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Dogs, cats: do our pets dream about us?

According to a scientist from Harvard, the nights of our four-legged friends are not fundamentally different from ours.

What does your dog or cat dream about? It’s hard to know, but according to Deirdre Barrett, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, dogs experience dreams similar to humans. Passionate about the study of dreams, this specialist has spent years analyzing human sleep. By extrapolation, she finds it likely that dogs, like humans, dream about their everyday experiences. So there is a good chance that they dream about their owners.

Why do dogs run in their sleep?

If there is nothing to confirm that dogs (or cats) dream about us, the researcher had already explained the magazine. People in 2016 that mammals follow the same sleep cycle as humans. Like us, they alternate between several stages of light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep. During the latter, there is also intense brain activity and rapid eye movements, indicating that they are dreaming. “There is no reason why animals should be any different [des humains] when they dream”continues Deirdre Barrett. “Since dogs are very attached to their master, they probably dream about your face, your smell and how they can please or annoy you.”

Dogs are unable to restrict their body movements during stages of REM sleep: they are sometimes seen curling up their lips while sleeping or running in a vacuum. The action that takes place in their brain therefore appears transparent. While cats, like us, are able to limit their movements during their dreams, according to specialists.

Cats, even in their dreams, are looking for adventure

The French dream researcher Michel Jouvet conducted a study on cats’ sleep. By inhibiting the small part of their brain associated with muscle atony, the neurologist found that in REM sleep, the cat began to move by mimicking behavior typical of its species: it seemed to pursue imaginary prey and adopt fighting postures. His hypothesis is therefore that the cat begins to hunt when it dreams.

Chickens dream too

Besides our two main pets, it turns out that most mammals have a sleep cycle similar to humans. Small animals, like mice, would go through sleep stages much faster, while elephants have longer cycles. Fish, amphibians and reptiles do not have REM sleep and experts believe that they do not dream. There are also big and small dreamers: “The opossum that spends 6 hours in REM sleep, and less like the hen that only dreams 25 minutes a night”explained Michel Jouvet i Science & Future.

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