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Cat Twitching During Sleep: Normal or Cause for Concern?

Understanding Cat Twitching in Their Sleep

Cats are fascinating companions, and watching them sleep is one of the joys of cat ownership. Sometimes, we notice our furry friends twitching during their slumber, which can be concerning for some pet owners.

Rest assured, this behavior is entirely normal for felines and is a sign that they are in a healthy, deep sleep. Characteristics of Cat Twitching:

Cat twitching is one of the hallmark signs of normal sleep in most domestic cats.

You will notice that while dozing off, your cat’s muscles will start to relax, and sometimes you will see little twitches in their legs, tail, or even face. If you watch your cat closely, you may notice their ears flicker, whiskers twitch, and perhaps their paws moving effortlessly as if they are walking.

This movement is known as “oneiric behavior,” and it suggests that your cat is indeed dreaming. However, we will dive deeper into this aspect later.

Why Cats Twitch in Their Sleep:

Cats twitch in their sleep because they cycle through different stages of sleep, just like humans. During the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, cats and other animals experience the most profound and most exciting dreams.

This is when we see the most significant amount of twitching in felines. You may notice that your cat is twitching more while sleeping on its side.

This position allows for a more restful slumber, which increases the likelihood of deeper REM cycles. Additionally, during the hypnic jerks stage of sleep, a cat may twitch due to the brain sending confusing signals to the body.

Hypnic jerks happen in both humans and animals when the brain jolts the body awake because it signals reflexive muscle movement. Can Cats Dream?

The question of whether cats dream has always been a point of interest for feline lovers, and research suggests they do, albeit differently than humans. Michel Jouvet’s Research on Cat Dreams:

Dr. Michel Jouvet, a French sleep expert, conducted ground-breaking experiments on cats and sleep in the early 1960s.

Through Jouvet’s research, we learned that cats, much like humans, exhibit similar brainwave activity when they sleep as when they are awake. Jouvet discovered that cats experience REM sleep, which suggested that they may indeed dream.

Further analysis of the brain activity showed that during REM sleep, a cat’s brain is most active, similar to when they are awake. This led Jouvet to conclude that cat dreams are a real possibility.

Theories About Cat Dreams:

Many theories exist about cat dreams, but most support the idea that cat dreams are physiological states and unrelated to actual experiences. In other words, cats’ dreams are more straightforward and may lack the same emotional depth as humans are capable of experiencing.

It is essential to note that these theories are just that, theories. Since cats cannot talk to us, we cannot know for sure what they dream about.


In conclusion, cat twitching is a normal part of sleep, allowing cats to cycle through different sleep stages and experience the necessary REM cycles. While we cannot communicate with our feline friends, research suggests that cats do dream.

However, the subject of cat dreams remains a mystery, and we may never fully understand the depth and complexity of our cats’ slumbering minds.

Determining When Twitching Could Be Serious

Watching your cat twitching while sleeping can be adorable, but it can also be scary, especially if you are not familiar with their sleeping patterns. A wise cat owner can differentiate between harmless twitching and twitching that is a sign of an underlying health issue.

In this article, we shall discuss the signs that indicate an unhealthy twitch and when to notify your veterinarian. Signs of Harmless Twitching:

Twitching during the REM cycle is a healthy behavior that helps cats cycle through different sleep stages.

If your cat is twitching occasionally and goes back to sleep, it is often nothing to be concerned about. The level of activity during a cat’s dream sleep can vary.

Hence some cats may not twitch at all while sleeping. Signs of Serious Twitching:

Involuntary twitching in a cat during rest may be an indication of an underlying health issue.

Here are the signs to look out for:

1. Difficulty Walking: If your furry companion is twitching and is having trouble walking after waking up from sleep, it could be a sign of an imbalance in their inner ear.

The irregularity affects the cat’s sense of balance and coordination. 2.

Seizures: Seizures can be scary. During a seizure, a cat can lose consciousness and experience violent spasms.

Your cat may also experience uncontrollable salivation, urination, or defecation. Seizures could be a sign of underlying health conditions such as brain tumors, epilepsy, and kidney disease.

3. Hyperesthesia Syndrome: This refers to the feline psychological condition where they become overly reactive to stimuli.

In this condition, you will notice episodes of twitching along with other bizarre behaviors like jumping or biting. In severe cases, cats may injure themselves during these episodes.

4. Toxicity poisoning: Poisoning by toxic substances can manifest in various ways, including twitching.

Some common substances that cats can get poisoned from include certain insecticides, prescribed medication, weed killers, or food toxicity from chocolate and garlic. As soon as you suspect toxicity, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

5. Calcium Imbalance: In some instances, excessive twitching can be an indication of dysregulation of calcium levels in the body.

The condition is often seen in nursing mothers, cats with hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. Calcium deficiency can cause muscle tremors, muscle weakness, and seizures.

6. Feline Allergies or sensitivity: Similar to humans, cats may be sensitive to environmental triggers such as pollen, mold, or food allergies.

In such cases, cats will show symptoms such as hair loss, itchy skin, and twitching. 7.

Collapse: If your cat is twitching and then collapses, it could be a sign of something more severe. You should contact your veterinarian right away for an emergency evaluation.

What to Do if Your Cat is Twitching and Other Symptoms:

If you notice twitching accompanied by other unusual behaviors, it’s advisable to take note of the frequency, duration, and the type of twitching your cat displays and what else you observe to communicate this with your veterinarian. Here are some signs that may require immediate veterinary attention.

1. Loss of consciousness


Violent spasms

3. Salivation, uncontrollable urination, defecation


Trouble walking

5. Collapsing


Twitching, biting, jumping

7. Skin irritations, hair loss

To provide the most accurate information to your veterinarian, document the cat’s twitching episodes by taking a video recording, especially if the behavior is infrequent.

With an accurate understanding of your cat’s symptoms, your veterinarian can better diagnose and create a treatment plan to help your feline return to their healthy self. Take note of any changes in food, supplements, pesticides, or natural products before contacting your veterinarian, as these items can elicit unexpected reactions in some cats.

Medications your cat is taking may also contribute to twitching. If your cat displays symptoms after starting a new medication, it’s a good idea to reach out to the veterinarian who prescribed the medication to see if an alternative medication might be best for your furry companion.

In conclusion, occasional twitching during a cat’s REM sleep cycle is perfectly normal, but constant, involuntary twitching while awake or sleepy, along with other unusual symptoms, requires immediate veterinary attention. Be sure to keep a close eye on your cat’s sleeping and waking activities, document suspected issues, and contact your veterinarian if necessary to ensure your feline friend lives a full and happy life.

Understanding cat twitching during sleep is essential for cat owners to recognize harmless behaviors and spot signs of serious health concerns affecting the animal. Harmless twitching occurs during the REM cycle and is healthy behavior aiding the cat’s sleep.

However, constant and involuntary twitching while awake or asleep could indicate underlying health issues. The article highlights common signs of serious twitching, such as difficulty walking, seizures, hyperesthesia syndrome, toxicity poisoning, calcium imbalance, feline allergies, sensitivity, and collapsed, while providing steps to help cat owners deal with the symptoms.

Pet owners should contact their veterinarians if they notice unusual twitching or behaviors in their cats and document any unusual symptoms to assist in the diagnosis. Pet owners that identify early signs of unhealthy twitching in their cats can prevent possible worsening of the condition with prompt veterinary intervention.

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