The idea of our pets dreaming is one that’s still full of mystery and one that’s also a bit intriguing. There isn’t one pet owner who hasn’t wished they could read the thoughts of their dog or cat and what’s really going on in there. That’s especially true when we notice our pet dogs and cats twitching while asleep. Are they really having a dream, or is something else going on?
Science has told us that animals do dream, and in the same capacity as we do. What happens, though, when dogs and cats start having nightmares? Debates still linger over whether we should wake them up, or just let them wake themselves up. And you also have the challenges of figuring out what’s causing a dog or cat nightmare in the first place.
Waking Your Dog from a Nightmare
General consensus seems to say that if your dog is crying out and twitching violently in their sleep, you possibly don’t want to startle them awake. The reason is because they might bite you out of confusion of just coming out of a dream state. Many stories can be found online of dogs having nightmares and dog-owners perplexed at how to handle the situation. While there may be some recommendations to gently awaken your dog if they aren’t acting overly violent in nightmare mode, the thought is that if they thrash around enough, they’ll wake themselves up. Others say just using your voice to wake them can be a physical safeguard.
Some dog owners, though, are concerned that people might think they’re abusing their dogs in the night. Dogs with nightmares can sometimes wail loudly for long periods of time, and nearby neighbors in an apartment may get the wrong idea.
But some new medications are available designed especially for dogs that could help solve the nightmare problem.
A number of natural anti-anxiety supplements are available for dogs, with one called “Composure” making the most news. Pets Adviser recommends Composure as a way to keep your dog’s anxiety down if they have nightmares at night. They come in bite-sized chews and are flavored in chicken liver so dogs will find them easy to consume.
Cats and Nightmares
Cats are also known to have nightmares, and you may have noticed it yourself through the twitching of their whiskers or limbs as they sleep near you. If cats sleep with you, it’s simple enough to wake them if they’re having a nightmare. It seems you don’t hear stories of them getting quite as violent in nightmare mode as dogs do, though keep in mind that startling them awake might make them agitated. From my own experience seeing cats dreaming, waking them simply puts them in confusion mode rather than biting or clawing at you.
It’s said, however, that the twitching and movement you see in your cat while they dream is the result of their brain muscles diminishing in controlling body movements during sleep. That same brain mechanism is in all of us so we don’t act out our dreams. Cats, as they age, start losing this function and will probably wake themselves up from the twitching.
The question, though, is what makes dogs and cats have nightmares in the first place? Can they still have them even if they have a happy and contented life?
The Social Connections to Nightmares
If your dog or cat enjoys being around people and other animals, then they’ll likely dream positively and negatively about those people and animals. Tests have shown how they have similar brain waves to people while in dream state, even if we can’t ultimately see what they’re dreaming. Perhaps someday we will since we’re getting closer to seeing dream imagery in human beings. Whether dogs and cats have nightmares of being chased or if they imagine themselves in far wilder situations could help us determine how connected we really are to them in sharing some sense of imagination.