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Last night I had quite a scare with Booger while working at my desk. I have a soft blanket on my desk for him to lay on while I work so we can be near each other, and he was asleep while I worked. Suddenly he began twitching in his sleep. His eyes were twitching (while closed), as well as his front paws and several other muscles in his shoulders. I initially assumed it was just the cat form of human REM sleep, but got a serious scare when I tried to awaken him by picking him up. He was completely limp. I once had to pick up a deceased kitty that fell to a vehicle, and I have to say that the limp but still warm thing is absolutely disturbing. It feels like picking up a warm sack of loose liquid. Anyway, this is exactly how Booger felt, and he didn't wake up immediately. Thank goodness he came to within about 10 seconds, but those 10 seconds were some of the longest I've experience in my life and I almost had a heart attack.

My question: Has anyone else had this happen to their cat? Has anyone heard of this sort of thing? Is it normal or might he have a sleep disorder that I need to speak to my vet about? Some details about him if they help: He's 7 years old, neutered, and an indoor only kitty. He's up to date on all his shots. He is slightly overweight.

Hopefully I can find some peace of mind -- I'm afraid every time I see him close his eyes now, even though it might be nothing to worry about (is kitty REM sleep really heavy or something???)
 

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I know cats do experience REM sleep, although I must admit I've never noticed it in my girls, so I have no first-hand experience. Still, what you're describing sounds normal. For example, here is an article discussing REM sleep in cats: REM Sleep in Cats | in Chapter 03: States of Consciousness | from Psychology: An Introduction by Russ Dewey

The quote below is taken from the article, with a few relevant comments underlined.

Jouvet was doing research on biological mechanisms of sleep in cats. When Dement published a report of REM sleep in cats, Jouvet realized he had seen the same thing. Jouvet called it paradoxical sleep. Jouvet chose the term "paradoxical" (which means strange or contradictory) because during this phase of sleep animals showed biological signs very similar to those of an awake animal. Breathing rates fluctuated, heart rates went up and down, and their eyes made quick, jerky movements beneath closed eyelids. Although their bodies seemed to be deeply relaxed, traces of activity appeared all over their bodies: there were tremors in the paws, quick scratching movements and rapid twitching of the whiskers. Their EEGs showed a noisy "alert" pattern.

Biological measurements from the animals in paradoxical (REM) sleep resembled those of awake animals, yet the cats were difficult to awaken from REM sleep. Despite the signs of activation such as twitching paws, the animals were never in an upright posture. When they went into this phase of sleep; they went completely limp, as if major muscles of the body were paralyzed. Jouvet wondered if the biological activity meant the animals were dreaming. If so, deep muscle relaxation might be necessary to prevent the animals from acting out their dreams.
 

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Isn't REM sleep one of the deepest sleep stages? This sounds to me like Booger was just very deeply asleep.

If you're concerned, though, a quick call to the vet ought to set your mind at ease.

And I totally empathize with your fright; my cats have done the same thing to me and is a heart-stopping moment indeed. *shakes head*

Regards!

AC
 

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Thank you for the responses, I will get him to the vet tomorrow just to be sure. Can't hurt, right!

Susan - that article is fascinating, especially since what is described is exactly what happened to Booger. Thank you *SO* much for linking it. It really puts my mind at ease for tonight so that I can get some sleep before our vet visit tomorrow. Just based on the symptoms it appears I might find he was just in a deep REM. May I ask, how did you find that website? Have you been through the same thing with one of your cats?
 

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My cat often sleeps on my lap and starts twitching her mouth and paws in sleep, usually when I touch her she wakes up immediately with a little meow. I think maybe a few times it's taken 2-3 seconds to wake her, but that's it.

By two to three seconds, I'm talking the standard 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, said slowly ... that's how I was taught to count seconds, so I'm using it as an example so that your "10 seconds" isn't blown out of proportion.

Did it really take a full 10 seconds? That seems like way too long for a cat to wake up.
 

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Thank you for the responses, I will get him to the vet tomorrow just to be sure. Can't hurt, right!

Susan - that article is fascinating, especially since what is described is exactly what happened to Booger. Thank you *SO* much for linking it. It really puts my mind at ease for tonight so that I can get some sleep before our vet visit tomorrow. Just based on the symptoms it appears I might find he was just in a deep REM. May I ask, how did you find that website? Have you been through the same thing with one of your cats?
You're right. It can't hurt to take him to the vet, and I'm a big fan of better safe than sorry!

No, I've never been through the same thing with my cats, but I have been through a similar thing with people, since my husband had a serious sleep disorder. Michel Jouvet is a pioneer in sleep research for humans, although he also did a lot of research with cats. So, when I saw your post, I googled Jouvet and REM sleep in cats, and that article popped up.
 

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Cinderella did this to me shortly after she adopted me. Scared the crap out of me. I was actually getting dressed to take her to the E.R., I turned around, and she was sitting there looking at me.

And I know in my heart, she was saying, "Psych!!!!!" in her pretty little head.
 

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My cats twitch in their sleep pretty frequently actually. And I know cats can sometimes be pretty heavy sleepers.

Once Apollo was asleep in my lap, and stretched in his sleep in such a way that he started sliding out of my lap. He slid all the way down my legs onto the ground, landing in a sitting position. He stayed asleep the entire time!
 

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You can certainly take the cat to the vet (or just call the vet, even), if you're worried. But it does sound like it was just a dream. My cats don't wake up right away, if I bother them when they're in REM. Heck, this was the only way I could pet Disco ...she was a feral I had inside for a month, to stay with her sick sister and recover from spaying.
The only time I could touch her was if she was distracted with eating, or sleeping. Of course, the instant she knew I was touching her, she would up and bold off...unless she was dreaming! Then I got in a few extra strokes of her wonderfully soft fur - then when she did finally get up, she would only stagger a few steps away, while she tried to wake up all the way! It was actually amusing to watch. I'm so mean ;p LOL
 

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When he starts to twitch in his sleep I sometimes lean close and whisper in his ear "Goooo get that bird. Where's the birdie. Get the birdie Mow." He twitches faster and faster and his little feet jerk like crazy.
 

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My cats dream like this and are slow to wake up if you try to move them during it. Its normal. He was just dreaming. If he had seized he would have been post ictal after awaking and been disoriented, and out of it. If he was normal when he awoke, it was just a dream!
 

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Having had a kitty who had seizures, I think you'd know if it was a seizure because she would have peed all over herself while doing it. That was our telltale sign -- she reeked of pee. I bet it was a deep sleep thing, but I also don't blame you for wanting to hear what the vet says.
 

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I don't remember ever owning a cat that didn't have REM sleep. Yes, sometimes they are groggy when they wake up....all that running after a mousie! One of my cat's snores....now that's another thing....doesn't do it all the time. Bad when hubby and cat snores tho. :wink
 

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Update: Called the vet today and when she got back to me she said Booger was having a dream, like many posters here said. Apparently if it had been a seizure there would have been several other noticeable symptoms that he didn't have. Booger must have had one **** of a dream!

Thanks again for the responses!
 
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