’s meals to just before their bedtime because they can get sleepy after eating in much the same way that we do. Having said this, it is possible that a cat is having sleeping problems because they have some kind of medical issue. If cat owners suspect this to be the case, they should bring their cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible. After all, veterinarians are the ones with the expertise, the experience, and the equipment needed to figure out what is going on before coming up with a suitable course of action.