“What do tigers dream of, when they take a little tiger snooze?” Most of you recall that line from the movie The Hangover. I was watching that movie the other day and it inspired me to write a blog about this topic. But really, what do they dream of.. what does any animal dream about? Do animals dream at all? These are all interesting questions.
After thorough observations and research it has been proven that all mammals as well as other species of animals do in fact have dreams during their dormant state. If you have a pet, at some point during their sleep you might have noticed them flinch or twitch and you might have probably credited this to their dreams. That is exactly the case. “All mammals share the same neural structures that are important in sleeping and dreaming.” This is why we know that just as humans do, other mammals dream.
Obviously we can’t talk to animals and ask them if they have dreams so we had to find out on our own terms. “There are two ways in which scientists have gone about this seemingly impossible task. One is to look at their physical behaviour during the various phases of the sleep cycle. The second is to see whether their sleeping brains work similarly to our own sleeping brains.” Animals have a similar sleep cycle to humans. They go through almost an identical process which includes REM sleep. REM sleep is the rapid eye movement stage of sleeping where all the dreaming takes place.
It’s good to know that animals dream but what exactly do they dream about? Similar to humans, animals dream about events that go on during their every day life. An experimental study was done on cats in which a part of the brain stem was removed. The part of the brainstem that was removed was the part that paralyzes the body during REM sleep, similarly to humans. During the cats’ sleep after the brainstem was removed, it was noticed that the animals walked around and acted more aggressively. “Some cats also show behaviour identical to predatory attacks, as if they were chasing mice in their dreams. Similar dream activity has been seen in dogs.” These are interesting findings to say the least.
I think that this research teaches us a lot about our own behavior as humans. The results found teach us that although we are extremely different from other animals, at the same time we have a lot in common. In some cases the more we learn about animals, the more we learn about ourselves. That is the beauty of science.