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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!

26 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 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! πŸ™‚

    • 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! πŸ™‚

  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 !!

    • September 28, 2019 7:39 pm

      Yes! The first video. I had to teach my CH Iris to stop sleeping up high because she’d wake up on the floor with no idea how she got there. She has such violent and spastic dreams.

  6. James permalink
    October 27, 2014 9:13 am

    I’m not sure if my cat is a CH one,cuz he acts normal as other normal cats when he’s awake,but he does twitch a lot when he sleeps.

    • doktorjones permalink
      July 28, 2017 9:58 am

      One of the signature traits of CH is a cat that wobbles when they walk or otherwise seems “tipsy” or off balance… if your cat walks normally then he’s probably just a vivid dreamer πŸ™‚

  7. Sue permalink
    February 7, 2015 10:08 am

    I have a 3 1/3 tear old male tabby that dreams. Since January 2014, he has bitten me 6 times during his dreams. Is this normal? Is it his instincts coming alive through his dreams? He and 3 of his siblings were born in early September and was the 2nd litter that year for their mother. Once they were mobile and had their eyes open, she abandoned the 4 kittens. We brought the 4 in to the house and managed to save 2 of them – this tabby and his sister. We are the only parents they know and they have been house cats since.We were afraid the other outside cats wouldn’t accept them so kept them in the house.

  8. Mia permalink
    April 10, 2015 7:31 pm

    We got a kitten for my birthday in February and he’s only 4 months. After a few minutes of petting him to sleep, he wakes up and starts spasming out but then I just pet him till he calms down. He is also kind of chubby so we aren’t sure if it’s just kitty fat or worms..

  9. angela permalink
    June 25, 2016 2:53 am

    I’ve had an older tabby cat for a little over 6 months now. when he falls asleep next to me, he’s fine. peaceful and quiet. Then about half an hour or an hour later, he starts jerking his whole body. Sometimes, just his back legs. I’ve tried saying his name during these episodes, but he doesn’t answer. So i pet him softly and he wakes up. I think he’s a little startled, but calmed down quickly and falls right back to sleep. i’m just worried because with him being older, I don’t want anything bad happening to him. He’s fine when he’s awake btw. I only notice this behavior when he’s sleeping in bed with me.

  10. Emma permalink
    July 4, 2016 5:06 pm

    Kona does the same thing when she sleeps. Sometimes she bunny kicks me right in the face. If I wake her up she stops kicking.

  11. Lola permalink
    November 21, 2016 8:05 am

    Hi Amanda,

    I’ve been trying to research how long it takes for a cat to reach REM sleep and I read in this article that that you’ve said it it usually reach at 15minutes into sleep.

    I know this article was made a while back, but if you could please reply to this comment with the link for where you found that fact, I’d be very grateful! as I’d like to use this face for a university assignment πŸ™‚

    Thank you!

  12. Taylor Pauline Kelly permalink
    December 19, 2016 1:34 pm

    Tarras is currently in what seems like REM/Deep sleep. He’s out like a light.
    I’ve noticed him ”snoring”, ”moaning”, and plenty of paw, ear, facial, and tail twitching. Doesn’t seem like anything dangerous or hurtful for him. He must be having some exciting dreams inside his tiny head, causing him to do such things.
    He only seems to reach this level of sleep, while he naps beside me while I game away on my PC, or other console.
    Who knows, maybe the sound of me typing calms him. Lol
    Once he wakes up, there’s quite a lot of stretching, and head bumps coming my way!

  13. Louise permalink
    March 10, 2017 1:15 am

    My kitten is CHEWING in her sleep what does this mean?

  14. Noelle permalink
    May 9, 2017 7:37 am

    My kitty isnt a CH kitty, but it twitches and rolls its eyes everytime she sleeps with me….sometimes i get awakened by claws in my…..its sometimes creepy when her eyes are open and all you see is white…like shes possessed…..funny how cats are…and she stretches just like i do when i move or get up….

  15. Claire permalink
    November 16, 2017 4:11 pm

    My Ziggy is a very active dreamer! He even growls and his little tail puffs up like he is getting ready to show someone a thing or two. His legs move quite a bit too and he has kicked the tar out of me many times. Petting does seem to help calm him when this happens.

  16. Kim permalink
    February 7, 2019 9:08 pm

    My CH boy is 18 months old and he usually starts twitching when he falls into a deep sleep when he lays on my chest. I usually pat his back and he stops. Tonight he was sound asleep and his paw and back foot were twitching and he was making a funny noise with his mouth. I put my hand gently on him and he stopped. But when he woke up and after he gave himself a bath there was a big wet spot that was under him. I cannot be positive if it was urine or not. Should I be concerned?

    • Claire Crochet permalink
      March 3, 2019 5:11 am

      Ziggy sometimes tinkles a little when he is having a very intense dream. He has even scratched me, torn holes in my sheets and come close to launching himself! It does not seem to indicate that anything is wrong as he is fine when he wakes up and it is not uncommon for normal cats to urinate or even defecate when they are upset/fighting. I have started putting a small washable waterproof bed pad down where he sleeps on the bed next to me as added protection. You can get small ones on Amazon fairly cheaply

  17. dalton permalink
    June 7, 2019 8:47 pm

    thanks i found my cat under a van after it fell out my window and i woke it up after it started doing this … i was worried cuz it also started biting me for no reason

  18. Gina Teague permalink
    November 12, 2019 9:36 pm

    My CH kitty twitches, runs, licks his lips & sometimes hisses in his sleep. I can only imagine what he is dreaming of…🀣…he does have issues with biting (while awake) that we have had to address & correct- not to mention having to bathe him often because he can’t use a litterbox normally…but he is a joy & ADORED by us.

  19. Jennifer permalink
    November 19, 2019 4:16 pm

    Hi – I have a question for those here that have twitchy cats. When they are dreaming and twitch during the dreams, do all of the movements seem ‘voluntary’, as if they are moving of their own volition, or do any of your cats have what seem like involuntary muscle twitches in the upper or lower back, like misfiring muscles? My cat has disc disease, and since a slipped disc she has been having involuntary muscle twitching when dreaming. It’s terrible to watch. THanks for any answers!

    • November 20, 2019 8:16 pm

      My Iris has violent sleep spasms at random and often wakes up confused after falling on the floor. Some are just the front legs, some are just back legs, most are full body spasm. I keep working with her to get her to sleep in safer spots, but you know cats, fiercely independent!

  20. Nini permalink
    August 31, 2021 8:08 am

    Yes my CH cat twitches a lotttt while sleeping. Sometimes i find it adorable sometimes it scares me but i think you shouldnt worry so much about it

  21. Chris S permalink
    December 13, 2021 5:02 pm

    I have a stunted cat who suffered from extreme frostbite when he was younger. I work at a vet office so we took him in. He can’t exactly walk properly but does his best to get around and lives a happy life.

    Point of story, he absolutely thrashes in his sleep. Not twitching or small movements, he kicks and spams and will (and has) rocketed right off the couch and hit the floor hard.

    It takes him time to snap out of this behavior, he is like a sleeping ferret, the entire body is limp. When he does come out of it, he is perfectly fine and starts purring.

    My doctors are stumped on this one. Anyone have a similar experience?

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