Have you ever wondered what your pets dream about? Do they relive their fun day at the park, dream of endless treats and snuggle time, or perhaps worry about the future? What are they dreaming of when their legs start moving and their whiskers start twitching? To find out, I interviewed 4 dogs and a cat about their dreams. Our panel consists of Chloe, a spaniel; Darla, cattle dog; Buttons, Pekingese; Sammie, beagle; and BJ, a tuxedo cat.
Do you know what it means to dream?
Chloe knows when she wakes up drooling it means she’s had a dream.
Buttons says “I not only know what they ARE, I WANT them! They’re when I fall asleep, I have things in my head.” He shows vague pictures, swirling colors and notes “if you have a sharp eye, you can discern things” in the shapes and make sense of them. “It’s nice to look at them.”
BJ feels when dreaming “you have heaven in your heart” – you can see and interact in your mind with the beings and thoughts from another realm.
What do you dream about when you’re sleeping?
BJ: “Oh, pleasant things. Soft things…” He shows a grassy area with large cotton balls, big enough to nap on. His favorite dreams are of wandering an endless grass field, he feels very safe there, slowly exploring and finding tiny critters living deep in the grass. He also likes dreams of “squirrels – BIG ones!” which he chases high up into the trees. He says all pets dream of “curious things”, things that they wonder about when awake will be revisited in their dreams. He thinks other pets dream of “when to go out and go on walks, and who will be there to help them, and where the grass will be again” after the snow melts.
In many of Darla’s dreams “I explore. I make my own way.” She walks long distances in natural terrain that unfolds as she explores. She chooses where to go, often following animal tracks as well as those made by dirt bikes and bulldozers. “I roll around in their scents.” Some dreams are not as clear, they contain a jumble of human voices and “it’s all I can do to clear my head of the action. I like my mind to flow” without the choppiness of the dream voices. At other times in dreams voices are helpful. “When you’re in a dream you forget things, so you look around” for clues and sometimes the clue is in the form of a voice guiding her, making sense of the dream.
In Sammie’s dreams “I go rock-climbing” over small boulders and streams, easily, it’s fun. “There’s water here too, I like to swim.” During dreams she can use wings to coast a few feet above the boulders and the water. In other dreams “I like to live in the earth” – tunnel into burrows, she makes herself as small as the animal who lives there and explores the depths of the tunnels. Other frequent sightings in her dreams are stars, blue moons, large and fantastical birds like “giant hummingbirds that could eat you” but are kind and safe, and tiny horses that fly across the sky.
Buttons: “I see swirly things in my head and my mind makes up stories” to explain them. Some of the colors are bright, vibrant, happy, and others are gray and a little scary but he can explain that away. He dreams of “all the normal things – cars going by fast. I can see stars” in a bright blue sky. “I see people floating in cars. Sometimes I swim. Or dance” and that makes people in the dream laugh. He dreams of some people he knows but his dog friends don’t appear in his dreams.
Chloe also dreams of people she knows, just brief images as they pass by. She often dreams of being on leash walks with her mom. More fun is when skunks appear and she can chase them and catch them but they have no scent! She likes dreams where she’s active such as leaping and jumping off 10’ cliffs, and also restful dreams where she sits at her people’s feet and listens to them talk. She frequently has dreams that “take me places I can’t see. My mind expands its awareness” as she dreams. “I move about in the air”, traveling 10-20’ above the rooftops of the shops near home. She can zoom in on a particular building but prefers to keep flying and looking around the night sky. “I hover like an airplane then come to the ground”, dropping onto a sunny spot of lawn. In her dreams she’s met fish who walk upright alongside her. “Anything you imagine can happen.”
Do you ever have bad dreams?
BJ: “Once when I was walking I saw a hawk” fly low overhead, he saw its shadow fall over him and he was scared. “He was big and powerful and wanted to be mean to me”. BJ had a nightmare about that.
When it’s windy Darla has unsettled anxious dreams. On those nights her dreams are of howling at the moon. Another bad dream is one where she wishes “that when I wake up someone’s there to pet me, someone I love.” Bad dreams don’t last. “I wake myself. I don’t want to continue it if it’s a bad one, then I stop it, and let it go, and see everything’s all right.”
Sammie: “I dream about all good things.” If a bad dream starts she quickly gets rid of it. She won’t tolerate negative ideas taking over her thoughts.
Chloe: Occasionally “I see scary things”, odd shapes or strange colors. “I move them away with my mind” and replace them with “sparkly things” like twinkling stars in many colors.
Sometimes your body moves while you’re sleeping. What are you doing in those dreams?
Chloe barks at imaginary trees and “when I bark my toes move.” When she wakes drooling it’s from a dream where “I have my head out the window” of a car going fast, her tongue hanging out.
Darla: “My feet and legs move and I talk”. When that’s happening she’s dreaming of a car driven by a man she knows, going fast down a country highway through flat grasslands with no buildings except one large electrical tower. She’s running alongside the car on one side and a woman is running just as fast on the other side. They go for miles and miles. Another dream that makes her body move is of being in a deserted city at night, the ground is wet from recent rain. She can go anywhere she wants to explore and sneak around without getting caught. She loves this dream because “when there’s no one around I can look more”.
Sammie: “My legs and my ankles move, like I kick really hard” which wakes her if she kicks the side of her basket bed. She’s dreaming of swimming in the ocean, far out where she can see only ocean liners and seagulls overhead. Her body is strong and never gets tired. Or, she dreams of flying. It begins with her running on sand toward the ocean. Her legs get longer and longer until her body is high above the ground while her toes skim the sand, then the wind catches her and she can coast over the ocean, moving her now normal-length legs like running in mid-air.
These pets seem to enjoy their dreams and to have mostly happy experiences. The ones they recalled mainly feature themselves in pleasant scenarios that mimic waking life as well as enhanced or extraordinary versions of their favorite activities. The individuals showed significant variations in their ability to recall their dreams, as well as in their ability to dream lucidly to choose what to do in the dream or to change an unhappy feeling. They all seemed to have favorite recurring dreams.
Next time you watch your furry friend sleeping, they could be dreaming of anything from walking with you to practicing their superpowers!