Cat zoomies: why do cats run around like crazy creatures?


Why do cats get the zoomies? Cat zoomies teeter on the verge between cuteness and craziness. Do cat zoomies seem so funny in the middle of the night? Are cat zoomies ever indicative of a deeper problem? We look at why cats sometimes speed around like crazy creatures.

People who don’t own cats believe they are cool and collected creatures. They would soon change their opinion if they witnessed a cat zooming through the house, hurdling furniture, skidding across the coffee table scattering everything on it, and losing control at the next corner.

The act of a cat running around like a maniac is affectionately termed cat zoomies. There are various catalysts for this normal yet seemingly hyperactive cat behavior including a period of inactivity, going to the toilet, and acting on an instinct to hunt.

One cat is never exactly the same as another so lets look at the various triggers that drive a cat to zoom about like is’s possessed.

Cat zoomies: are they caused by stores energy or fear of predators?
Cat zoomies are a way to release pent up energy

Common triggers of cat zoomies

It has been claimed that zoomies are more frequent in kittens and cats that live in small spaces or are alone for long stretches of time. It’s the release of pent-up energy that hasn’t been spent on hunting or playing throughout the day.

A cat feeling at home in its litter box
I love my litter box – no danger here!

Post litter box use

This is the most common cause of cat zoomies that I’ve ever witnessed. All of my cats have done this at one time or another: they use their litter box, quickly cover their business, and then run away at top speed.

I used to assume they were getting away from the smell as quickly as they possibly could – and at times I didn’t blame them as it was quite overpowering!

There are three strong reasons for the ‘I’ve just used my litter box’ cat zoomies:

  • They feel vulnerable so sprint to safety. Though a cat is perfectly safe in its litter box in your house, its instincts tell it to get as far away from the site as possible before the scent attracts a predator. This is the most logical reason for cat zoomies.
  • They feel pain as they go. It is possible for very firm stools to hurt as they are passed. Cats can also develop anal gland infections which cause them pain. Either scenario makes a cat want to run away as it associates the pain with the litter box.
  • They find the smell obnoxious. If at all possible, scoop your cat’s litter box as soon as it has used it. The cleaner it is kept the more comfortable it will be using it. A cat may really feel the urge to zoom away from the area if it smells terrible.

By the way, if you’d like to see what happened when we tried to review a couple of cat-litter brands, check out this funny video from our YouTube channel:

Inactivity and boredom

If your cat has a long spell of inactivity or feeling bored it may engage in a zoomie session to release pent-up energy. Indoor cats are particularly prone to displaying bursts of energy.

If a cat is cooped up in a small space or is on its own for long periods, it will expend its energy reserves at any given opportunity. Help your cat out by giving it access to as much space as possible in your home. Avoid closing it in one room if possible.

Remember, cats are natural-born predators and are designed to exert energy in small bursts. Introduce hunting-style games that encourage your cat to stalk and pounce to allow it to fulfill its natural urges.

Our cat loves Da Bird because it sounds like a real bird! This is for supervised play only because it’s on a fine wire!

Cat worn out after playing with Da Bird
Mona the Maine Coon is worn out after playing with Da Bird. There’ll be no more cat zoomies for a while

Though kittens are likely to need more playtime than adult cats, cats are happy to engage in play right into old age.

Anxiety

Cat zoomies can manifest in anxious cats. Cats can develop anxiety or stress for many reasons but it’s usually linked to a change in routine or environment.

A new cat will find everything in your home strange or a house move is enough to unsettle your current cat. Adding a new pet into the mix will do it too! If you change your daily habits and leave your cat alone for long periods this can trigger anxious behavior.

If you have a inkling that your cat has anxiety for one of the reasons mentioned, spend some quality time with it and engage it with some fun play sessions. Swap toys regularly to keep your cat interested.

You may like to try a pheromone diffuser to help relieve feelings of stress when you are not around.

A whit Maine Coon looking bored
Bored! I’ll have a zoomie moment later

Medical condition

Occasionally a medical condition can trigger cat zoomies. If your cat seems to be speeding about and you can’t attribute its behavior to one of the usual reasons, it could be due to any of the following:

  • Fleas. A large infestation of these nasty little insects is enough to make your cat run around in an attempt to escape their bites. So check for the presence of fleas if your cat is running here, there and everywhere as if it’s possessed.
  • Stings. If a cat catches an insect such as a bee or wasp it may get stung. It’s reaction is often to zoom around because of the shock or pain
  • Hyperthyroidism. This is caused by excessive production of hormones from the thyroid gland which in turn leads to increased energy. It often affects older cats and leads to them zooming around in a youthful fashion.
  • Changes to ear function or eyesight. This generally affects older cats. If a cat’s hearing isn’t as sharp as it was it may be surprised more easily or it may not spot something approaching. If a cat is taken by surprise it can react by rushing off.

Cat Zoomies – the conclusion

Cats can quickly change from sleepy, lazy balls of fluff to speeding maniacs ready to wreak havoc. Cat zoomies are perfectly normal cat behavior – most of the time!

As you become familiar with your cat’s habits, you’ll be able to refer to this guide to decide if it’s having a normal zoomie moment or if there might be a cause that needs further investigation.

Tip: if your cat has clumsy zoomies, clear the decks of breakables in advance!

Finally, if you’re looking for new ways to play with your little cat, feel free to check out the below from our YouTube channel:

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog, and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences plus those of my family and friends.

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