Do you have a cat that shakes in its sleep? There may be several explanations behind this phenomenon.
When cats are resting they can sometimes shake or even vibrate: why do cats shake when they sleep? Why do cats shake when they sleep? How come they seem to almost vibrate?
Is everything okay or is there something wrong with your four-legged friend? Let’s try to find out the possible causes of this phenomenon, which can often seem weirder than it actually is.
Cat shaking while sleeping : How long do cats sleep?
When they sleep, we, as good cat owners, can’t help but think they’re adorable, and we’re often tempted to just sit back and watch them until they wake up; sometimes they can also be extremely funny, especially if we catch them napping in the most absurd positions.
Sometimes, however, when we observe them while they are asleep, we notice a somewhat strange phenomenon: they seem to tremble and vibrate in their sleep. And since we cannot determine the cause of this phenomenon, which we have not noticed in the past, we can also worry that it is the first sign of a health problem.
Should I still be concerned if my cat shakes in his sleep?
Why do cats shake when they sleep? Do you have to worry all the time? In some cases, especially in older cats, you may mistake the shaking for a seizure.
But no. There’s nothing to worry about. So let’s try to clarify and understand first how sleep works for cats, and then I’ll explain why your cat shakes when he sleeps.
The first thing to know when it comes to the sleep of our feline friends is that it can be of three types. It can also consist of 3 consecutive phases during a sleep of several hours or a whole night.
The first phase is the lightest of all and usually also the most frequent: it is the one that characterizes the naps that our cat is not afraid to take during the day, even though we might like to spend some time with him.
Although he is still and relaxed in a comfortable position and has his eyes closed, he still retains a relative consciousness of what is going on in his immediate vicinity, as if he were half asleep.
You will see him twitch his ears or nose if he perceives any sound or smell around him, and depending on the type of stimulus he receives, it will not take him long to wake up suddenly, upset by the sudden interruption.
This is actually a defense mechanism his body puts in place to allow him to rest and regain his strength without letting him let his guard down too much and keep him at least partially alert and able to perceive danger.
This is undoubtedly a valuable resource for animals living in the wild; but probably our cat, who has inherited it in spite of himself and has nothing to fear in our house with us, would simply like to sleep a little longer!
Fortunately for him this is not the only kind of sleep to which he has access: there is also a transitional phase, more intense than the “half-sleep” just described but defined as “light sleep” and of shorter duration. It, in turn, paves the way to a deeper sleep, also called REM sleep. In this third phase, which we humans also experience and which we share with birds and other animals, brain activity increases causing rapid eye movements (Rapid Eye Movement, from which it takes its name) under the eyelids.
Do cats dream?
Cats also dream, just like us, during the REM phase. In fact, they dream much more than we do: while this phase occurs in humans every 90 minutes of sleep, in cats it occurs every 25 minutes and lasts on average 6 or 7 minutes.
If usually the cat seems completely relaxed, it is also possible that in this particular interval of time the muscles contract, producing the famous “tremor” which will not fail to attract our curiosity.
There are other similar behaviors that accompany this trembling or shaking during sleep: he may sometimes move his legs, whiskers, and tail or even meow.
Many researchers argue that in the absence of suspicious behavior, this is an absolutely harmless phenomenon and indeed extremely important for the development of the nervous system, especially in younger specimens. If you think there is nothing to worry about, be careful not to wake up a cat that is sleeping so soundly, even if you see it shaking or moving certain parts of its body.
Trembling in sleeping cats: when to worry?
But what exactly are the suspicious behaviors to keep in mind? Under what conditions should we assume that there is indeed something wrong with our cat and immediately take her to a veterinarian for further examination?
Trembling during sleep is not usually a red flag: more generally, behaviors and reactions that can be seen in your cat, even outside of it, should be cause for concern.
The aforementioned epilepsy, for example, causes seizures even when fully awake and very specific symptoms that can be noticed during the day; these seizures are caused by a variety of reasons, including strokes, drug or other chemical intoxication, metabolic imbalances, head injuries, cardiovascular system problems, fever, allergic reactions. If in addition to shaking your cat completely stiffens the body, it is good to inform the veterinarian immediately.
Another condition that would cause a cat to shiver in several different situations, including sleep, is related to maintaining body temperature. If it is too low, as is obvious to think, our poor cat will go into hypothermia and shiver with cold.
Adult cats are able to maintain their body heat independently; but small ones and especially newborns are not able to do so, and it may thus endanger their lives.
Certain acute or chronic illnesses may be responsible for this problem, but in general, be sure to keep your kitten warm at all times.
Speaking of body temperature, hyperthermia-essentially identified as high fever-can also cause a cat to tremble regardless of whether she’s awake or asleep.
There are many causes for this symptom: infections, viruses or other diseases. If, when you measure your cat’s temperature correctly, you discover that she has a fever, it is very important to investigate the cause as soon as possible and inform the vet.
Then there is hypoglycemia , a condition in which the blood sugar level drops and is one of the most common causes of tremors in cats. This can occur even if the cat has not eaten for a long time, but also under apparently normal conditions and even if it eats normally.
In the first case you can intervene personally to restore the balance of his body by making him eat a particularly energetic meal; but in both cases your doctor should at least be informed of the situation.
Shaking and loss of appetite are also among the many symptoms of one of the most common conditions in a cat, especially if she is an adult or older: acute or chronic renal failure. This is a gradual but unstoppable decline in the functionality of the kidneys, which become less and less able to drain the blood of toxins.
As it naturally comes to mind, even physical pain due to injury, trauma, falls, or worsening health problems due to pre-existing chronic diseases or advanced age can make our cat shake. And just as there is physical pain, there is also that due to shock reported for certain traumatic situations, which in addition to the shaking will cause a drop in temperature of the limbs, pale gums and general weakness but with a rapid heart rate.
What if it’s just his head shaking? A cat that shakes its head repeatedly and perhaps scratches its ears is an obvious symptom of hearing loss . This condition could be caused by a bacterial or other infection, but the vet will have to determine this with absolute certainty.
One should not underestimate a whole series of psychological problems that cause the cat to tremble in sleep, basically, from fear: it may be anxiety due to the perception of a real or imaginary danger by the cat, separation anxiety or the result of poor socialization. It may be stress due to sudden changes or upheavals in its daily life (moving, departures, prolonged absences from its reference human, new arrivals at home); it may also be a phobia caused by a specific event or stimulus that has left a mark on its mind and that may have been brought to light during sleep.
Whatever the cause, psychological discomfort can have as great an effect on the cat’s life as physical ailments, and should therefore be investigated with the utmost care.
Cat shaking in his sleep: The Final Word
If you have a cat that shakes in his sleep, try to find out the likely causes and if in doubt, take him to the vet.