Why Does My Cat Twitch in Their Sleep?

Did you know that cats sleep for around 12 to 18 hours a day? Yes, that’s right! These wonderful creatures spend a significant portion of their lives snoozing. I must confess, I’m a bit envious. But have you ever wondered why cats twitch in their sleep? Well, there are various reasons. Some of them are incredibly cute and endearing, while others can be indicative of more serious underlying issues.

Unveiling the Mystery – What is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

When it comes to Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS), experts and veterinarians seem to have differing opinions. Some consider it a mental condition, akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder. On the other hand, others classify it as a seizure disorder. The triggers for this syndrome can vary. They may include loud noises like doorbells or knocks, unfamiliar visitors, certain sounds, changes in food or litter, touching sensitive parts of the cat’s body, and more.

Is My Cat Afflicted by Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, also known as FHS, is a relatively rare condition that affects cats. It is also referred to as twitch-skin syndrome/disease or rippling skin syndrome/disease. While it shares various symptoms with other conditions, it is important to distinguish it from them.

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Recognizing the Symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

FHS manifests differently in different cats, but there are common symptoms to watch out for. Cats experiencing FHS often exhibit episodes of intense and erratic activity that typically last only a few seconds or minutes. These episodes can occur during both sleep and wakeful states. Erratic behavior may include frantic licking of the legs, tail, and back, furious tail-flicking, zoomies (rapid running), biting around the legs, tail, and back, an agitated demeanor, and acting as if possessed. Additionally, cats might display dilated pupils, fast breathing, increased saliva, unusual vocal noises, and skin or fur rippling along their back.

Treating Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for FHS. However, a combination of treatments can help manage the symptoms. Treatment options may vary depending on the vet and the specific symptoms exhibited by the cat. Some vets may prescribe anxiety medication such as Prozac, while others may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs or seizure medications like gabapentin or phenobarbital. It is crucial to have a discussion with your vet about the potential side effects of each treatment option.

Other Causes of Cat Sleep Twitching

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is not the sole culprit behind your cat’s sleep twitching. There are other, less concerning reasons why cats may twitch while sleeping. For example, fleas and other skin conditions can cause cats to twitch as they attempt to alleviate itchiness. Twitching can also indicate allergies, fur-related problems like matting or shedding difficulties, or even skin infections.

Cat Twitching in Sleep – Is It Just a Dream?

If your cat twitches while sleeping, chances are they are caught up in a dream, just like humans. Cats go through sleep cycles, including non-REM (rapid eye movement) and REM sleep. During the REM sleep cycle, which occurs approximately every 25 minutes, you may observe your cat twitching as their brain remains active while their body is at rest. These twitches occur due to the dreaming process.

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When cats are dreaming, you may notice their nose, whiskers, and ears twitching, as well as their paws moving and their mouth seemingly meowing silently. In some cases, they may even let out actual meows. If there are no accompanying symptoms, your cat’s twitching is likely a result of their dreams.

My Cat is Twitching in Sleep and Won’t Wake Up – What Should I Do?

Don’t panic! If your cat is in a deep REM sleep cycle and dreaming, getting them to wake up might prove challenging. Initially, your attempts to nudge or poke them may become incorporated into their dream, prolonging their slumber. I bet I could even take my cat for a walk without her realizing it during this dreaming stage of sleep.

However, if you find that you can’t wake your cat up no matter what you do, it could be a sign of a more serious condition, such as seizures. In such cases, seeking veterinary assistance is recommended.

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

Unless you suspect a more serious underlying issue, it’s generally not advisable to wake your cat up while they’re twitching. Suddenly interrupting their dream can startle them, causing distress. However, if you do decide to wake your cat, it’s best to do so gently by using strokes and soothing words instead of prodding and sounding worried. After all, the last thing you want to do is agitate or unnecessarily worry your feline friend.

Cat Sleep Twitching vs. Seizures – How to Tell the Difference?

If your attempts to wake your cat while they’re twitching prove unsuccessful, they might be experiencing a seizure or another medical episode requiring veterinary attention. Seizures typically involve jerky movements that are more noticeable compared to the subtle twitches during dreams. Medical causes may be accompanied by other symptoms before and after the episode, though this is not always the case.

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You should be concerned about your cat’s sleep twitching, especially if you observe jerky movements, muscle or limb stiffness, difficulty awakening them, foam or fluid around the mouth or nose, changes in eating habits (particularly decreased eating), or an exhausted demeanor. When these additional symptoms occur alongside twitching, consulting a vet is vital to ensure your cat’s well-being. You might want to consider using a Petcube interactive pet camera to monitor your cat’s behavior when you’re not around and provide a comprehensive overview of their overall health.

Worried About Vet Bills? Petcube Has You Covered!

You’re not alone if the potential cost of veterinary care raises concerns. That’s precisely why Petcube offers an exceptional value-for-money service to provide top-notch vet care when you need it most, even if you don’t have the funds upfront. With Petcube’s Emergency Fund, you can access up to $3,000 of treatment for your cat (and up to five other pets) for less than $1 per day.


Why Are My Cat’s Ears Twitching When They’re Asleep?

If you notice that only your cat’s ears are twitching during sleep, it could indicate an ear infection, an accumulation of wax, or the presence of ear mites. It’s advisable to have your cat checked by a vet.

My Sick Cat Is Twitching in Sleep – Should I Worry?

If your sick cat starts twitching during sleep, it’s important to bring it to your vet’s attention. If you haven’t already discussed your cat’s overall health condition with the vet, now would be a good time. Sleep twitching in combination with other symptoms may indicate a deterioration in your cat’s health.

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Why Are My Kittens Twitching in Sleep?

Kittens twitch during sleep for the same reasons as adult cats. It’s usually due to exciting or even scary dreams. However, if you have any concerns, it’s recommended to have the kittens examined by a vet.

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