Cats spend about 20 hours a day sleeping. This is a normal behavior connected with the need to accumulate energy for chasing prey. The house cats are hardly involved in hunting. They sleep and have a good time deriving pleasure from the process. You can see cute positions they take while they are snoozing on soft pillows or in cozy boxes with clothes of their masters. They love to sleep and we love to watch them curled up looking happy to have a dream.
But sometimes, you can notice cats twitching in their sleep. You may ask: Why does my cat twitch in her sleep? The professionals say that such twitching occurs when a cat is having a dream. Not only people are able to dream, some animals including cats are able to see some amusing stories in their dreams. But why do cats twitch? Let’s find out the details in this article.
Stages of Sleep
First, it does make sense to consider all stages of sleeping to know when dreaming happens and why cat twitches. We should mention that twitching is not common. It happens from time to time and some cats may do without them – just like in humans. Of course, a little twitching is quite understandable and natural. But abnormal twitching is a reason for concerns.
Then, you should know that such a phenomenon demonstrates that your cat has a good sleep because twitching is a sign of dreaming, and dreaming is possible when a pet is at a phase of rapid eye movement sleep when a cat is relaxed, feeling safe and comfortable. In addition to the fact that cat spasms while sleeping you may find it purring, making bigger body movements like kneading the air with their paws, turning a head from side to side.\
Let’s consider the cat sleep cycle consisting of three different stages:
Light Sleep. At the moment a cat falls asleep, it is in this very first sleep stage. Being relaxed it is still reacting to the environment remaining very sensitive to any noises being aware of your actions. If you make some rustle, a cat will move its ears in response to that disturbance sounds while the body will stay unmoving and eyes are closed or even they can open one of them in alarm. By the way, a cat can sleep with one eye open if there is some problem like eye infection. This stage of sleep allows one to have a rest and regain some energy, but a cat’s defense mechanism is still on to be ready to respond to attacks of predators (in the wild). Though survival is not an actual subject for house cats, this type of sleep still exists. We’d say that a lot of times when we think a cat is sleeping during the day, it is snoozing.
Deep Sleep. This is a stage of a deep sleep. In this sleeping state a cat recovers, grows, gets physical renewal and mental strength. If a cat is not able to have deep sleep, it gets sick easier and more frequently. This time is very important for cats. That is why you should not try to wake your cat during it. You will recognize a deep sleep stage if you pay attention to your cat’s position – it will be stretching or curling – in both cases a cat demonstrates its complete relaxation. Also they may cover a face with a paw or hide it in any other way to show that it does not want to be disturbed with noises or light. If a pet is not sure of its safety, it will not enter this stage. Thus if you want to have a healthy pet, you should arrange a secure and comfortable sleeping environment with a designated pace for a cat it agree with. Its bed should be soft, padded. Cats like boxes, so if a bed is equipped with high sides, it will be nice. Think of temperature. Cats like warmth.
REM Sleep. At the deepest stage of sleep, the cat’s eyes are closed and move back and forth behind the lids. The pet has higher breathing and heart rates. Here it can snore and see dreams. The humans also have dreams at the same stage of sleep. This stage usually starts about 90 minutes after a cat falls in a deep sleep and lasts about 15 minutes. Then a cat returns to the second stage. The cycle repeats all the time until a cat wakes up. Do try not to disturb your pet at this moment as far as this rest is vital for its health. And still, is it normal for cats to twitch in their sleep at this stage?
Why do cats only twitch during REM sleep?
But why does it not occur at the first two stages of the cycle? This peculiarity is connected with brain activity which increases during REM phase. During these 15 minutes, neurons form new neural connections. This brain activity may make cats twitching in sleep. In light and deep sleep, the brain is involved less, being relaxed, while the body is actively renewing its energy supplies. The increased brain activity explains increased the heart and breathing rates which are controlled directly by the brain. And if the brain is very active, a cat can imagine various situations in its dream. In such a way they train their cognitive capacities, making the connections between neurons in their brain stronger. When awake a cat will know how to behave or communicate in the learned situations because the brain shows the “sample”. So, when a cat is twitching, it is trying to remember the information it gets during the day!
The experts say that older cats spend less time in REM sleep. Thus young pets will twitch more often than their mother. It is clear – a kitten twitching in sleep has more information to study the world around that is why it needs to spend more time at this sleeping stage.
Well, summarizing the above, we should say that cat twitching while sleeping develops its mental abilities, does subconscious work at the new information and transforms its experience in behavior patterns. This is the time when the brain is active to the greatest possible extent. At the same time the body of a cat is completely relaxed regaining its power. You may observe rapid breathing, increased heart rate, eye movements behind the lids, and those uncontrolled muscle spasms which are not a seizure caused by an abnormal brain condition. These are normal and peaceful healthy twitching without tension in the body. Though of course, you should watch and be aware of unusual reactions. Still, harmful seizures are very rare in sleep. This condition is typical to a pet in a wakeful state. We hope we have answered to your question: Why does my cat twitch in her sleep?