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Cat Naps and Doggy Dreams: How Our Sleeping Pets Catch Their Z's

Do our pets dream? Should we let our cats and dogs sleep in our beds? Join us as we discover the fascinating world of pet sleep.

A small dog and kitten asleep on a cozy bed with owner

As pet owners, we all know that our soulful sidekicks have some, let’s say, interesting sleeping habits, from odd positions to acting out their dreams. Let’s explore the fascinating world of pet sleep and answer some common questions you might have about your cat or dog next time they’re drifting off to dreamland.

How Much Sleep Do Pets Need?

Pets require an adequate amount of sleep to stay healthy and energized. Naturally, the amount of sleep varies across species. Dogs sleep between 10 to 12 hours each day, while cats can sleep up to 18 hours a day.

Various factors influence a pet's sleep duration, including age, breed, and size. Puppies and kittens require more sleep as their bodies grow and their brains develop. Larger breeds also tend to sleep more than smaller ones.

As you’d likely expect, a pet's activity level and health conditions can also affect their sleep needs.

Sleep Disorders in Pets

Just like humans, pets can experience sleep disorders. Common sleep disorders in pets include insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. If you notice your pet having difficulty falling asleep, excessive snoring, or sudden episodes of falling asleep during the day, check in with your veterinarian.

Diurnal Dogs and Crepuscular Cats

Pets are usually categorized as nocturnal or diurnal sleepers depending on their natural sleep patterns. Diurnal animals, including dogs, are active during the day and sleep at night. Cats are neither. They’re crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dusk and dawn.

Particularly for diurnal animals, making sure they get enough exercise and mental stimulation during the day can help them sleep more soundly at night.

If your pet's sleep pattern conflicts with yours, consider gradually adjusting their routine. This could involve gradually shifting their feeding and playtime schedules to encourage sleep when it suits your lifestyle.

Do Pets Dream?

Have you ever observed your pet twitching, making noises, sniffing the air, or even moving their paws while sleeping? These are signs that your cat or dog is dreaming. That’s right — studies suggest that animals, including our pets, experience dream states.

While we cannot fully understand the specifics of their dreams, it's fascinating to observe their dream-like behaviors. Sleep's REM (rapid eye movement) phase is typically associated with dreaming. During this phase, you may notice your pet's eyes moving rapidly beneath their closed eyelids.

It's adorable that our pets have their own dream-filled adventures during sleep, but you may be wondering...

What Do Pets Dream About?

Our pets’ memories, experiences, and emotions may affect their dreams. Pets likely dream about things they did earlier in their day, such as playing with their favorite toy or something exciting they sniffed out at the park. They may also dream about other animals or their human family members.

Cats are known to process their memories in an orderly, organized fashion. Cat dreams, unlike dog dreams, may be more random and disjointed.

Should I Wake My Pet From a Bad Dream?

It's natural to want to comfort your pet if they seem distressed during sleep. However, it's generally best to avoid waking them from a dream. Like humans, pets may experience nightmares or bad dreams occasionally. These dreams are a normal part of their sleep cycles and do not necessarily indicate a problem.

Waking your pet from a dream can startle them and cause unnecessary stress. Have you ever been in that in-between state where your alarm going off becomes part of your dream? Imagine your pet is dreaming about a negative encounter with another animal and, upon touching them in this state, they bite or scratch you.

That immediate period between asleep and awake is hazy for them like it is for us, so it's best to wait until they wake up naturally. If your pet seems particularly upset or disoriented upon waking, offer them comfort and reassurance. And if you must wake them, try gently repeating their name until they come to.

If you notice a pattern of bad dreams or your pet seems consistently distressed during sleep, it's a good idea to consult your vet. They can evaluate your pet's overall health and recommend any necessary interventions.

Where Do Pets Prefer to Sleep?

Understanding your pet's preferences can help you create a comfortable sleeping environment for them. Creating a designated sleep area that aligns with their instincts can promote a sense of safety and relaxation.

Dogs often prefer beds or soft surfaces that provide a sense of security. Cats, on the other hand, may enjoy elevated spaces like perches or cozy hiding spots. Many pets like sleeping on you.

Consider your pet's age and health when deciding on a sleeping arrangement. Senior pets may benefit from orthopedic beds to support their joints, while puppies or kittens may feel more secure in crates. It’s important to create a space where your pet feels comfortable and can retreat for quality rest.

Should Your Pet Sleep in Your Bed?

Many pet owners wonder whether allowing their companions to sleep in their beds is safe or beneficial. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some things to consider when deciding whether to share your bed with your pet.

Young woman and her little dachshund sleeping in bed

One factor to consider is allergies. If you or someone in your household is allergic to pet dander, allowing your pet to sleep in your bed could exacerbate allergy symptoms. If your pet has fleas or other pests, they could spread to your bedding, leading to an infestation.

While some pet owners find comfort in sleeping with their curious copilots, others may find that their pets' movements or noises disturb their sleep. If you're a light sleeper or have trouble falling asleep, keeping your pet out of bed may be best. You may even consider making a DIY dog bed!

If your pet is well-trained and doesn't exhibit destructive or disruptive behaviors, allowing them to sleep in your bed may not be an issue. However, if your pet is prone to accidents, chewing, or scratching, they may benefit from their own designated sleeping area.

Dream On, Furry Friends

Understanding your pet's sleep patterns is crucial for their health and well-being. From sleep routines to daily exercise, consider these factors to help your pet wake up refreshed and ready for a new day of adventures.

Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.

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