Cats are great companions and are self-sufficient, making them ideal pets. They like curling up against you and look peaceful when they’re sleeping. But sometimes, you may notice your cat is twitching and meowing loudly in its sleep. So, what’s going on?
So, can cats have night terrors? Cats can experience night terrors, which typically occur as a result of trauma, stress, or anxiety induced by the state of deep (REM sleep). This is the stage of sleep where they dream, just like we experience as humans. Night terrors are typically easy to identify; your cat will behave in a state of distress.
Seeing your cat experience a night terror can be alarming. You may want to intervene, but that may not be the best idea for your pet.
Read on to discover more about why cats have night terrors and how you can help prevent your pet from having them.
- 1 Why Does A Cat Have Night Terrors?
- 2 How Do You Know If A Cat Is Having A Night Terror?
- 3 Should You Wake A Cat Up From A Night Terror?
- 4 How To Support Your Cat During A Night Terror
- 5 How To Help Prevent Your Cat from Having Night Terrors
- 6 Finally
Why Does A Cat Have Night Terrors?
Cats have night terrors because they’ve entered REM sleep and are having a bad dream. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is when the cat’s brain stays active as its hippocampus can process new memories. Night terrors differ from nightmares as the cat doesn’t wake up during the event.
Seeing your cat going through a night terror can be alarming as you see them react strongly.
But their night terror may stem from a physical issue inside their body or mind. It may be because of pain, trauma, or stress.
If your cat is in pain throughout the day, this might come to the surface during their sleep.
Whether it’s chronic pain or an allergic reaction, it’s important to find out the cause of the pain.
As with humans, a sudden stab of pain can cause your cat to startle, whether asleep or not.
Pain may come from many places, such as their stomach or an arthritic joint, which is common in senior cats.
When you notice your cat is having regular night terrors, watch for their waking habits.
Maybe they struggle to jump to a high surface, whereas before, they’d glide up effortlessly.
Is their feces looser and softer than normal?
Or perhaps they’re creating bald spots in their coat from overgrooming themselves. This could indicate a stressed or anxious pet.
Symptoms of an overly stressed cat will exhibit in their reaction to noises. Maybe they startle more than normal. Or are they more skittish?
Your cat might have experienced bullying in the past or abandonment. And now is reliving it during their sleep.
If you notice any symptoms, it would be worth going to your vet for recommendations on how to treat these issues.
If your cat is still experiencing night terrors, it might be worth looking at sleeping aids.
Tonics like melatonin or sleeping tablets might be the key to settling your cat’s night terrors.
If interested in trying this solution, this is the kind of product you want to buy off Amazon.
How Do You Know If A Cat Is Having A Night Terror?
Common night terror behavior includes excessive twitching, loud meowing, growling, or hissing. This all happens while they’re still asleep. Night terror symptoms are usually obvious to notice.
Cats aren’t restricted to entering deep sleep or REM sleep during the night.
Cats are famous for napping.
This napping gives them the opportunity to rest and recover. And they regularly alternate between both cycles.
Deep sleep is the most restful sleep state of the two.
During deep sleep, your cat doesn’t dream. Their body remains still, and their breathing is steady and slow.
Deep sleep is crucial for felines so they can repair their muscles from the day’s activities.
REM sleep is also important for your cat. Their brain uses this time to convert short-term memories into long-term, lasting memories.
They don’t need to be asleep for hours for them to slip into a REM cycle.
Some signs that your cat is in REM sleep include darting pupils behind closed eyes and swiping the air.
Also, moving their head as if they’re tracking prey and faster breathing is common.
These behaviors are completely normal and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Though if they’re reacting aggressively while asleep, they’re likely having a night terror.
And they may accidentally fall off a height if they’re twitching during the terror.
It’s important to note that there is a chance your cat is having a seizure rather than a night terror.
Seizures are common in cats and happen most frequently when your feline is starting to fall asleep.
Grand mal seizures are easy to spot, but petit mal seizures can be a little bit harder.
Petit mal seizures involve some of the same signs as night terrors. These symptoms include verbalizing, twitching, or jerking, and more labored breathing.
Though, with seizures, there are other unique signs to look out for. Seizing cats excessively drool and experience facial twitches during the seizure.
Should You Wake A Cat Up From A Night Terror?
It’s not a good idea to wake a cat from its night terror. They will be disoriented and can lash out as a defense mechanism. This could lead to injury to you and your cat.
No matter how stressful it can be to see your feline suffering, it’s advised not to try and wake them from it, especially if they’re acting aggressively during the terror.
If you abruptly wake your cat up, they will have trouble knowing what’s real. They may act out defensively until they’ve come around, lashing out with their claws and teeth.
Another reason not to wake your cat up while they’re experiencing the terror is because of their heart rate.
Their heart rate is already racing. Jolting them out of their sleep could be fatal to your feline, especially if they’re older or have heart conditions.
Also, your cat may move a lot during the event. This might cause you to worry that they may fall off where they’re sleeping and injure themselves.
You can stay close (but out of arm’s reach) to make sure they don’t injure themselves and you.
Not all is lost, though. as we shall see below.
How To Support Your Cat During A Night Terror
While you shouldn’t wake your cat, you can encourage your cat to come out of the night terror by themselves.
You can reassure them by calling their name and softly talking to them.
Your voice will permeate their sleep, and they’ll recognize it as a source of safety and calm.
Keep talking in reassuring tones and assure your pet that everything is okay.
If this isn’t helping them wake up, try lying a familiar scented cushion or piece of clothing by their nose.
Again, this scent will permeate their sleep and encourage them out of their terror.
When your cat has woken up, make sure to give it some space so it can adjust to reality. Call their name and let them approach you on their own terms.
After your pet has fully come around after the terror, your cat might want some love and attention.
This might be a fun time to have some playtime with them or offer them a treat. This gives them the opportunity to create positive, happy memories.
Another source of comfort is warmth. When cats sleep, their bodies drop a couple of degrees. This natural temperature drop can drop further from the terror.
Offer your feline a warm blanket or wrapped hot water bottle to heat up.
If your cat looks like it’s settling down for more sleep, let it do so.
Sleep deprivation in cats will lead to anxiety and other issues. If they’re happy to go back to sleep, then they’ve been happily comforted.
How To Help Prevent Your Cat from Having Night Terrors
To prevent your cat from having night terrors, it’s important to minimize stressors. Cats dream of memories and can relive bad moments in their lives. Then, these memories manifest into night terrors.
All cat owners want the best for their pets and strive to give them the best life possible. But that isn’t realistic, and bad memories will occur in your cat.
Why cats have night terrors may depend on a few factors. These include if they’ve experienced abandonment, bullying, pain, or a frightening experience.
When people think of an abandoned cat, they imagine the cat left alone on the side of the street.
However, your cat might interpret you leaving the house for work or to run errands as abandonment.
To prevent these night terrors, establish a set routine with your cat.
They will know when they’re going to get food and that you will return every day.
Your cat might be reliving conflict or bullying they experience during the day.
Bullying is common in multi-cat households as there’s always going to be one alpha. Your feline may experience conflict when they roam outdoors from rival cats.
If you believe your cat is being bullied, watch the dynamics of the household (if there are many cats).
Then, correct the behavior. Or prevent your cat from going outside for a few days to see if the night terrors resolve.
Address Medical Issues Or Pain
As mentioned above, physical pain can be a source of night terrors.
It’s important to watch your cat’s behaviors and address any issue of pain you see your cat experience.
Cats don’t usually show weakness, so it might take a few days of watching to see signs of pain.
And it’s possible that they’re dreaming of a painful experience, for example, their tail being stepped on.
These kinds of night terrors tend to be short-lived, though.
Try To Resolve Potential Stressors
The other cause of night terrors is your pet reliving a scary experience. This is common in stressed and anxious cats.
They reenact stressful moments when they were scared.
These times might be from loud noises, after being scolded, and when they were left alone for a long time.
Some of these stresses can be avoided, while others can only be reduced.
The important thing is to reduce the amount of stress triggers your cat comes across. And this will help prevent night terrors from occurring again.
Cats are notorious for napping throughout the day. They look restful and at peace when they’re sleeping.
When your cat is having a night terror, it is stressful for the cat and owner alike.
Luckily, implementing the steps above will help soothe and prevent your cat from experiencing more terrors in the future.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.