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Do Cats and Dogs Dream?


Ever notice your cat or dog twitching? You might hear muffled meows or barks. Well, just like us, they are dreaming.

“There is no reason to think that animals do not experience the same phenomena [as humans],” says Lisa Boyer, DVM, and owner of Veterinary Relief Solutions, Inc. in Roseville, CA. “The purpose of dreaming in people is suggested to be to maintain one’s sense of self. The animal model is not clear, especially since we can’t ask them.”

Ask most pet owners, however, and they will tell you that their pets do indeed dream. “I’m certain dogs dream,” says Anne Good, of Bennington, NE. “I have three—two Chihuahuas and an Italian Greyhound/Jack Russell mix—and each dreams on a regular basis. I know this because they are very audible when they are dreaming. Imagine the sounds from an early-'80s video game or cartoon aliens speaking; this is what it often sounds like. Other times it is muffled barking with their mouth shut.”

Pet Owners Report Similar Findings

“I know for a fact that dogs dream,” says Lisa Hanock-Jassie of New York City. “Our dog Hugo, a seven-year old 90-pound Belgian Shepherd, dreams quite often. The first time I witnessed him dreaming was when he was about six months old. While he’s dreaming his body quivers and his legs kick. And when he’s having a truly active dream, which I assume is along the lines of his meeting up with his four-legged pals at the dog run, he voices a muffled bark in his sleep, mouth closed. It’s hysterical.”

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Hali Chambers of Luray, VA, agrees. “My dog, Barkley, would twitch her paws like she was running and make a muffled ‘woof woof.’ I would whisper, ‘Catch the squirrel, Barkley! Catch the squirrel.’ Scientifically, we dream when we’re in REM sleep. If you watch dogs sleeping, you’ll see their eyes do the same thing.”

Studies Show Pets Dream

Scientific studies have shown that sleeping dogs and cats exhibit eye twitching, lip movements, and vocalizations, which are all parts of REM sleep. Pet owners know what scientists have proven—that dogs, cats, and other animals dream. “As an animal lover, animal rescuer, and volunteer at an animal shelter, I can say that without a doubt, dogs and cats dream,” says James Malone of Palm Springs, CA.

Watching his cats sleep, Malone says, “You see their paws twitching and moving, their breathing increases and even becomes erratic or very fast; their whiskers twitch and their faces move and contort like a wild kitty cat doing a Jim Carrey routine.”

“I believe that they have both good dreams and bad, and again, like us, what they dream of probably comes from subconscious thoughts and feelings, things they are going through, both good and bad.”

So yes, they definitely dream. But scientifically speaking, what they are dreaming about remains a mystery.

Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife for and several other sites. She also is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals. You can visit her blog Pet News and Views

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