Monday, February 2, 2009


Do cats dream? It certainly looks like it. Their whiskers twitch, paws flex, sometimes they make chattering sounds. Are those really the outward signs of dreaming? This is something that fascinated me so I did some reading on the subject. I don't always agree with the conclusions of 'experts' in animal behavior but in this case their findings seem logical to me.

Scientists say cats and dogs do dream. They have studied sleeping animals and find they experience the same REM stage of brain activity that people do. While people dream about every 90 minutes, cats dream more often about every 25 minutes.

What are they dreaming? That is a question scientists can't answer with complete certainty. They know (or think they know) that cats and dogs don't have the ability to imagine or fantasize. They do have remarkable memories of past events. Based on that, scientists speculate the dreams are a series of 'pictures' from the animal's past. Possibly something that has made a lasting impression like chasing and pouncing on prey.

Next time I watch my sleeping cats waiving paws and twitching whiskers I will wonder about what past events they may be reliving in their dreams.

Tolkien must have been a cat lover (so many poets and artists are). I was surprised to find he had written a poem about dreaming cats;)


a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien

The fat cat on the mat

may seem to dream

of nice mice that suffice

for him, or cream;

But he free, maybe,

walks in thought

unbowed, proud,

where loud

roared and fought

his kin, lean and slim,

or deep in den

In the East

feasted on beasts

and tender men.

The giant lion with iron claw in paw,

and huge ruthless tooth

in gory jaw;

the pard dark-starred,

fleet upon feet,

that oft soft from aloft

leaps upon his meat

where woods loom in gloom--

far now they be,

fierce and free,

and tamed is he;

but fat cat on the mat

kept as a pet

he does not forget.


Dog_geek said...

I definitely believe that my cats and dogs dream. The dogs seem more obvious to me - sometimes they even talk in their sleep. Occassionally Z seems to be having a nightmare, (or maybe it just seem that way) and I will make a little noise to wake him up.

TC said...

I've seen our cats twitching and twittering eyes, tails and paws while sleeping. And I've seen many a dog appear to be running in its sleep.

Dog or cat
this or that
dream or no
resting on a mat?

tina said...

What cool pictures! I like to think my critters dream. They sure make a lot of noise and maybe they had bad past experiences, I hope not. But now they should be dreaming in technicolor of nothing but warm beds, full bellies and days romping in the garden. Like me.

Unknown said...

I so believe that cats and dogs dream. It's actually funny when they make sounds while dreaming, sort of like watching a baby when it first starts having dreams.

Randy said...

My momma always told me when puppys and dogs make those noises "They're chasin' rabbits." So that what I've always said. :-)--Randy

Rose said...

I always knew that dogs dream--their movements while sleeping are even more pronounced than cats'. But I'm not surprised that cats dream, too. Since our Toby doesn't catch any prey--though he sure watches the birds from the safety of our living room--I wonder what he might dream of. Perhaps as Tolkien suggests, it's of past lives and bigger conquests. Your last photo certainly makes your cat look like a predator:)

Gail said...

I know my cat remembers and dreams. He and his mother lived in the garden and I adopted the kitty and found a good home for her. She brought him chipmunks and let him eat first. He is almost 10 years old and one day last fall he burst through the sliding screen door screening and caught a surprised chipmunk! He remembered.

I love this post Marnie!


Anonymous said...

Hi Marnie, I love the poem and the last photo too. My dad always used to say that the cats dreamed of chasing mice, now it seems that might have been true!

beckie said...

I too am sure cats and dogs dream. The Boston we used to have would run in his sleep and make yipping noises-I know he was chasing rabbits. Fat Cat(that's what we call her!) dreams too, but the licking of lips and the pawing are memories of her eating her canned food I am sure. She is not a hunter in any shape or form. Yours looks like a lion stalking her prey.

Very interesting post. Thanks!

joey said...

Good question, Marnie ~ I don't have a clue but would like to think so. Love your photos ... fantastic!

Balisha said...

Hi Marnie,
I know our Laddie dreams. We always say he is chasing rabbits in his dreams.

F Cameron said...

I believe animals dream!

Our greyhound "woofs" in her sleep, her feet twitch, she wags her tail, too!

Now, if she just wouldn't snore so loudly! :-)


Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Is that a picture of Toby in the first frame? He looks as though he is daydreaming. My dogs and cats dream. Bo makes what I call wookie sounds as he twitches in his sleep. I hope they are good dreams he is having about his 10 brothers and sisters.

The Birdlady said...

Cool post and dreamy images...

BeadedTail said...

My dog most certainly dreams and even barks in her sleep. The cats dream too but not as often - at least not so that we notice. They twitch and move their mouths when they sleep but have never made sounds like the dog does. I just wish I could sleep as soundly as they do at the drop of a hat!

I love the pictures in this post!

BeadedTail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Cats can out think us. I need a good mouser and may go get a pound kitty.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all your other comments Marnie and say animals dream too. What else can all those movements, noises, etc., mean while they're sleeping? Whether it's true or not, I like to think their dreams are in technicolor ~ they seem vivid enough (by their actions) to warrant that. Interesting to think about, thanks for making us do that today!

A Wild Thing said...

I love the images and do miss having a cat. I'm sure my neighbors cats dream of how to drive Scratchy crazy...if they only knew what she dreamed of...ha..lunch!

Did you get that quicky snowfall last night? ARGH!!!

sweetbay said...

It's well known that cats dream. I remember reading about an experiment in which a part of the brain that causes paralysis during sleep was destroyed; the sleeping/ dreaming cats washed themselves, mimicked eating/ drinking, played, and chased prey.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi DogGeek, I wake them up too if they seem to be having a bad dream;)

TC, my dog looks like she's running too.

Hi Tina, do you suppose they're chasing dream butterflies?


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Darla, my cats make chirpy sounds;)

Randy, your Mom was probably right.

Hi Rose, I think that's an interesting thought. Hereditary dreams.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Gail, they are amazing. They are born knowing how to hunt.

Hi Frances, just think how much time and money it took researchers to come to the conclusion everybody else already knew;)

Beckie, those would be good dreams;)


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Joey, I really would like to believe so too.

Hi Balisha, chasing rabbits would be fun dreams for a dog.

Cameron, I had a cat that snored;) Not usually very loudly.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi MorningGlories, I hope they're good dreams too. I hate to think they have nightmares.

BeadedTail, I envy the way animals go to sleep so easily. No worries.

FlowerGardenGirl, most cats are great mousers and they also control gophers, moles, chipmunks, etc.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Kathleen, I'm glad you found it interesting.

Hey Sharon, nope, weathermen were wrong, no snow. And at the end of the week WARM!

Hi SweetBay, I had read that too, way back in the 70's I think. I didn't mention it because I'm not a fan of surgical research on caged animals. Any research for that matter.


troutbirder said...

Oh my. This topic blows my mind. Unfortunately (maybe) I lack the imagination to dream I guess. Now I know my dog is much smarter than me cause he seems to dream a lot. Oh my.

Unknown said...

I am quite sure our cats dream--and one of them, my lapcat SpunkyBoomerang, also sees things that aren't there, sitting up and getting alll boogly-eyed at things none of the rest of the catchildren or I can see.

marmee said...

oh yes i do believe that dogs and cats dream. it's funny to watch them sometimes wondering what they are seeing in those dreams.
great images.

Anonymous said...

Oh I think my cats dream. Maybe not the same way that we do, but something is going on in there. Wonderful post Marnie..

walk2write said...

Our cats dream, but why is it only in the daytime lately for the younger one? She keeps waking me up earlier every day, the little rascal. Thanks for the Tolkien poem. Wonder why he didn't write more? He had a talent for it.

bg_garden said...

YES... I do believe that cats dream. This is a wonderful entry as always.
Thank you for sharing your love of cats - warm wishes from my garden in the Midwest.

Nan and =^..^= said...

Hi Marnie,
I also believe that our cats are dreaming when the twitch etc. in their sleep and always thought it's best not to disturb them during those moments. It was interesting to learn more about it from your post!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Troutbirder, is there a link between intelligence and dreaming? I probably dream but never remember them.

Hi Jodi, I've seen my cats wake up and growl or hiss at things that aren't there. Kind of spooky.

Marmee, I watch and try to discover what they are dreaming about.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi RamblingWoods, I wish we could know for sure what's going on in their minds. Not just in sleep but all the time.

Hi Walk2Write, I agree. I didn't know her wrote poetry. I was glad I found that.

Hi Bren, so many of us are cat lovers and dogs too. I know you have both.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Nan, I always wake mine up if they seem to be having a bad dream. Sometimes they growl which makes me think they are fighting in their dreams.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...interesting thought! Love the first picture, very mysterious.

Jan said...

Hi Marnie,
I love Tolkien's poem, it goes very well with your post. I do believe they both dream. And I think mine (cat AND dog) must be dreaming for most of the day!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure my cats dream. And not only does my sweet Sammy talk in his sleep...sometimes he growls. I bet he's remembering an unpleasant encounter with Sugar Bear. :-)

oldcrow61 said...

I have no doubt that they dream. Love the pictures.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I think animals are a lot smarter and more sophisticated than scientists know. I mean, how in the world can they know what cats dream? It is certainly cool to watch a cat sleep, though. It's funny because Fiona kind of sleeps "with one eye open," as most cats I've known, but James has always been a "hard" sleeper who is totally unaware of his surroundings.

LISAP said...

How'd you make that cool cartoon like picture of your cat?