Do Animals Dream?

Have you ever wondered, 'Do Animals Dream?' The answer is yes! You may have noticed your cat or dog showing signs of REM sleep and dreaming when their eyes twitch or their breathing becomes irregular during sleep.

Animal Dream Research

Sleeping Dog Researchers hypothesize that most animals dream. In fact, all mammals dream with the exception of dolphins. Dolphins have unusual sleep patterns. Instead of REM patterns, they sleep with only half their brain at a time.

© Aleksei Frolkov |

When mammals are separated into the hunted (antelope, sheep, rabbits and so on) and hunters (cats, man), the hunters usually spend 20 to 35 % of their sleep dreaming. The hunted sleep less with only 6 to 8 % of their sleep time spent in dreaming.

Reptiles and snakes have never been shown to dream, even though they spend most of their time asleep.

Content of Animal Dreams

I’ve recently read an interesting article on research done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was reported in the journal Neuron that researchers who attempted to determine the content of rat dreams, concluded that rats’ dreams are connected to actual experiences.

The experiment started by training rats to run along a circular track for a food reward. The animals’ brain activity was then monitored during the task as well as when they were asleep. It was found that while the animal ran, its brain created a distinctive pattern of neurons firing in the hippocampus, a brain area known to be involved in memory. As the rats moved through multiple stages of sleep, the researchers examined more than 40 REM episodes that were recorded while the rats slept.

About half of these episodes repeated the unique signature of brain activity that was created as the animal ran its waking life. The correlation was so close that the researchers found that as the animal dreamed, they could reconstruct where it would be in the maze if it were awake and whether the animal was dreaming of running or standing still.

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