Most of us have witnessed our pets doing strange things in their sleep. Sometimes they run in place, other times they make strange noises or movements. We tend to assume that they are dreaming, but is that actually happening?
Researchers at MIT measured brain activity in rats during rapid-eye movement sleep, the stage of sleep where humans dream. When they looked at their brain activity, they found that it was similar to when the rats were running earlier that day in a maze. This led researchers to believe that the rats were actually dreaming about the same maze.
"No one knew for certain that animals dreamed the way we do, which can involve replaying events or at least components of events that occurred while we were awake," said Matthew Wilson of MIT's Center for Learning and Memory. "We looked at the firing patterns of a collection of individual cells to determine the content of rats' dreams. We know that they are in fact dreaming and their dreams are connected to actual experiences."
Because rats are intellectually less complex than dogs and cats, researchers then made the conclusion that cats and dogs must dream, just as rats do.
Have you ever noticed your dogs legs twitching while they sleep? Experts say it could be due to REM sleep. The way they move in their dreams is also indicative of their breed, researchers found. " A dreaming Pointer may immediately start searching for game and may even go on point, a sleeping Springer Spaniel may flush an imaginary bird in his dreams,” AKC Dog columnist Stanley Coren explained in Psychology Today.
Coren advises that owners who want to know if their dogs are dreaming should watch them during the first 10 to 20 minutes of their sleep. If you can see their eyes moving, then they are dreaming.