What Does It Mean When a Cat Twitches in Its Sleep?

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Your cat looks so sweet curled up in his cozy bed. You can't help but laugh when you see his little paws and whiskers start to twitch. A cat twitching in sleep likely indicates he's having an exciting dream, perhaps about chasing a mouse or his favorite catnip toy. Dreaming is not isolated to humans, and a kitten twitching is having sweet dreams, too.

Cats will often twitch during REM sleep.
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Cat naps versus deep sleep

Cats spend an extraordinary amount of time snoozing. Your cat can clock up to 16 hours of sleep per day. This means your cat is asleep for more than half of his entire life. It's common for cats to nap, but only fall into a light sleep. As soon as you scratch kitty's ears or he hears the can opener going, he can jolt wide awake.

When not napping, cats are usually in a state of deep sleep. Deep sleep is important to cats because during this critical sleep stage the body is rebuilding and repairing itself. Providing cats with cozy spaces is important so they feel safe enough to fall into a deep sleep. This sleep stage, however, is different from the more intense REM sleep cycle.

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Cat REM sleep

Cats do experience REM sleep similar to people
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Like people, cats can fall into a much deeper sleep called REM, or rapid eye movement. You're likely familiar with REM sleep in humans — it's the time when you dream vividly. During REM, brain activity increases and your eyes dart around in all directions beneath closed lids. This type of sleep is found in most mammals and birds, and isn't unique to humans. Dogs, cats, and rats all dream.

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You'll go into REM sleep about every 90 minutes, but your cat dreams more than you. A cat will enter REM sleep about every 25 minutes. Since your cat snoozes so much of the day away, he's doing a lot of dreaming. It's during this deep REM slumber that you'll see kitty moving his paws or twitching his whiskers as if he's chasing some phantom prey.

Cat twitching in sleep

During REM sleep, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed, called muscle atonia. This is to keep you from acting our your dreams in your sleep. But anyone who has ever sleepwalked or talked in their sleep knows this isn't perfect. Sometimes you can lose some muscle atonia during sleep, allowing for movement. It's likely the same thing is happening to your cat. When his feet twitch or his tail quivers, it's because his body is acting out his dream.

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Kitten twitching concerns

Cat twitching can be cause for concern.
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It's perfectly normal if your cat gets a little twitchy when he's having a good nap. Sometimes a kitten twitching isn't because he's dreaming of hunting down a prized trophy. Sometimes twitching is a sign that your cat is having a small seizure. If his entire body goes completely stiff or he's acting sick and throwing up, it's time to visit the vet. Fortunately, seizures during sleep are rare.

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If the twitching is small and only occurs while your cat is sleeping, it's likely he's just having a thrilling dream. However, it's possible for cats to have nightmares too, particularly if they've been through stressful events. It can be tempting to wake an extremely twitching cat, but be careful. Arousing them instantly from deep sleep might result in a startled scratch.

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