Do Animals Dream?

You may have wondered if you pet can dream like you do.  Is there any way to find out?

There may be.  When we dream, we’re in Rapid Eye Movement  (REM) sleep, when your eyes move rapidly and there’s lots of electrical activity in the brain. (By the way, REM sleep was  discovered in 1953.)  Studies have shown that many animals, from dogs and cats to even reptiles, seem to go into this stage of REM sleep.  Their brain activity patterns during this stage are similar to ours.  So if this is the way we dream, they might be dreaming too.

Other animal studies have shown that cats who were moved during REM sleep ran around, swatted their paws and bit at imaginary objects, further evidence of dreaming.  In a video at http://earthsky.org/earth/animal-dreams? (the source for this article), a mother cat appears to be comforting her kitten after a nightmare.

There are other studies with supporting data.

— A 2001 study in the journal Neuron compared the brain patterns of rats running through a maze with their brain patterns during REM sleep.  The patterns were very similar, the conclusion being the rats were dreaming about running through the maze.

— A 2015 study in the journal eLife showed that when lab rats are shown food and then go to sleep, certain cells in their brains seemed to map out how to get to the food.

So it seems that animals do dream, but – in the context of our current science – we still can’t say for certain.

A video from National Geographic shows some funny ways animals sleep.

The photo came from  http://earthsky.org/earth/animal-dreams? .

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