Perhaps one of the most common questions pet owners ask is whether their animals experience dreams in a manner similar to humans'. And, if they do, the followup question would be about the contents of their dreams. Recent inputs from a Harvard psychologist suggest answers to both these questions.
The idea of testing this hypothesis came after USA Network recently carried out a study celebrating the psychological thriller Falling Water, which premiered Oct. 13. The movie explores the confluence between dreams and reality, and the public was asked whose dreams they'd explore if given the chance. Pets came up as the first option for most of the respondents.
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, clinical and evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School, gave insights into how pets dream and the characteristics of these dreams.
Whether animals actually dream or not is purely speculative at the moment. However, there have been cases suggesting animals dream too, such as the two gorillas Koko and Michael, occasionally singing about fantastic ideas they may have each dreamed about.
Koko and Michael would sing of different ideas; Michael sometimes would wake up singing that "bad people kill gorillas."
Dreams in animals are, nonetheless, the subject of speculation for the most part. The science behind these speculations contends that the animals' sleep cycles are somewhat similar to ours, undergoing a deeper sleep, during which the brain is less active, then into rapid eye movement, which is the period of the sleep cycle when humans experience their dreams.
Based on this similarity, it's logical to conclude that animals dream in their sleep as well. However, smaller animals, such as mice, undergo shorter sleep cycles, and potentially brief dreaming periods.
Barrett also believes that, whenever animals start to move their paws as if they were running, it's entirely possible that they would actually be dreaming of that scene. Cats' dreams are more accessible to our understanding, as one of the first sleep researchers destroyed an area in the animals' brains responsible for inhibiting movements during the REM sleep stage. Cats looked as if they were hunting mice, hissing and pouncing.
Concerning dogs, since dreaming generally represents an illogical assembly of our daytime preoccupation, it's entirely possible that your Fido is dreaming about you. There would be no logical reason to dismiss the idea that dogs might dream of their masters.
"Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it's likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you," stated the psychologist.