Has your cat ever fallen asleep soundly only to start twitching a few minutes later? Maybe their nose is moving rapidly or their front paws start jerking, prompting you to go over to them to make sure all is well. These movements, which can sometimes be startling for owners to witness — especially when they come out of seemingly nowhere — are very common in sleeping kitties. But exactly what causes it? POPSUGAR spoke to two vets to find out.
Why Do Cats Twitch in Their Sleep?
According to Dr. Jessica Herman, DVM, and veterinarian at Fuzzy Pet Health, cats can sleep upwards of 15 hours per day — which means you may have ample opportunity to see a ton of twitching from your furry friend. The twitching owners so often see specifically occurs during the REM sleep stage. "It is normal in the REM stage of sleep for twitching, rapid eye movement, squeaking, stretching, or snoring to occur," said Dr. Herman. "The twitching and other movements associated with REM sleep are not worrisome, it just means signals are being sent to the brain, which is important for brain health, learning, and memory."
Dr. Herman advised not to wake up your cat during the REM stage as it is followed by the deep-sleep stage, one that is crucial for a cat's health and wellbeing. "The following sleep stage is deep sleep which is important for growth, development, repair, and rebuilding of the body," explained Dr. Herman.
Is There Such Thing as Too Much Twitching?
Sure, twitching in sleeping cats can be adorable, but is there ever such a thing as too much twitching? Dr. Matthew McCarthy, DVM, veterinarian and founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital, shared that it is important to keep in mind that not all twitching means the same thing. "If you are noticing a new twitching or jerky movement when your kitty is sleeping and it just doesn't look right, it may indicate a problem," said Dr. McCarthy. "Not all twitches are created equal."
For instance, twitching that's focused on a cat's rear area may be a signal that they have fleas, whereas ear twitching may be due to ear mites. "If the skin twitching starts while sleeping and seems to rouse your kitty, who then proceeds to attack their skin, or possibly you, aggressively, your cat may be experiencing feline hyperesthesia syndrome," explained Dr. McCarthy. He shared that this syndrome is diagnosed by ruling out potential triggers, which include allergies, pain, stress, or seizures. And although Dr. Herman pointed out that seizures accompanied by twitches do not often occur while a cat is sleeping, they can still be a point of concern.
If you notice any abnormal twitching in your cat, it is very important that you bring this concern up to your vet. "If possible, always try to catch a little video of what you are seeing, as descriptions don't always give the full picture of what you are actually seeing," advised Dr. McCarthy. "Often we will be able to look at a short video clip and determine whether it is a concerning behavior or a normal behavior."