Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bad Dreams

Do cats dream? I'm sure they do. Dogs do, as well. I don't know if the twitching whiskers, jerking feet and flicking tail of a sleeping cat signify that it is in the midst of a somnolent adventure, but it's my belief that these are indeed symptoms of a dream in progress.

Tungsten is, so far as I know, the only one of my cats who has bad dreams. This is ironic, considering that she is the least troubled by fear while awake. She will remain indifferent to loud noises and new people. She keeps the others in line with a hiss or a growl, the occasional swat. She is fearless, the tiny terror of the household.

Yet when she sleeps, she enters a realm of which she is not the mistress. This makes sense, I think, since in the waking world, she is confined to her small but safe existence here in the house. On the far side of Morpheus, she is free - or perhaps forced - to roam in places she has been, places she has seen, places she can barely imagine. Events are unreal, people and creatures fantastic. Even she must experience anxiety and concern under such conditions.

Tungsten will wake from sleep abruptly at times. She will often then cry out. It's not a cry of fear at this point, nor of pain. It's a call, a call for me. Whenever she cries out like that, I go to see her. She never makes such noises when she is demanding service - the tap turned on for a drink, dinner to be served now not later, me to sit down so as to provide a lap. I know those comments and protests. The cry of a bad dream is plaintive and almost kitten-like. When I speak to her after a nightmare, the orange one begins purring immediately, and loudly, for her. She likes me to pick her up at such times, her little body vibrating with relief. Then, after a minute or two, she becomes almost embarrassed - she is, after all, thirteen, and long since an adult. She shouldn't need comforting after a bad dream. She wants down, and she resumes her nap, or wanders off to nibble from the food-bowl, anything to show me that it wasn't such a big deal, after all.

Her age was estimated to be six years when she was presented to the cat-rescue organisation from which I adopted her, a year afterward. She did not seem to have been through anything terrible when she was taken in, yet she appeared sad, apathetic. That is not her character; she is strong and superior. But perhaps, once in a while, when she snoozes, she returns to the situation that made her so melancholy. Maybe she goes back to a time and place when she was not loved, or the person who had loved her had gone, for whatever reason. It may be that she was alone and confused as to what was happening. These are the elements of nightmare for many humans, never mind a cat.

Tungsten will likely have these dreams all her life. But they are rarer now than they used to be. Now, when she wakes, she usually stretches, purrs and likes to have a vigorous chest- and flank-rub. I like to see her wake like that, happy at a restful nap, and ready for another. On those occasions, the dreams must have been good ones, when jerking feet are running through green fields, flicking tails show contentment, and whiskers twitch because of a smile.


  1. Awww, Tungsten....At least the dreams aren't frequent.

    When I first adopted Derry (maybe the first year or better part of the first year), he'd have terrible nightmares (I assume), because he'd suddenly jolt awake in a terrible state, almost like he was having a panic attack or something similar. Once in a while he'll still startle awake, but it's rare, thank goodness.

    Sometimes when Nicki dreams he'll growl or make other noises and I always think he must be dreaming of a cat on the other side of the fence, and so is defending his territory even in sleep.

  2. I suspect you are correct thinking Tungsten may be going back to a time when her life may not have been as happy. She is obviously feeling less insecure in her sleep - thanks to your care and love!

    Sasha was the dreamer in our house, he would often kick or make noises. Now at 13 he sleeps so solid that my children often check to make sure he is still breathing.

    Sweet dreams to Tungsten!

  3. I think we all need comforting after a bad dream no matter what our age, two-legged or four :-) Here's wishing Tungsten only happy dreams from now on!

    We wanted to thank you for Jimmy's birthday wishes and let you know that we're returning to blogging next week. Hope you'll pop back again for a visit :-)