Twitching In Sleep: Seizures or Dreaming?
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:
“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.
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!