What Your Pets Dream About When They Sleep, According To A Harvard Psychologist

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By Mandy Froelich / Truth Theory

Have you ever wondered what your cat and dog dream about when they sleep? Are you the least bit curious about they are subconsciously experiencing when they’re yipping in their sleep and scuffling their legs? Well, thanks to Harvard Psychologist Dr. Deirdre Barrett, we finally have an idea.

Several years ago USA Network performed a study in celebration of its psychological thriller Falling Water. People reported in 2016 that Americans were asked whose dreams they would like to hack if they were given the chance. The most popular answer? The dreams of household pets.

Because jumping into animals’ dreams isn’t a reality yet, Dr. Deirdre Barrett was sought out for her insight on this topic. Barrett is a teacher and a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School. From a young age, she has been fascinated with dreams. So, it makes sense that Dr. Barrett has also learned quite a lot about how animals dream.

Human Vs Animal Sleep

To begin with, anything about what animals dream is purely speculative. As People reports, the only two animals even suggested having relayed their dreams are the signing gorillas Koko and Michael. According to researcher Penny Patterson, Koko occasionally signs about fantastic events, people, and the places she has not recently seen upon waking. Michael, who was rescued after poachers murdered his family, wakes up and signs “Bad people kill gorillas.”

What is known is that most mammals have a similar sleep cycle to humans. They go into a deep sleep stage, in which the brain is less active than periods of wakefulness. The next stage is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, in which dreams occur for humans. More than likely, that’s the stage mammals dream in, as well.

Regarding the length of dreams, it is known the small animals, such as rodents, go through the sleep stages much more quickly than humans do. Elephants, on the other hand, have longer sleep cycles than ours. Reptiles and fish don’t have the REM/non-REM cycles, so researchers believe they have dreamless sleep.

What Dogs Probably Dream About

According to Dr. Barrett, humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day. Our dreams are typically more visual and less logic. There is no reason to think animals are any different. Dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners. So, it is more than likely that your pet is dreaming about your face, your smell, and of pleasing or annoying you.

What Cats Probably Dream About

Michel Jouvet, one of the earliest sleep researchers, deserves credit for most of what we know about cats’ sleep cycles. In one experiment, Jouvet destroyed the tiny area in a cat’s brain that inhibits movements during REM sleep. It was determined that cats lay quietly through the other stages of sleep but leap up, stalk, pounce, arch their backs, and hiss when they are in REM cycle. More than likely, cats are dreaming about “the hunt.”

In summary, there is strong evidence to suggest that mammals dream while they sleep. Based on what we know about humans dreams, it is likely that your dog is dreaming about your face and your smell, whereas your housecat is dreaming about prowling for a tasty snack.

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