Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cats’ Dreams

Cats live in the moment, they say. They say it because of how cats act around us. But how can we really know, when we can't really know what's in another person's mind? In fact, I don't know much of what goes on in my own mind. This morning I woke from a dream in which I was trying to figure out what to do with a big pile of junk that I didn't want to throw away (it's not only in dreams that I have that problem). That dream was just after a dream in which Judith and I had just moved into a house that was cluttered with stuff and strangers and the toilets and water faucets didn't work right. How could I know what a cat dreams?

A cat sleeps a lot, twice as much as people do. Researchers say that all the evidence points to the idea that cats dream, much like humans, about their waking experiences—jumbled, of course, since their awareness and their motor mechanisms are suppressed and there’s no “reality” to keep their minds focused. Their sleep patterns are also like ours (and most mammals), with deep sleep and REM cycles in which they exhibit signs that they might be dreaming. Eyes move under their lids, paws twitch, and sometimes they make little noises.

We don’t remember much of our dreams, at least after a short time when we awaken. The exceptions that I experience come after dreams that I wake directly from, and remember vividly. If I then think about the experiences in the dream, I remember longer, because I’ve incorporated them into my conscious mind trying to make sense of them. I’m seldom successful about that (making sense), except for overall themes that suggest to me intense processes and conflicts that I’ve been going through lately. Like the dream of wondering what to do with all my junk. Maybe my dreams will get better if I actually throw all that stuff away.

My dreams about making love, I’m probably stuck with. At my age, there’s little I can do about that.

It’s unlikely that our cats dream about stuff. That’s a human condition. They might dream about sex, of course—our cats have been “fixed,” so that they don’t have such experiences in their waking lives. But it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they dream about it. Sad, when you think about it. We assume that our animals are perfectly all right without such experiences.

They might dream about hunting small animals (which ours have never seen, that we know of), but how would it be to dream about something you have urges about but have never experienced? Maybe I do. Maybe a lot of what I dream are just such unknown experiences. That woman I’ve dreamed about never seems to have a face. It’s mostly feelings—maybe the images that become part of the dream are just random concoctions my brain fills in the empty places with to explain the feelings—euphoria, lust, disappointment, depression, fear.

Maybe I dream like a cat. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything except for the feelings. I can’t explain the feelings except by analogy. One of our cats loves to be brushed (she’s a long-haired rag-doll breed) and purrs like crazy when we do it. But she doesn’t like to be handled much otherwise. Only when she’s parked herself on my desk while I work and snoozes peacefully, I think she might have special feelings for me. Naturally, I return the favor.

But I have no idea what goes on in her head. When she purrs while I brush her, maybe it’s something erotic to her. Maybe it eases her dreams. Least I can do, I guess.

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