The Surprising Reasons Behind Your Cat’s Weird Sleep Noises


Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night by strange squeaks, chirps or meows coming from your sleeping cat? You’re not alone! It’s common for cat owners to hear their furry friends make odd noises while dreaming. In this article, we’ll explore why cats vocalize in their sleep and what their nighttime noises might mean.

Cats spend 50% or more of their day sleeping. But while they sleep, their brains still experience cycles including active and quiet phases, just like humans. The active phase is referred to as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when cats experience vivid dreams. It’s during REM sleep that cats often make sounds and move their paws or ears. While some cat noises in sleep can seem peculiar, they are usually completely normal and nothing to worry about!

REM Sleep in Cats

Cats experience two main types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep. During NREM sleep, cats experience deep, restorative sleep. Their breathing slows, muscles relax, and brain waves become slow. NREM sleep is divided into three stages, with stage three being the deepest sleep.

REM sleep is lighter sleep where dreaming occurs. According to the Sleep Foundation, cats spend about 1/3 of their total sleep time in REM sleep. During REM sleep, a cat’s eyes will move rapidly under their eyelids, their limbs may twitch, and their breathing becomes irregular. Their brain waves also increase to waking levels. It is believed cats have vivid dreams during REM sleep.

Common Noises Cats Make

Cats make a variety of noises that can seem strange or unusual, especially when they are sleeping. Here are some of the most common noises cats make:


Purring is a soft, vibrating sound that cats make when they are content. Cats often purr while sleeping. The meaning of purring while sleeping likely indicates your cat is having a pleasant dream.


Chattering, also known as chirping or twittering, is an excited chattering noise some cats make when they see prey through a window or are frustrated they can’t access something. This odd sleep noise may indicate your cat is dreaming about hunting.


Growling is a low rumbling warning sound cats make when angry, afraid, threatened or in pain. Growling during sleep could mean your cat is having an unpleasant or scary dream.


Cats meow to communicate with humans and other cats. Sleep meowing likely means your cat is interacting with someone in its dream.


Howling is similar to meowing but louder and more mournful. This vocalization in cats’ sleep may indicate anxiety, distress or discontent from dreaming.

Why Do Cats Make Noises in REM Sleep?

Cats make various vocalizations and movements during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep because they are acting out their dreams or nightmares, similar to humans. REM sleep is the stage when dreaming occurs, and a cat’s brain is just as active during REM as when they are awake. According to Purina, cats spend about 30% of their sleeping time in the REM stage.1

During REM sleep, a cat’s eyes will move back and forth under their eyelids, their heart rate increases, and their muscles twitch as they act out dream activities. They may make chirping, squeaking, or meowing noises as if they are responding to dream events. Their legs may jerk as if they are running after dream prey. Whiskers, ears, tails, and paws may also twitch in response to dreamed activities.2

One theory is that REM sleep helps consolidate memories from the day. The brain sorts through the day’s experiences and activities, processes information, and stores important memories from waking hours. So all those noises and movements may be your cat’s brain hard at work filing away memories while they sleep.3

Dreaming in Cats

Cats do indeed dream, just like humans and other mammals. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, cats can have vivid dreams much like humans do. According to research by Michel Jouvet published in Brain Research (, cats experience complex brain activity during REM sleep indicating they are dreaming.

It’s believed dreaming plays an important role in processing memories and stimuli. According to an article from Discover Magazine (, dreams may help consolidate memories and experiences into long-term storage. Much like humans, cats likely dream about recent activities and experiences as their brain processes information from the day.

Signs of Dreaming in Cats

Cats experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep just like humans do. During REM sleep, the brain is very active. This is the sleep stage when dreaming occurs. There are several signs that indicate your cat is dreaming during REM sleep:

  • Whiskers and ears twitching – A cat’s whiskers and ears may twitch or flutter while dreaming. This signals increased brain activity.
  • Rapid eye movement – A cat’s eyes will move rapidly under their eyelids as they experience visual dreams.
  • Muscle twitches – You may see your cat’s face, legs, or paws twitch while they are fast asleep. These bodily movements correspond to their dreams.

These behaviors are all normal during feline REM sleep. While the sights, sounds, and activity may seem unusual compared to when your cat is awake, they provide a glimpse into your pet’s active subconscious mind and dreaming state.

Helping Cats with Nightmares

If your cat seems to be frequently troubled by nightmares, there are some things you can do to help create a more peaceful sleep environment for them:

First, be sure to gently wake your cat if you notice them having a vivid dream or nightmare. Call their name softly or gently pet them to bring them back to consciousness. Avoid shaking or startling them awake, as this may add to their stress.

After waking, be sure to comfort your cat and provide reassurance. Pet them softly and speak in soothing tones so they understand everything is alright. This can help relieve any anxiety caused by the nightmare.

Also focus on creating a relaxing sleep space for your cat. Make sure their bed is in a quiet, low-traffic area of the home. Consider using calming pheromone diffusers or calming treats to reduce stress. Playing soothing music or limiting noise at night may also help lull your cat into deep, peaceful sleep. With some care and attention, you can help minimize the chances of your cat having troubled dreams.


When to See the Vet

While some nighttime meowing or weird noises can be normal for cats, prolonged vocalization at night or other behavioral changes warrant a veterinary exam. Here are some signs that it’s time to schedule a vet appointment:

Prolonged or excessive nighttime vocalization, especially if this is new behavior for your cat. Frequent and drawn out meowing, crying or howling at night could indicate physical or mental distress.

Signs of pain or discomfort like limping, sensitivity to touch, appetite changes or lethargy. Your cat may cry or act out more at night when pain is exacerbated.

Neurological issues like disorientation, loss of balance, seizures or staring spells. Senior cats are prone to cognitive decline that can cause nighttime confusion or vocalization.

It’s best to observe your cat’s behavior and note any patterns of when and why they seem distressed. Share your observations with your veterinarian so they can determine if an underlying medical issue requires treatment.

Fun Facts About Cat Sleep

When it comes to sleep, cats are champion snoozers. Here are some fascinating facts about the sleeping habits of our feline friends:

Cats sleep an astounding 70% of their lives. The average cat will sleep anywhere between 12-16 hours per day. Older cats and kittens sleep even longer, up to 20 hours a day. With so much time spent sleeping, it’s no wonder cats can appear lazy and unmotivated.

Studies show that cats experience more REM sleep than dogs do. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the phase when dreams occur. This means cats likely have more active dream lives compared to their canine counterparts. When cats make odd noises and move their paws while sleeping, it’s a good indication they are deep in a feline dreamland.

A cat’s daily sleep requirements can range from 12-20 hours on average. An adult cat will sleep around 16 hours a day, while a kitten or senior cat may sleep up to 20 hours in a 24-hour period. With so many hours dedicated to sleeping and dreaming, it’s important cats have safe and comfortable places to snooze.


In summary, cats make a variety of vocalizations during REM sleep because they are dreaming. These sounds can include groans, whimpers, purrs, and even meows. While the noises may seem strange, they are perfectly normal for cats dreaming. Understanding the sleep stages and signs of dreaming in cats can help owners identify whether their cat’s nighttime noises are cause for concern. Most of the time, these sleep noises are nothing to worry about. However, if the sounds become frequent or distressing, it may be a sign of anxiety or a health issue that requires veterinary attention. With proper care and affection, owners can help their cats get peaceful, uninterrupted rest. While a cat’s dreams remain mysterious, learning about their sleep cycles provides valuable insight into our feline friends.

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