Should you wake up a cat with nightmares?

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My cat, Gizmo, has frequent nightmares. Recently I read its really bad for cats, especially at his age (he's 8), for cats to be getting scared. When he has a nightmare he starts twitching, screaming, even hissing and growling. Hes very obviously extremely distressed when they happen. It is not normal hunting or playing dreams, he is not doing well when he has them. They've gotten less frequent as he's gotten older, but he still has them. I've always wondered if I should wake him up when he starts growling/hissing?
I've waken him up before when his spasms become violent (sometimes they remind of a seizure and I get scared). He never is aggressive with me after he wakes up. The worst he's done is hiss at me and grab and bite me. He's never bitten me hard enough to hurt me at all, he seems to realize very quickly that im not what was scaring him.
I have videos on my old phone (just upgraded recently) of him having nightmares. His last one was 10/11/20 at 2:02 am. I got a picture of him laying on me having one, thats how I know the exact time/date, haha.

Were taking him to get a blood panel hopefully fairly soon, for unrelated issues. Well ask the vet about it as well.. A couple of financial issues are putting it on hold though (such as spaying a kitten next week).
 

P+P's Meom

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My little girl, Patter, has nightmares once in a while. She makes very distressed sounding noises.

I go to her and softly call her name, maybe give her a gentle nudge, not so much to wake her up as to "change the channel" of her dreams to a happier one. Seems to work for us.
:sleepycat:
 

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There is not a whole lot you can do. Just like with some people he must be prone to nightmares/night frights. Just softly call his name until it gets through and he wakes up. you might research nightmares with children on the internet and see how they say to wake a child up in the middle of one of these. i don't think you are supposed to touch them, they may lash out or be too startled to wake up and see someone looming over them.
 

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Hi. While Feeby doesn't make noises, she sometimes has jerky motions when sleeping - I just place gentle pressure with my hand on her side or back (depending on how she is laying) and that seems to be enough for her to stop. Most of the time, she doesn't even fully awake, but the jerking ends.
 

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My cat, Gizmo, has frequent nightmares. Recently I read its really bad for cats, especially at his age (he's 8), for cats to be getting scared. When he has a nightmare he starts twitching, screaming, even hissing and growling. Hes very obviously extremely distressed when they happen. It is not normal hunting or playing dreams, he is not doing well when he has them. They've gotten less frequent as he's gotten older, but he still has them. I've always wondered if I should wake him up when he starts growling/hissing?
I've waken him up before when his spasms become violent (sometimes they remind of a seizure and I get scared). He never is aggressive with me after he wakes up. The worst he's done is hiss at me and grab and bite me. He's never bitten me hard enough to hurt me at all, he seems to realize very quickly that im not what was scaring him.
I have videos on my old phone (just upgraded recently) of him having nightmares. His last one was 10/11/20 at 2:02 am. I got a picture of him laying on me having one, thats how I know the exact time/date, haha.

Were taking him to get a blood panel hopefully fairly soon, for unrelated issues. Well ask the vet about it as well.. A couple of financial issues are putting it on hold though (such as spaying a kitten next week).
I never had a cat who had nightmares. However, I did have a dog who would have them frequently. I one time tried to wake him up and he got very startle and bit me. Poor boy was very scared and confused. My suggestion is calmly talk to your cat and say there name and tell them they are okay. When the kitty is not flinching or growling then gently nudge the kitty awake. I tried to nudge my doggie awake from his nightmare while he was moving his legs as if he was running. He probably had a adrenaline rush and that is why he acted aggressively upon being woken up. Poor baby.
 

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This is just like the old legend, “Never wake a person who is sleepwalking.”

It’s mostly bunk.

If a person is sleepwalking, they could get hurt so you need to do something to ensure that nothing bad happens. You can try to talk to the person and coax them back to bed if you can do so, safely, but, if the person could be in danger, you should gently wake them up so they don’t get hurt.

I think it’s the same with a sleeping cat that is having a nightmare.

If it’s just a few twitches or noises, let the cat be but, if the nightmare is bad, talk to it and try to get the cat to calm down. If it’s really bad or if the cat could get hurt from thrashing, falling or knocking something over, I think you should wake the cat.

You know your cat better then anybody else so you can decide how best to calm the cat down. Maybe you could just talk. Maybe you could pet the cat. Maybe you can gently rouse him.

You know how your cat reacts to people and being touched, so use your best judgement as to the way to wake him. Maybe you can gently pet him but, if he is prone to lashing out, maybe it’s best to just talk to him.

When I was a kid, I had an uncle who was a sleepwalker and was prone to night terrors. Most of the time, we could just say, “Uncle Joe, go back to bed!” and that worked but I remember one time when he got violent and my father and another uncle had to wake him up and physically restrain him.

Bottom line... If your cat’s nightmares aren’t bad, let him be but, if you think he needs to be woke, do so carefully. Mostly so neither you nor the cat don’t get hurt.
 
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Whenallhellbreakslose

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I never had a cat who had nightmares. However, I did have a dog who would have them frequently. I one time tried to wake him up and he got very startle and bit me. Poor boy was very scared and confused. My suggestion is calmly talk to your cat and say there name and tell them they are okay. When the kitty is not flinching or growling then gently nudge the kitty awake. I tried to nudge my doggie awake from his nightmare while he was moving his legs as if he was running. He probably had a adrenaline rush and that is why he acted aggressively upon being woken up. Poor baby.
If kitty is in a state where he is having a really bad nightmare, then try to nudge him gently awake with the handle of a broom or grab some thick gloves and do that. You want to keep yourself safe should he attack, like my dog did to me. If it looks like he is having more than a bad dream (e.g. seizures) then that is an emergency and you must act appropriately so he doesn't injure himself. Call your vet immediately.
 

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If kitty is in a state where he is having a really bad nightmare, then try to nudge him gently awake with the handle of a broom or grab some thick gloves and do that.
Point taken. I’m on board with your idea but it just seems odd to poke a cat with a broomstick unless the situation is severe. (e.g. To separate cats that are fighting.)

Yes, it is wise to put some distance between yourself and a thrashing cat but, maybe, one of the cat’s wand toys would be a better thing to wake it up with.
 
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I did not expect this to be featured, ahh. Thank you everyone for the advice. His nightmares become very violent to where he might hurt himself, but its never a seizure I dont think. As soon as he wakes up he's perfectly fine and all of the concerning activity stops. I can wake up him up at any point during it, so thats not a seizure (I dont think). Well still talk to the vet about it when we take him though.
Im not worried about being hurt. He usually has nail caps (i need to reapply them actually oof) to prevent him from destroying my chair, so he can't scratch me, and he's never bit me hard at all. He's never even left indents. Im a lot more concerned for his safety than mine.
When he has his nightmares I usually pet his side and talk to him until they stop or he wakes up. Usually he just wakes up, but when he doesn't and gets worse I start shaking him really lightly so he wakes up.
I'll try to get a video of him next time time he has a nightmare.

Its kind of nice that he has nightmares/night terrors in a way, cause that means he feels safe enough to fall into deep enough of a sleep to have them around me. Still really hard to see though.
 

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We know that cats do something called “hemispherical sleep” where one part of the brain sleeps and the rest stays in a semi-waking state. It's an evolutionary adaptation to let cats living in the wild be aware of predators and other potential threats.

That's why cats always seem to hear the kitty treat bag being opened even if they appear to be asleep. ;)

If you see your cat sleeping with one eye open, he's probably doing the hemispherical sleep thing and his brain is switching from one part of the brain sleeping to another.

Anyhow... I'm willing to bet that hemispherical sleep has something to do with the reason your cat has sleep terrors.

It's my guess that, when your cat sleeps, one part of his brain is awake and the rest is asleep and, somehow, that switching process is getting mixed up. Either one part of the brain that "supposed to be" asleep is waking up before the other part is ready to go dormant or, maybe the other way around.

Essentially, the "hand-off" between the sleeping parts of his brain and the waking parts is getting interrupted and he gets "stuck" in a half-awake/half-asleep state. His mind can't figure out what's going on and he feels confused.

So, yes, I would wake him up if he was my cat. Carefully.

I asked Casper's Girl-Human if she's ever seen him have nightmares like that and she told me that he's done it once or twice in the years that we've had him. She said that she just talked to him, petted him and he woke up for a minute then rolled over and went back to sleep.

So, I suppose that virtually all cats have this happen, once in a while.

If your cat has nightmares as bad as you say, maybe we should do something. I dunno'... It would be good to ask the vet but I can make some guesses...

When this happens to your cat, are there any common factors that might cause an episode?

Some ideas...

Is he sleeping in a place that's noisy or where there is a lot of commotion?
Maybe you could find a quieter place for him to sleep where his brain can get the proper rest it needs and he won't get "stuck" between being half-asleep and half-awake.

Does he eat anything that could affect him?
Y'know... If I eat certain things like hot foods, I often have a restless sleep and, occasionally have bad dreams.
Too much caffeine, too much alcohol and, strangely, too much milk can to it to me, too.
(Milk = lactose ==> digestive upset while sleeping.)

Is this a recent phenomenon?
What might have changed in his environment that could be upsetting his sleep cycles?

I'm sure that this happens to some cats more than others. It could be just "one of those things."

Still... Next time you take him to the vet, be sure to bring it up.
I'm sure the vet will be able to give you advice. :)
 

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Geoffrey has what I think are "bad" dreams. He twitches a lot. I notice it when he is on my lap, sleeping.
When I try touching him, to wake him up, he gets startled and jumps. Sometimes with a "Meowwwhumph...
I am also stumped as what to do. He usually jumps down from my lap, walks around, nibbles his food, and them comes back to my lap.
 

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Awwww! I didn't know Geoffrey had nightmares, artiemom artiemom ! I hope it's not often that he has to go through that.
Well, I'm not sure about the waking up part. I don't have nightmares, but I do have intense dreams sometimes and I'm always glad to wake up from them, so I'd think cats would be, too. I would definitely talk with the vet about them and try to capture one on video so the vet can see them. Cats who have come from bad homes or had to live outdoors may very well have nightmares. Not pleasant!
 

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I wake my deaf 19 yr old Tortie gal by putting a few chunks of dry food under her nose and in about 30 seconds shes wide awake.
every time without fail . Its a way to feed her on the sly from this Calico glutten at left.....If you wanna go insane......have 3 cats with different food requirements in the same house!
She gets really spooked when I wake her any other way, with or without nightmares. I dont think I've seen her ever have one.

I wonder if kitty CBD- No THC in it other than a max of .03% by law for hemp products. Maybe it would help like it does in humans for better sleep? I have bad dreams when sick or in pain so maybe there is a link here? Good luck!
 

35 year catdad

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My cat, Gizmo, has frequent nightmares. Recently I read its really bad for cats, especially at his age (he's 8), for cats to be getting scared. When he has a nightmare he starts twitching, screaming, even hissing and growling. Hes very obviously extremely distressed when they happen. It is not normal hunting or playing dreams, he is not doing well when he has them. They've gotten less frequent as he's gotten older, but he still has them. I've always wondered if I should wake him up when he starts growling/hissing?
I've waken him up before when his spasms become violent (sometimes they remind of a seizure and I get scared). He never is aggressive with me after he wakes up. The worst he's done is hiss at me and grab and bite me. He's never bitten me hard enough to hurt me at all, he seems to realize very quickly that im not what was scaring him.
I have videos on my old phone (just upgraded recently) of him having nightmares. His last one was 10/11/20 at 2:02 am. I got a picture of him laying on me having one, thats how I know the exact time/date, haha.

Were taking him to get a blood panel hopefully fairly soon, for unrelated issues. Well ask the vet about it as well.. A couple of financial issues are putting it on hold though (such as spaying a kitten next week).
I was helping a friend find low cost spay/neuter clinics in EXPENSIVE Northern Ca.Bay Area and I spent a long time but fouind $25-35 total cost for males and females. Try the links available at Alley Cat Allies in your area. They do wonderful things for community cats and feral colonies nationwide.
 

tarasgirl06

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I was helping a friend find low cost spay/neuter clinics in EXPENSIVE Northern Ca.Bay Area and I spent a long time but fouind $25-35 total cost for males and females. Try the links available at Alley Cat Allies in your area. They do wonderful things for community cats and feral colonies nationwide.
MANY thanks, 35 year catdad 35 year catdad for this invaluable information. As an ACA supporter from the start, I can attest to that!
 
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