Do you have a cat that shivers while sleeping? There may be several explanations behind this phenomenon. 

When cats rest they can sometimes shake or even vibrate: But why do cats shake when they sleep? How come they almost seem to vibrate?

Is everything okay or is there something concerning behind this sleeping habit? Let’s try to find out the possible causes of this phenomenon, which can often seem more bizarre than it actually is.

Cat shaking while sleeping: How long do cats sleep?

When they sleep, cats always seem adorable to us, and we are often tempted to sit idly by watching them until they wake up; sometimes they can also be extremely funny, especially if we catch them taking a nap in the most absurd positions (you know exactly what I’m talking about).

However, it sometimes happens that by observing them during their sleep, we notice a somewhat strange phenomenon: they seem to shake and vibrate in their sleep. And not being able to determine the causes of this phenomenon, which we had not noticed in the past, we can also worry and fear that these are the first signs of a health problem.

Should I still worry if my cat is shaking while sleeping?

Why do cats shake when they sleep? Should you be worried about it? In some cases, especially in an older cat, you might mistake these tremors for seizures.

But I assure you, there is nothing to worry about. So let’s try to clarify and understand first how sleep works for cats and then I would explain why your cat is shaking when sleeping.

Cat’s sleep

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 be made up of 3 consecutive phases during a sleep of several hours or an entire night.

The first phase is the lightest of all and usually also the most frequent: it is the one that characterizes the naps that the cat takes during the day, although perhaps we would like to spend time with it.

Although he is still and relaxed in a comfortable position and has his eyes closed, he still retains relative awareness of what is happening in his immediate vicinity, as if he were half asleep. This is due to his animal instinct which in the wild allows him to sleep while perceiving potential dangers.

You will see him move 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 interruption. sudden.

It’s actually a defense mechanism that his body puts in place to allow him to rest and regain strength without letting his guard down too much and keeping him at least partially alert and able to perceive danger. 

This is a valuable ability for cats living in the wild; and your cat retains this instinct which is inscribed in its genetic heritage, even if it no longer needs it.

Fortunately for him, this is not the only type of sleep he has access to: 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, sets the stage for deeper sleep, also known as REM sleep. In this third phase, which we humans also experience and 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?

You should know that cats also dream, just like us and during the REM phase. Indeed, they dream much more than us: if 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 time interval the muscles contract, producing the famous “shaking” which is sure to attract our curiosity.

There are other similar behaviors that accompany this tremor or vibration during sleep: it may sometimes move its 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, beware of waking a cat that is sleeping so deeply, even if you see it shaking or moving certain parts of its body.

Tremors 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 take it immediately to a veterinarian for further examination?

Tremors during sleep are generally not a red flag: more generally, the behaviors and reactions that can be observed 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 attacks are caused by a variety of reasons, including stroke, drug or other chemical poisoning, metabolic imbalances, head trauma, problems with the cardiovascular system, 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 it is obvious to think, our poor cat will go into hypothermia and shiver with cold. 

Adult cats are able to independently maintain their body heat; but the little ones and especially the newborns are not able to do it, and it can thus put their life in danger. 

Some acute or chronic illnesses can be responsible for this problem, but in general, be sure to keep your kitten warm at all times.

Speaking of body temperature, hyperthermia – basically identified as high fever – can also cause cats to tremor regardless of their waking or sleeping state. 

The causes of this symptom are multiple: infections, viruses or other diseases. If, by measuring your cat’s temperature correctly, you discover that he has a fever, it is very important to find the causes as soon as possible and inform the veterinarian.

Then there’s hypoglycemia, a condition that involves low blood sugar levels 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 seemingly normal conditions and even if it eats normally. 

In the first case you can intervene personally to restore the balance of his organism by making him consume a particularly energetic meal; but in either case, your doctor should at least be informed of the situation.

Tremors and loss of appetite are also among the many symptoms of one of the most common conditions in a cat, especially if it is adult or elderly: acute or chronic kidney failure. It is a gradual but unstoppable decline in the functionality of the kidneys, which are less and less able to drain the blood of toxins.

As it naturally comes to think, even physical pain from injuries, trauma, falls, or worsening health conditions from pre-existing chronic conditions or advanced age can cause our cat to shiver. And as there is physical pain, there is also that due to the shock reported for certain traumatic situations, which in addition to the tremor will cause a drop in the temperature of the limbs, pale gums and general weakness but with a rapid heartbeat .

What if it was just his head shaking? A cat that repeatedly shakes its head and possibly scratches its ears is a clear symptom of hearing loss. This condition could be caused by a bacterial or other infection, but the vet will need to determine that with absolute certainty.

We should not underestimate a whole series of psychological problems that cause the cat to tremble while sleeping, basically, from fear: it can be anxiety due to the perception of a real or imaginary danger by the cat, separation anxiety or the result of poor socialization. ; it can be stress due to sudden changes or upheavals in his daily life (moves, departures, prolonged absences of his reference human, new arrivals at home); it can also be a phobia caused by a specific event or stimulus that has left a mark on one’s mind and which may have come to light during sleep.

Whatever the cause, psychological discomfort can have significant repercussions on a cat’s life just like physical ailments, and must therefore be studied with the greatest attention.

Cat shaking while sleeping: The final word

If you have a cat that shivers while sleeping, try to find the probable causes and if in doubt, take it to the veterinarian.