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Twitching In Sleep: Seizures or Dreaming?

May 5, 2012

The other day, Lauren reached out with a concern: Her 10-month-old CH kitten twitches intensely while sleeping. Naturally, as a first-time CH cat mom, she was concerned:

Photo courtesy marcinbunsch

“Does anyone else notice their CH kitty twitching a lot while they sleep? I just got a 10-month-old CH boy from a local shelter and when I’ve cuddled with him and he’s fallen asleep, I’ve noticed him twitching intensely. In a “normal” cat I would just shrug it off as dreaming, but I just wanted to make sure that that was all it was. He’s my first CH baby and I’ve only had him for a few weeks so I’m still in paranoid mommy mode. Can someone help calm my nerves and let me know if this is normal?” — Lauren

While I can’t make diagnoses, odds are your kitty is most likely dreaming.

Cats, like humans, dream. Our dreams are based on our experiences and imagination, and to some point so are cats’ dreams.

When they sleep, they can recall past experiences and instincts may come alive. Some believe cats have a limited degree of an imagination, too.

However, these dreams only really occur when the animal experiences REM sleep. The amount of REM sleep an animal experiences is often correlated to the safety of his environment. (So it says a good deal about how safe he feels around you if he can reach REM sleep while in your arms!)

From what I’ve read, not all animals can REM sleep, and not all animals who can REM sleep dream. Experts believe that more advanced animals like chimpanzees, horses, cats and dogs dream; however, dolphins, which are believed to be highly intelligent, do not.

REM sleep usually occurs 15 minutes after the cat falls asleep. Like humans, you can notice it happening when you see movement under the eyelids, breathing changes, twitching ears or whiskers, and facial spasms. Some animals, like dogs, are even to run in their sleep. Others like the platypus imitate the process of killing prey before eating it.

Photo courtesy misko13

The next time your cat falls asleep and begins these motions, watch carefully and try to figure out what he’s dreaming about. Some say that when a sleeping cat makes paw and mouth movements he’s remembering or imagining a hunting adventure. Like us, some dreams may be pleasant, while others may be exciting or scary.

Thankfully, during sleep, our brain releases “inhibiting substances” that stop us from actually living out the dream in its entirety. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop us from tossing, turning and talking in our sleep — just like our kitties.

While I have no proof of this, I wonder if some CH cats may have more vibrant dreams because their brains are different. Now CH only impacts the cerebellum, but I wonder if any other part of the brain was also a bit underdeveloped, that may impact how greatly the brain inhibits an animal’s actions while sleeping.

Some CH cats do have seizures, so your concern is not without cause. I’ve done some research (other CH cat parents who have experience with this, please chime in!), and it sounds like when a CH cat has a seizure while sleeping, it’s very noticeable. Some even start running around; the seizures usually end after 30-45 seconds. (Read this if you think your cat has had a seizure.)

Now, if you’re experiencing that or see random eye movement, changed breathing patterns and twitching (not including head tremors) while your kitten is also awake, you may want to document what’s going on and take him to the vet.

However, if your kitten isn’t going through those motions, odds are he just may be having an exciting dream.

Does your CH cat twitch or show other dreaming characteristics while they sleep? Please share in the comments!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    December 13, 2012 10:48 am

    We have recently adopted a 3yr old CH kitty – christened her Tipsy. She is not generally too severly affected but does have the same extremely twitchy dreams as Lauren’s cat, far more movement than in any normal cat I’ve ever seen dreaming. Her legs move as if she is running and sometimes her whole body seems to jump off the couch/my lap/bed. I find the best thing is not to wake her up but to just stroke her gently on the top of the head and maybe cuddle her a little – seems to calm her down. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JBX13TOOrg for a mother cat calming her dreaming kitten.
    Hope this helps.

  2. natsera permalink
    February 5, 2013 5:03 pm

    Dimity can twitch violently during sleep, but never gets up or runs. Seems like the twitching is just a more active version of regular cats’ dreaming. At least I hope that’s all it is! :-)

    • February 6, 2013 7:58 am

      I think you’re right! Plus sometimes it’s super cute and fun to think about what must be getting them so excited! Hope to hear more about Dimity soon! :)

  3. Cheree permalink
    May 26, 2013 5:24 pm

    Ash will even talk or chatter to stuff in his dreams, sometimes he will even make like he is eating while he is twitching, it is so cute!

  4. Avalon permalink
    July 15, 2013 11:33 pm

    I am terrified about my kitten right now, because she had terrible fleas and we had no lemon juice or anything but adult cat flea and tick shampoo.
    She has been sleeping a lot since the bath and twitching in her sleep and I hope it isn’t cause of toxicity of the ingredients in the shampo, we just got her and have yet to take her to the vet so we don’t know how old she is yet now I feel like a bad mommy for doing that flea bath! Has anyone had any experience with this?!

  5. May 26, 2014 11:25 pm

    Hi , I am new here my friend posted a video of a CH Kitty and I saw him and straight away knew my beautiful Puscca has CH. He came to live with me randomly and has been a blessing ever since. Puscca has always walked very jerkely and fallen over when he scratches himself which I could live with but what worried me was that he has very violent and extreme dreaming episodes where he sometimes flies through the air and lands on whatever is nearby. (Yes flies through the air !!) He never seems to get hurt and usually jumps straight back up into his bed. I always knew that with REM sleep your body shuts off somewhat which is how I reasoned he wasn’t getting hurt. Because of these (fits) Puscca has set sleeping spaces which we try to enforce for his safety plus he rips holes in fabrics during very extreme episodes. I just wanted to thankyou so much for this information I have searched for years for a reason for all of his symptoms (my vet put him on 6 weeks of toxoplasmosis drugs when we first found him). I know that there is no cure but just being able to understand that Puscca isn’t going to get worse and he can live a normal (yet modified) life has been a great relief to me and my family!
    I wouldn’t swap Puscca for anything !!

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