Every dog and cat owner knows with complete certainty that their pets dream. We’ve all seen our pets bark, wag their tails, move their legs like they’re running, meow, and even growl. But what the heck are they dreaming about?
Researchers at MIT and other institutions have done many studies on dog and cat dreams. Pets have a similar sleep cycle to humans; deep sleep and periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s in the REM stage that people and pets dream. So, if you see their eyes moving behind their eyelids, they are probably dreaming.
Small dogs appear to dream more often than big dogs, often with a new dream every 10 minutes! Puppies and senior dogs dream more often than middle-aged dogs. Dog and cat dreams often only last a few minutes.
What are they dreaming about? These studies have come up with some essential takeaways. For example, some dogs with very specific behaviors, like a Pointer, will point in their sleep. So you can reasonably assume that they are dreaming about finding a bird. It seems dogs, like humans, tend to dream about daily activities: barking at the mailman, walking with you, and chasing squirrels. We know of a dog that often digs in his sleep, which is his favorite daytime activity. A lot of dogs bark and snap and growl (only at burglars, hopefully!). Cats seem to dream more about hunting mice or chasing birds. Some cats do meow and purr, maybe they are dreaming about us!
Do pets have nightmares? Most dog owners know the answer to that question, it’s yes. And often it’s hard to watch your pet crying or twitching so if your pet has a bad dream, should you wake them up? Keep the old saying in mind, “let sleeping dogs lie.” Waking up your pet in the middle of a dream can be startling, and just like people, dogs can be disoriented when woken up and could snap (bad dreams are scary after all). Waking them will interfere with their REM sleep patterns, which are essential to feeling rested after a nap.
So, let your dog or cat enjoy their sleep adventure and enjoy the show.