Do Pets Dream?- Dream A Little Dream Of Me5 min read
PETS DREAM ALL THE TIME
Without dreams humans would not be able to function in the real world. When we sleep our bodies rest but our minds are always working. We do not have an “on/off” button that controls our central nervous system. The brain tries to assemble and disassemble ideas, thoughts and other occurrences that have transpired in our lives. Sometimes that dream output is bizarre! Many dreams do not make any sense. There is one good thing about dreaming in humans and all mammals. Thanks to a part of our brain called the pons we can not act out our dreams. The pons immobilizes our musculature. If we dreamed that we jumped off of a balcony you can thank the pons for preventing us from doing the same in the real world.
All mammals dream. Pets dream! It has been shown that mice even dream. Researchers have studied electrical activity in the brain of these small rodents and found the same electrical patterns that people exhibit when in REM (Rapid Eye Movement). If a mouse can dream it a sure thing that dogs and cats can do so. When a dog is sound asleep you can observe the back and forth movement of the eyes under the eyelids. This is canine REM. This is the state when pets dream.
WHAT DO THEY DREAM ABOUT?
This is the million dollar question that will never exactly be answered. Much of what a dog or cat dreams about it total speculation. One gift that humans have is their ability to speak. Humans can talk about their dreams and even try to analyze their deepest thoughts. This is impossible in dogs and cats. We can extrapolate some of human dream activity to our furry friends. Pets dream about things that have occurred in their daily lives as well as actions that are part of being a particular breed of dog. A Labrador Retriever would dream of swimming out in a lake and finding that beautiful, white swan in the image above. Retrievers are water dogs. The only thing that stops a retriever from getting in the water is when it is frozen. You are never going to find a Chihuahua dreaming of swimming in a pond trying to catch a swan or other bird! A Coonhound is going to dream about treeing a 100 raccoons or big cats at the same time!
Animals are also capable of having nightmares. In humans the pons, responsible for our immobility and inaction while dreaming, is not as highly enforced in dogs. Dogs can cry out and yelp. Does this mean that they are having a nightmare? It may be but only conjecture. I probably would deduce correctly that a pet’s worst nightmare would be going to an animal hospital for any reason. Can we deduce that a yelping dog is fleeing some form of terror? Who knows. There have been dogs that have awaken from such activity and ran away to a different part of the pet’s home.
Pet dreams can be of the ordinary. They dream about daily events that have occurred over and over again. Dreaming of going for a car ride or on a walk with one of their owners has to be a pleasurable experience. A cat might possibly dream about catching that elusive mouse or bird fluttering in the back yard. Only if we could show a dreamscape like the surrealistic image above to a dog or cat. Do they have the ability to dream in vivid color even though they can only see shades of yellow and green in the real world? In humans this would be relatively easy to figure out. Some people dream in color others in black and white.
HOW DO PETS REACT IN A DREAM STATE?
Pets dream shortly after falling asleep. Your pet may fall asleep right next to you but in short order it is sound asleep and very close to rapid eye movement. That eye motion is easily detected if you take your time to observe your pet. The most obvious sign of a pet dreaming is a paddling or some sort of motion of the front and or hind limbs. This sort of takes on a bicycling appearance. Is the animal at the time dreaming of running in a field full of red roses? Who knows but I would love to know. A dog or cat tail may flutter back and forth suggesting dream activity of some sort.
It is a known fact that people get grouchy and can’t fully concentrate if deprived of REM sleep. This knowledge has been used to extract confessions from prisoners of war. Since pets dream like humans, the question begs- Should we disturb or startle dogs and cats while they are dreaming? The answer is no! How would you like to be startled while in a deep, dreamy sleep? Our companion animals are more similar to us then we could have ever imagined.