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Does Your Pet Dream?

Many pet owners know the joys of watching their dogs and cats take naps. Somehow, the site of a sleeping dog or cat, curled up in the sunshine or resting on a pillow or a special pet bed, your dog and cat looks infinitely peaceful. And, since pets love to sleep, pet owners often get a chance to indulge in the pleasure of watching the afternoon nap. One of the great treats, though, of watching your pet sleep, is seeing those rare moments that indicate that your pet is having a dream.

Most dog owners can share at least one or two stories of how their sleeping dog’s tail started to wag, or how their dogs little paws made running motions in their sleep. Some dog owners have even heard those little mini-barks that suggest that their dog is barking in their dream. Cat owners, too, have anecdotal stories of cats purring in their sleep, or making movements that suggest that their minds are not fully at rest as they sleep so comfortably.

Recently, studies have shown that this phenomenon is not the imagination of pet owners. Pets do in fact dream, and they exhibit the twitching and movement that is indicative of REM sleep.  There is every reason to believe, from this evidence as well as from the countless stories of pet owners, that our cat and dog companions have dreams every bit as vivid as our own.

While we will never know what types of dreams our furry companions have, we can only speculate. The tail wags and purring suggest, of course, that our dogs and cats have pleasant dreams of running and playing. Dogs may imagine that they are chasing bunnies or chewing a bone, while cats may be dreaming of leisurely afternoon naps, or even chasing a mouse for those more active hunting cats. This can be comforting to an owner of an older pet, whose dog or cat may not be as active as it once was, to know that their pet still enjoys play and has happy dreams of those times.

It is possible that cats and dogs, like humans, dream of other animal companions that have passed on.  Pet loss affects animals too. It is clear that animal’s do exhibit feelings of grief and loss when an animal or human is no longer in their life, so it is reasonable to believe that our pets may dream of their furry companions who are memorialized now in the pet urn on the mantle. There have even been cases of cats visiting and sitting near the pet grave markers of their companions buried in the backyard. This, too, can be a comforting thought for pet owners who fear that the animals in the home grieve for the loss of a pet.

Dogs and cats, like humans, may also have bad dreams too. Perhaps this phenomenon, in part, explains why young puppies cry when left to sleep alone after being taken from their litters. 

All of this is only speculation, of course, or although we know our animals dream, it is impossible to ever know what they are really dreaming about as they spend their days napping in the sunshine.