How can you tell if your sleeping cat is in rapid eye movement (REM) stage?

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Cats enter REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep more often than humans. We fall into this stage of sleep about once every 90 minutes. For cats, it’s once every 25 minutes. Since the average cat sleeps about 13 to 16 hours a day, you will have ample opportunity to observe the behavior.

Typically, you will notice the movement of the cat’s eyes accompanied by twitching whiskers and potentially soft mewling noises. It is not uncommon for a cat’s paws to jerk as well.

REM sleep is not the only stage of sleep in which cats, or for that matter humans, dream. Dreams begin almost immediately upon falling asleep, but in REM sleep, the material accessed in the memory can go back years.

Cats have demonstrated a capacity for memory on par with monkeys and chimpanzees. In human terms, that’s roughly the equivalent of a two-year-old child. Felines also exhibit object permanence, which means they continue to have an awareness of objects they cannot see.

Consequently, they definitely have enough material to dream all sorts of things, but no one knows exactly what they dream. The best guess is that they simply dream about the things they do leading the life of the average housecat. If they have more grandiose designs — and they may — they’re not telling us!

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