A Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying sleep behavior in humans. She has recently offered her input on whether or not our beloved pets dream, and if so, what they dream about.
“What we do know for sure is that most mammals have a similar sleep cycle to humans, going into a deep sleep stage, in which the brain is much less active, and then into periods of activity called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, in which dreams occur for humans,” Barrett told People. “That certainly makes it the best guess that other mammals are dreaming, too.”
What do dogs experience when they dream?
“Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically. There’s no reason to think animals are any different. Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you.”
But while dogs dote on their human companions, cats maintain their waking aloofness when they sleep.
“We actually know more about cats dreams, because one of the earliest sleep researchers, Michel Jouvet, destroyed the tiny area in cat brains that inhibits movements during REM sleep. Cats lay quietly through the other stages of sleep, and when REM began, they leapt up, stalked, pounced, arched their backs and hissed. They looked like they were hunting mice in their dreams.”
The psychologist also offered advice to pet owners who want to make sure their animals have good dreams.
“The best way to give ourselves or our children better dreams is to have happy daytime experiences and to get plenty of sleep in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s a good bet this is also best for pets’ dreams.”By Dr. Deirdre Barrett