Taking my wheels off and let’s go! What are cat zoomies?

How to celebrate Global Running Day as a cat? We suggest a spring from the litter box right after dropping a juicy, smelly bomb in there, or a frenzy fueled by catnip – we have a feeling it’s going to hit harder today 🙂 Cats sprinting around the house are a phenomenon known to fabCat Carers very well and we usually call them the zoomies. But why do cats need to run like crazy right after visiting the litter box, waking up, or at seemingly random points of the day? Today we’re taking the zoomies under the magnifying glass – come on and investigate the case with us, fabCat Sherlock! 

Zoomies and the secret of cat sprints 

Let’s start with some theory: what are zoomies, actually? The cat crazies might seem like something completely random (or boosted by a good whiff of catnip), but behaviorists actually discovered at least a few reasons why cats like to just go into crazy mode from time to time and do a few frantic laps around the house, chasing after something even they don’t know what it is. 

When we talk about zoomies, cat crazies, or manic sprints, we actually think of FRAP – frenetic random activity periods. You definitely know what we’re talking about, fabCats: your cat is lounging on their favorite cat bed, and suddenly, like they were hit by lightning, they jump up and run through the entire house, bouncing off every wall, desk, chair, or anything that stands in their way. What if you looked at your cat or moved their way? They’d probably chirp and start running from you as if they were inviting you to chase them. Yes, that’s zoomies! We can usually observe such behavior in the mornings or before bedtime when cats are naturally the most active, but sometimes the igniting spark for cats might be a visit to the litter box or a whiff of catnip/valerian. 

What is the cause of cat zoomies

First and foremost, the typical zoomies are not caused by the cat being excited about playing with their favorite wand toy, chasing the red dot, or scoring goals into the net with their ball. The crazies usually come in moments we least expect them – when the cat is napping on the window sill and something catches the corner of their eye when they dream about hunting and are reminded of the wild cat inside them, when catnip touches the part of their brain that was deep asleep before, or when the relief in the litter box is so significant, the cat can’t help themselves but to celebrate with a victory lap around the house. The general rule is that the more energy the cat accumulates, the bigger chance of it exploding in the form of frantic sprints. Cats are like a balloon that is constantly being inflated – if we don’t let out some of the air, they must blow up at some point. 

While the exact moment when the cat starts to sprint might seem random, it’s usually easy to tell what caused it. Often times it’s simply… boredom! Cats who have quite a lazy lifestyle might not spend all the energy they have on a short playtime in the morning or the evening. We do release some of that energy during playtime, but there’s always some reserve left in the cat tank and at some point, the balance will shift to the side of crazy. In those moments, the cat’s fuse lights up quickly and the burst of energy is sudden, even for the cat. A sprint around the house is the most natural way for a cat to spend the excess energy they would normally use for hunting and being a predator. 

And what about sprints out of the litter box? Even if you’re playing with your cat every day and don’t let their energy accumulate too much, you still have a chance to experience the zoomies… when your cat leaves the litter box. Many cats run out of there with an energy that could only suggest they just left a very smelly surprise there or were freed from a poop prison. The reason is simple here: using the litter box gives the cat a huge relief, allowing them to get rid of anything that was inside their guts. But be careful, fabCat, as some sprints after (or before) visiting the litter box might also suggest some health issues – your cat could be running away from the place they associate with the pain while they do their business or run like crazy before going there, just because something hurts them while they try to go potty. If the cat crazies come around with your cat being constipated, having issues with going to the litter box, loudly meowing, peeing, and pooping outside the litter box, or vomiting, go to the vet as soon as you can.  

What do cat zoomies look like

Zoomies might take different forms and every cat has their own spin on it, but there are some elements that are a part of every kitty volcano outburst. What can you expect from the furrnado running around your house? Your cat could simply run without a purpose, jumping on every surface available, they could unexpectedly jump your slipper that’s been laying on the floor the entire day, run to a toy just to swat it with their paw and run away, chirp and trill, run in place like a character in a cartoon – the possibilities are endless. While the zoomies are going on, cats usually have their pupils dilated, ears pulled back and eyes wandering around as if they were looking for something non-existent to catch. 

Are zoomies dangerous for cats? No, as long as your cat doesn’t jump up on the table and slip off it with all the plates, or get anywhere they could injure themselves. It’s a good idea to take a look at our surroundings and create a safe space for the cat to sprint around without any obstacles in their way. Pay special attention to anything that the cat could slip on while they’re running: small rugs to surf on through the hallway, table runners, blankets, towels, and clothes lying around. Think about hiding away things your cat could run into and break, sharp objects, medicine, and detergents. You never know what your cat might think of while in a state of zoomies and we don’t want to find out. 

Turn the crazy sprints into an active playtime 

Your cat got the zoomies? You can use it! Though zoomies usually start unexpectedly and are not the aftermath of an already started playtime, you always can go from zoomies to play – all you need is to direct your cat’s attention to their favorite toy. After all, zoomies are nothing more than an outburst of energy. It’s the best time to engage all the cat’s senses and let them work.  

  • Engage your cat in a chase after a wand toy, a ball, or, if they’re not interested – their favorite snacks. Don’t get a laser light though. The red dot usually gets cats really worked up, but it can’t be caught. And your cat is already at their highest energy level – they don’t need a warm-up. What you want is to get them to the next stage of playtime.  
  • Let your cat work for their meal. If your cat is motivated by food (and every good playtime should end with a tasty snack), let them think about ways to get the prize. Hide snacks around the house, on shelves, behind the cushions, or in a blanket. Prepare a foraging toy or a sniffing mat. Tasks like this will calm your cat down after a crazy sprint, but will also let them think and use their brain to get the prey. 

And now a question for you, fabCats: do your cats have episodes of the cat crazies and if so, when does it happen most often? Be sure to share your stories in the comments and if you have any funny videos or photos of zoomies happening, drop them over on our Facebook page → https://www.facebook.com/myKottypl 

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