Legs Twitching During Sleep

Sometimes a twitch is just a twitch.  Ida M. writes in with a question about her cat, Ginger, that many cat companions have asked over the years.  Ida writes:

When Ginger starts to rest and she’s falling asleep her legs jump. Her front paws and sometimes her back paws. Is this a vet problem that I need to check out or does this happen to other cats?

Ida, this sort of twitching is fairly common with both cats and dogs.  It's probably common with lots of other animals too, but since they don't live with us, we don't notice.  One of our cats does this frequently and sometimes her own movements startle her and she sits upright and complains as though she thought someone else had woken her.

Since cats can't tell us what's going on with them, it's easy to speculate.  Some people think they're dreaming.  It's very likely that Ginger's nervous system is simply firing off excess energy as she drifts off to sleep.  When we dream, our minds usually disconnect the motor nerves in our spines to keep us from physically acting out the dreams.  Perhaps the twitches are some nerve signals that get through.  Of course, this is all just speculation.  The bottom line is that Ginger is probably just fine.

The only concern would be if Ginger had a history of seizures.  If that's the case, she should be evaluated by a veterinarian.  If not, I wouldn't worry.  If you're concerned that she might be having seizures, you can check by waking her just as she begins twitching.  If she awakens immediately and is alert and aware, and her eyes track the movements of your fingers, it's very unlikely that she was having a seizure.

We don't think you have anything to worry about, Ida.  The next time you see Ginger doing this, just imagine that she's dreaming of chasing butterflies.  That's probably not far from the truth.