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Why Do Cats Twitch in Their Sleep? | 8 Reasons and When to Worry

Just like humans, cats can occasionally twitch in their sleep. In most cases, this body movement is normal and shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, it could signify something is wrong with your four-legged friend. 

Sleep is an important component in living a healthy life, and your cat appreciates getting proper rest as much as you do. So why do cats twitch in their sleep? It’s time to examine the most common reasons for this cat behavior and some frequently asked questions in line with this topic. 

After reading this list of reasons and FAQs, you’ll have a clearer understanding of why your cat might be twitching in their sleep and what to do about it. 

tabby cat in odd sleeping position

Why Do Cats Twitch in Their Sleep | 8 Top Reasons

Before we get into the top reasons cats twitch their sleep, remember that if you’re ever concerned about your pet, it’s a good idea to consult your vet. They can provide more input on why your cat is twitching and help put your mind at ease. 

1. Dreaming

Just like humans, cats dream, and this is one of the most common reasons why they twitch in their sleep. They go through three different stages of sleep cycles: cat naps, light sleep, and REM (also called deep sleep). 

They’re more likely to twitch during REM; this is when their brain is still active, which can cause spontaneous twitching. You’re most likely to see their nose, whiskers, or ears twitching, but they might also move their paws or mouth. They might even meow

tabby cat asleep

As long as this movement isn’t accompanied by any other symptoms, it’s likely that their twitching is simply a reaction to a dream they’re having.

2. Nervous System Development 

As mentioned above, cats go through three different stages of sleep cycles, but kittens have a fourth sleep cycle, known as activated sleep. This is when their nervous system is developing. It’s something that all kittens experience, and it can cause twitching. 

Their body is hard at work developing and making new neuron connections, which can result in quick, jerky movements while their body is resting. You might also see them cry in their sleep, squirm, or make other noises. 

As long as your kitten isn’t sick or displaying odd behavior, it’s nothing to worry about. 

Ginger kitten sleeping with both its paws up on a white blanket.

They should outgrow this stage once their nervous system is fully developed. In the meantime, enjoy this cute part of their kitty phase. 

3. Fleas

Fleas are a skin condition that can cause your cat to twitch during their sleep. If their skin is irritated, their body can move or make slight twitching movements in a bid to get the itchiness to go away. A topical flea spot treatment can help kill these pesky bugs and stop your cat from twitching. 

Fleas are more common in outside cats, but your indoor pets can pick up fleas too. They can be transferred to your cat from another pet who enters the household. 

Flea in pet hair.

4. Other Skin Conditions

Cats can have allergies, matted fur, or skin infections that may lead to excessively itchy skin. This can all cause them to twitch in their sleep. If you notice that when your cat wakes up, they start grooming themselves right away, this can be a sign that something is irritating them. 

If you see them twitch their ears, they could have an ear infection or mites. Check for a build-up of wax or discoloration in this area. If you notice something is off, speak with your vet to address the problem properly. 

Veterinarian cleans ears to a small kitten close-up

5. Uncontrollable Muscle Spasms

Cats can experience muscle spasms during all stages of sleep and also when they’re awake. A spasm is brought on by their muscles relaxing and contracting back and forth. Although this action can be driven by health conditions, in most cases, it’s just a natural part of their sleeping cycle.

However, if they experience frequent muscle spasms, it might indicate an underlying medical condition such as kidney disease, liver issues, electrolyte imbalance, muscular dystrophy, or dehydration. 

red-cat-sleeping-with-face-in-paws

6. Pregnancy 

When a cat is pregnant, their body experiences all sorts of changes. It’s working overtime to grow and support new life. This can lead to increased muscle activity and twitching movements during sleep.

Usually, this action is harmless, but it could be a sign of low calcium during pregnancy, known as eclampsia. To be safe, keep an eye on your pet and make sure they’re not experiencing other odd symptoms, like agitation and nervousness. 

ginger-cat-sleeping-with-tail-by-face

7. Seizures 

Cats can have seizures while they’re sleeping that can look similar to twitching. However, seizures tend to be jerkier and more pronounced. Their muscles or limbs might go stiff, and they could also foam at the mouth. 

Seizures generally last between 30 and 90 seconds, and during that time, you’ll have difficulty waking your pet. Your cat will most likely display other neurological changes when they’re awake apart from seizures. These can include things like changes in energy levels, appetite, or other behavior. 

If you see your cat twitching and displaying any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to speak with your vet. It might also be a good idea to install a pet camera to monitor your cat while you’re away. 

White cat sleeping on the floor why do cats twitch in their sleep

8. Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, also called twitchy cat disease, rolling skin syndrome, and a few other names, is another reason for twitching in cats. It’s not entirely sure what causes this syndrome. Vets theorize it might be brought on by brain disorders like epilepsy, tail trauma, muscle problems, or spinal disease. 

In most cases, this condition appears to have ‘triggers’. These can include things like knocks on doors, doorbells, other noises, changes to food, touching a sensitive part of your cat’s body, and more. 

siberian tabby sleeping

Twitching is a common symptom of this condition, as well as other things like compulsive grooming, licking or biting their paws, drooling, chasing their tail, and more. If you notice any of these signs in your cat, it’s best to speak with your vet to see if your cat might be suffering from this condition. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Cats Twitching in Their Sleep

Now that you have a better understanding of why cats twitch in their sleep, let’s go over some frequently asked questions and answers related to this topic. 

What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

Abyssinian Cat lying down best cat breeds

Currently, there’s no cure for Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome. However, there are ways to help your pet manage the symptoms. If you suspect your cat has FHS, schedule a visit with the vet immediately. 
There are medications they can take to help their quality of life. You’ll also want to help your cat manage their stress and anxiety, as this can worsen its symptoms. 
While this disease can affect all cat breeds, it seems to be more common in Abyssinian, Burmese, Siamese, and Persian breeds. 

Should I Wake My Cat Up If They’re Twitching? 

Two cats sleeping next to each other.

In most cases, you don’t need to wake your cat if they are twitching in its sleep. However, there are a few instances where it might be a good idea. 
If your cat is asleep near the edge of the bed or another high surface, and they look like they might fall off, it’s best to wake them and move them to a safer location. If your cat is having an active dream where it is running around, its twitching could be more energetic, and it might unconsciously move a little too much. 
If you are unsure if your cat is having a seizure or twitching, you can also try to wake them. If they arouse easily, it’s probably that they were only twitching. However, if you can’t wake them, this is a potential sign that they are having a seizure. In this case, you should contact your vet. 

If I Have To, How Should I Wake My Cat Up? 

Cat asleep on woman's shoulder.

If you decide you need to wake your cat up while they’re twitching, do so gently, like how you’d like to be woken up. Don’t poke or prod them; instead, stroke their coat lightly and coax them awake with soft words. 
Remember, no one likes to be woken up from a deep sleep, including your pets. 

How Long Do Cats Normally Sleep Each Day? 

tabby cat asleep with paws outstretched

Want to know how long cats sleep? It’s normal for your feline friends to sleep between 12 and 16 hours daily. When they’re kittens, they can sleep between 16 and 20 hours per day, depending on their exact age. 
Senior cats also tend to sleep for longer periods of time. Due to their old age and reduced mobility, they can sleep for up to 20 hours per day. 
This won’t be straight sleep, though; they’ll go through periods of waking and resting throughout the day. When you think about it, that’s a lot of opportunity for twitching. 

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

cat asleep on stomach

Cats sleep an estimated two-thirds of their lifetime; by comparison, humans sleep for about one-third. Our fluffy friends are crepuscular animals and have evolved to sleep this much. Wild cats needed to conserve their energy to exert themselves in hunting, chasing, and killing their prey. 
Although domesticated house cats are not required to hunt for their food anymore to survive, their instinct to rest in preparation for this strenuous activity continues to this day. 

Do Cats Have Nightmares? 

Blue-eyed greyish kitten over a black and white gradient background, meowing.

Yes, cats can have nightmares while they’re sleeping. You might be able to tell if your cat is having a bad dream if they start growling in its sleep, heavily panting, or yowling. This could be mistaken for twitching or having a seizure. 
However, if it’s just a once-off occurrence, or if it only happens occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about. 

What Should I Do if My Cat Is Shaking?

two white kittens half asleep next to each other

Seeing your cat shaking rather than twitching could be a cause for concern, or it might be nothing at all. Usually, this movement is caused by having an irregular body temperature, pain or anxiety, hypoglycemia, or another illness. It’s best to speak with your vet to examine the reason behind this behavior. 

When Should I See a Vet If I’m Concerned About My Cat Twitching? 

Veterinarian using a stethoscope to a ginger cat.

If you’re ever concerned about your cat twitching, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you notice other changes in your pet’s behavior apart from twitching. Try to keep notes on how often they twitch and what the movements look like. 
If you can, it’s also a good idea to record a video of your cat twitching in its sleep to show your vet. This can help them decide if other medical work is necessary. 

What Type of Environment Do Cats Sleep Best in? 

cropped-white-cat-asleep-in-human-bed-with-coffee.jpg

Sleep is crucial for your cat’s health, and you can assist them in getting great sleep in several different ways. Cats love to be warm. If the weather gets chilly, turn on a heater for them to lay next to, or if that’s not possible, you can get a self-warming cat pad for them to get cozy on.  
Make sure their sleeping spot is away from any noisy appliances and busy areas of your home. A quiet corner of a living room or bedroom is usually the best place for them. Most cats also enjoy sleeping in cat trees, especially if they live with children and other pets that can easily access them otherwise. 

Why Do Cats Twitch in Their Sleep | Final Thoughts?

Hopefully, this information has answered the question: why do cats twitch in their sleep? The more you know about your pet, the better you can care for them. 

In most cases, this behavior isn’t something to be concerned about. However, it could be a sign of something more serious at play, in which case you’ll find to speak with your vet. 

cat-in-box-sleeping-curled-up why do cats sleep in a ball

If you want to learn more about how your furry friends experience getting some shut-eye, check out all the different sleeping cat positions and what they reveal about your pet next.

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