Understanding Your Cat Twitching in Sleep

by Jayley
Cat Twitching in Sleep

Does your cat exhibit such vigorous movements during their slumber that it appears as if they’re participating in an intense marathon? Cats engage in sleep twitches for various reasons, such as dreaming, muscle spasms, or underlying medical issues.

When you see your cat twitching in their sleep, it is crucial to closely monitor them for any signs of distress. If you think your cat additionally displays symptoms like panting, drooling, labored breathing, or restlessness, quickly consult with your veterinarian to rule out potential medical causes.

Many cat owners often care to wonder whether their cat twitching while sleeping is within the realm of normalcy. For most cats, twitching, jerking, ear flicking and tail swishing are all considered routine components of the specific part of the brain. 

So, feel free to share those adorable kitten twitches on your social media content story as long as you remain vigilant as a pet parent for any indications that might hint at a sleep disorder or underlying issue.

Twitching During Cat Sleep: Causes and Actions to Take


Cats typically snooze for around 12 to 18 hours a day, which means it is only natural to spend a portion of your day observing your cat’s slumber.

While we may not fully comprehend the inner workings of their furry minds during these naps, experts who adore felines learn that a cat’s falling asleep or waking bears similarities to our own. You might even catch your beloved feline friend’s paws acting playfully, batting around as if they are chasing an invisible mouse.

So, what should you make of it when it looks like your cat twitching in their sleep? A team of veterinarians and doctors theorize into these queries and also outline the signs in this article that can signal when twitching in cats ask for closer attention.

Cat Sleeping Patterns

Every cat owner understands that cats are exceptional sleepers, although their choice of when to nap might not always align with our schedules. Naturally, crepuscular creatures and cats tend to be most active during the evening and early morning hours. This explains why many cats seem to believe that 4 a.m. is the perfect time for play and mealtime. As a result, they spend the majority of their day either lounging or sleeping.

On average, a healthy cat sleeps for approximately 12 to 13 hours each day, but this duration can vary depending on their age and activity level. A cat’s cycle of sleep is relatively brief, lasting around 75 minutes, in contrast to the typical human cycle of sleep of 90 to 120 minutes.

A cat’s sleep pattern alternates between periods of two to 10 minutes of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and 12 to 15 minutes of non-REM sleep. During non-REM sleep, cats remain entirely still with some muscle tone or stiffness. In contrast, during REM sleep, their muscles are fully relaxed, although there may be occasional bursts of activity, such as limb, eye, whisker, ear, and tail movements.

What Triggers Twitching During Sleep?

There are numerous questions and potential causes behind twitching during sleep. Some of the common factors include:

Dreams Similar to humans

Cats undergo both rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep cycles. During REM sleep, the body remains relaxed while the brain actively processes the day’s experiences. While some people are saying that cats dream during REM sleep due to their brain activity patterns resembling those of humans during slumber, they can’t communicate this to us, leaving the matter uncertain.

Mild muscle twitching during REM sleep can be normal and might be linked to dream-related activity. The reassuring news is that subtle twitches in a cat’s face, legs, ears, and tail pose no cause for concern; instead, they should be embraced as an endearing facet of a cat’s regular sleep. However, it is important to note that there could be other reasons unrelated to dreams that lead to your cat’s twitching while asleep. 

Allergies “Twitching during sleep”

Followed by immediate grooming upon waking, it may signal an itchy skin area caused by factors such as fleas, allergies, tangled fur, or a skin infection. Influencers say, “Regularly inspect your cat for fleas and maintain their coat in good condition.”

If you observe your cat excessively twitching their ears, you can tell if it is because of ear mites or an ear infection. You may notice that the twitching is added by scratching or rubbing the ears. Ear mites and infections often lead to an accumulation of waxy debris in the ears, so it is important to check your pet’s ears regularly.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders

Parasomnias refer to a category of sleep disorders characterized by unusual movements, behaviors, or vocalizations during sleep. These occurrences are relatively uncommon and not fully understood in the context of feline sleep. They may arise as secondary effects of genetic disorders, brain tumors, or metabolic conditions.

In extremely rare cases, injury to a specific brain region known as the pontine tegmentum can induce sleepwalking in cats. Some of the movements associated with sleep disorders may resemble seizures, but unlike the jerking seen in seizures, these movements cease when the cat is awakened.

If your cat exhibits prolonged activity during what appears to be sleep, engages in more vigorous actions beyond minor twitches, or displays growling or hissing while asleep, try to capture videos and call your veterinarian. 

Diagnosis of most sleep disorders relies on documented or described symptoms and the cat’s response to waking during these events, with the aim of ruling out seizures. Diagnostic sleep studies are not commonly conducted in cats, so consultation with a veterinary neurologist may be necessary to identify any brain lesions contributing to sleep disorders or causing seizures during sleep.

Maturing Nervous System

There is a theory suggesting that kittens may experience more twitching during sleep than adult cats due to their rapidly developing nervous systems. Conducting sleep studies on kittens is even more challenging than on older cats, which limits the available information on this topic.

Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms in cats, while they sleep, can resemble typical twitching, but true muscle spasms are more forceful than the subtle kicks and flicks associated with regular sleep.

Muscle spasms can arise due to factors such as toxins like permethrins found in dog flea products, neurological issues, pain, or sleep disorders. Because it can be challenging to differentiate these spasms from normal sleep activity, consider recording a video to share with your veterinarian if you have concerns about them.

Seizures On a more concerning note

Cats experiencing seizures may display symptoms like twitching, shaking, spasms, and tremors. Seizures typically involve alterations in brain activity, including occurrences during sleep or upon waking. In addition to twitching, a cat undergoing a seizure may experience stiffening of their limbs and a loss of control over their bladder or bowels.

So, if you suspect your cat is having seizures, it is crucial to promptly contact your veterinarian so they can investigate any underlying health issues. Since the signs of a seizure can sometimes resemble twitching seen during sleep, it is helpful to distinguish between the two. Cats having ordinary activity in their sleep and twitching should wake up and behave normally when touched or gently awakened. Conversely, cats experiencing a seizure will not cease their movements when roused. 

They may exhibit signs of disorientation, such as a distant expression, drooling, unsteadiness, and unusual behavior, for a period of 15 minutes to an hour following the seizure event. If you suspect your cat has had a seizure, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary assistance.

What Does Cat Twitching Appear Like?

Cat Sleep Twitching, similar to human sleep movements, can vary. However, there are some key signs that suggest cat twitching during sleep is nothing to worry about:

  1. It occurs infrequently and only during sleep.
  2. Your cat is otherwise in good health.
  3. The twitching stops when you wake your cat up.

A cat’s rapid eye movement (REM) cycle lasts around six minutes, as noted by a small animal veterinarian based in New Zealand. During this time, you may hear your cat making a sleep noise, observe their tail twitching, or notice a kitten attempting to suckle.

Writing expert says, “Since each cat’s sleep movements can differ significantly, the most reliable indicator of a potential issue is being familiar with your cat’s usual sleep patterns and thus recognizing when something unusual occurs.”

Why Do Your Cats Experience Twitching During Sleep?

Humans can experience various movements during sleep. When we initially drift into slumber, we might encounter hypnic jerks, commonly referred to as sleep starts. Towards the conclusion of each sleeping cycle, which spans 70 to 100 minutes, we enter the rapid eye movement (REM) phase, marked by heightened brain activity (associated with activity while sleeping) that can involve sleep talking and/or sleep twitching. 

Some individuals even grapple with sleep disorders that occur between the states of wakefulness and sleep, known as sleepwalking. Some professionals reassure, “Cats don’t seem to engage in sleepwalking.” However, cats can undergo hypnic jerks and possess a REM sleeping cycle that bears a physiological resemblance to that of humans.

As some doctors point out, the primary distinction between a cat’s REM stage and a human’s REM stage lies in the timing. While humans experience more extended intervals of REM sleep separated by relatively lengthy gaps, cats cycle in and out of REM sleep more swiftly.

During REM sleep, a cat’s body typically enters a state of complete muscular relaxation, the extent of which varies from one individual to another. Occasionally, some nerve signals manage to penetrate the state of sleep paralysis, leading to the twitching of a paw or whisker.

Read also: Do Cats Sleep With Eyes Open?

Cat Twitching: When to Get in Touch with Your Veterinarian

Cat Twitching: When to Get in Touch with Your Veterinarian

In most cases, sleep twitching in cats poses no cause for concern. Signs of a more serious issue are generally quite distinct from regular sleep twitching. If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, it is advisable to schedule a visit to the veterinarian:

  1. The twitching occurs both when your cat is asleep and awake.
  2. The twitching is accompanied by additional symptoms such as difficulty walking, excessive drooling, sudden collapse, seizures, or heightened sensitivity when touched near the tail.
  3. The twitching is involuntary and persists even when your cat is awake.

Some doctor also points out that twitching in cats during sleep can sometimes indicate feline allergies, such as itching caused by a flea bite. Although your cat may seem completely unaware of the outside world while asleep, their body can still receive signals about their surroundings. A cat that itches during sleep is likely to experience the same itchiness when awake.”

Some expert says that cats can also twitch while awake, often in situations of excitement or when they are stalking their favorite toy mouse. “These types of twitching are voluntary and can be interrupted. However, if your cat is twitching while awake and the twitching cannot be stopped, it could be a sign of toxicity poisoning, a calcium imbalance, epilepsy, or feline hyperesthesia syndrome.


Cat twitching during sleep is a relatively common and usually harmless occurrence. It is often associated with the cat’s rapid eye movement (REM) cycle of sleep and may be linked to activity while sleeping. Most cats experience these mild twitches, which are considered a normal part of their sleep patterns.

However, it is crucial for cat owners to be aware of the signs that may indicate a more serious underlying issue. If the twitching is involuntary and persists when the cat is awake, along with other concerning symptoms such as difficulty walking, seizures, or heightened sensitivity near the tail, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian.

Additionally, while most seizures in cats tend to occur during periods of excitement, it’s essential to remain vigilant and seek veterinary advice if there are any doubts or if the cat’s twitching becomes uncontrollable while awake. Knowing your cat’s normal sleep behavior and promptly addressing any unusual signs can help ensure their well-being and health.

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