Cats are known for their independence and lovable charm – and as any owner will tell you, cats make fascinating pets. Big or small, compassionate or conservative, they are known to have their quirks about them too; from having a favorite person, to loudly vocalizing their annoyance, to bringing home dead animals as gifts for you – charming, indeed!
Some make sense, others are downright odd, but one of the most puzzling questions of all, is why do cats twitch in their sleep?
Why Do Cats Twitch In Their Sleep?
To understand more about this matter, we have to first look at cats sleeping habits.
Cats like to sleep, a lot. A typically feline friend will sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, with the average being 15 hours – that’s more than half of their lives in the land of nod!
This is no surprise since by nature, cats are ‘crepuscular’; this means that they come to life during darker hours of dawn and dusk, owing to their predatory ancestry. This is often broken up with various ‘cat naps’ during the day.
Cat Twitching During Sleep
If you’ve seen your cat jolting in their sleep, don’t be alarmed. It’s common for cats to experience twitching during their sleeping hours. This has been observed by experts, including the American Animal Hospital Association.
It’s believed that these nocturnal twitches are similar to what human’s experience during rapid eye movement (REM) – the time when we dream. This is important for regulating our mood as well as memory.
The National Sleep Foundation found that humans and all other mammals (including cats) display the same “level of brain activity and increased heart rate variability during REM sleep.”
Common traits associated with this deeper state of sleep include eye movement, paralysis and twitching in certain species.
Although there is no proof that animals dream, many believe that the above signs are all indicators that they do. One consideration is that during sleep cats undergo ‘sleep paralysis’ which stops them from moving around during sleep – this could be a preventative measure during dreaming perhaps. It might however just be a natural tendency for muscles to twitch, in response to brain signals during paralysis.
Three Different Types of Cat Sleeping
We know that sleep is valuable. It plays a part in our physical and mental well-being, is part of the repairing process, aids our memory and can influence our mood. Although we don’t know why sleep is important to animals, it is understood that it may be for the same reasons.
According to experts, there are three different stages of sleep that cats go through. They are:
- Dozing off into catnaps – in human terms, a power nap!
- A light sleep that lasts longer, which can develop into the third type.
- Deep sleep.
In cats, deep sleep lasts between five and 10 minutes. This is also when they are most likely to twitch, hence many believe it’s related to dreaming.
How to Improve Cat Sleeping Habits
Whether your cat’s nocturnal behavior is keeping you up, or you’re concerned about their sleeping habits, it’s important for your cat to rest well.
There are some actions that can be taken to help encourage this.
Ensure your cat is stimulated and active during the waking day. This means regularly playing with your kitty, introducing games that encourage them to run around and use their brains. You will see them eventually tire, which is a good thing!
Consider the time of day you’re feeding your cat. Cats have a tendency to fall asleep after a big meal, so you may want to time this later in the day. You can use a timed feeder to help, if you think that night feeds would be beneficial.
Give consideration to the environment they sleep in. Sure, cats have a mind of their own, you can find them snuggled up in the bookcase, or toasting down by the fireplace! However, if you can make their bed as welcoming and comfortable as possible, they will be more likely to stay there.
Research has found that as many as half of American cat owners sleep with their pet. This is very much a personal choice, with pros and cons. On the upside, it may offer your cat comfort and security, which may or may not affect their twitching. On the downside, they may interrupt your sleep, and may bring unwanted guests like ticks, or worse.
When to see a veterinarian?
Although sleep twitching is perfectly normal in cats, you may want to speak to your veterinarian if you notice any unusual or new behaviors. For instance, if they stiffen up during twitching, or appear to have seizures at any other time outside of sleep. If this is seen in conjunction with fatigue, vomiting or loss of appetite speak to a medical professional right away.
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