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Cat Zoomies: What Are They & When to Worry? (Vet Answer)

cat zoomies
Image Credit: Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS (Vet)

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Written by

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

MRCVS, Veterinarian

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You may have noticed your usually chilled cat having sudden bursts of energy, often tearing about the house with wide dilated pupils and a flicking tail. These seemingly mad moments are often referred to as ‘the zoomies’, but the official term for it is a ‘Frenetic Random Activity Period’ or FRAP. Frapping is natural behavior exhibited by most cats (some more than others!) but why does it happen? And when should you be worried?


The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Gets The Zoomies

Zoomies or a ‘mad half-hour’ tends to be more common in indoor cats and young cats with higher levels of energy and could have several different causes:

1. Hunting behavior

In the wild, cats would naturally expend a lot of energy and adrenaline hunting and catching prey. The regular domesticated house cat doesn’t use as much energy as he would in the wild because most of his food will be provided for him. Hunting and catching prey is usually done for fun rather than a need for survival.

As a result, cats will use up excess energy by zooming around the house, sometimes doing laps, or running up and down the stairs, often wide-eyed and on high alert. This behavior often appears to mimic hunting or even being hunted.

cat playful
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. Sleeping patterns

Our domesticated cats will spend a lot of their time snoozing the day away in a cozy spot. Cats can sleep for anywhere between 12-18 hours per day! When they wake up, zoomies are a way for them to revive and rejuvenate, making sure they are properly awake and ready for action!

3. Litter box habits

Some cats seem to get the zoomies after using the litter box, particularly after a bowel movement. While it’s not entirely clear why some cats do this, it appears to be a way of him celebrating ‘lightening the load’!

cat leaving litter box
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

4. Stress

Whilst an occasional episode of the zoomies is entirely normal, if your cat is zooming excessively then it could be a sign that he hasn’t got enough stimulation in his life and is frustrated.

5. Partial seizures

Although rare, zoomies or FRAP behavior can be attributed to a partial seizure in some cats. This is more likely if your cat has epilepsy.

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How Can I Stop My Cat’s Zoomies?

The occasional zooming episode from your cat can often be entertaining to witness and isn’t anything too much to worry about. However, if you suspect your cat might be frustrated or his behavior is a problem, there are a few things you could try.

Playing with your cat is not only a way for him to burn some excess energy but also forms a great bond between you and your feline companion. Try and take advantage of his active times in the morning and evening, as well as short bursts of play throughout the day.

If you are playing games that mimic hunting, then allow your cat to catch and ‘kill’ the toy occasionally as this is the part of the game that your cat will enjoy the most. Laser pens and videos of moving prey on a screen are frustrating for your cat as he is not able to exhibit normal hunting behavior by catching and ‘killing’.

You could also try feeding your cat little and often throughout the day to try and keep his energy levels more stable. Puzzle feeders and lick-mats are a great way to slow down his eating and also provide some mental stimulation for your cat, something that is especially important for indoor cats.

Another great way to mentally stimulate your cat is to teach him a new trick! Cats can be taught to sit, rollover, and to give paws the same way that dogs can. Always use positive reinforcement such as treats or play when training your cat and never ever punish him for getting it wrong.

cat lying while reaching its paw up
Image Credit: Pixabay

Why Do Zoomies Happen More at Night?

Cats are naturally more active at dawn and dusk meaning that they are ‘crepuscular’ rather than nocturnal as many people believe. This probably down to the fact that wild cats would have needed to take advantage of these cooler times of day to hunt. If your cat often shows bursts of higher energy first thing in the morning or late at night then it is probably because this is when he is naturally programmed to feel more active.

When Should I Take My Cat to The Vet?

Most of the time, your cat’s zoomies will be a completely normal part of his behavior and nothing to be concerned about. However, if your cat is zooming much more than usual, or has other accompanying symptoms, then it is best to take him to your veterinarian to get him checked over.

For more senior cats in particular, watch out for weight loss, hunger, excessive vocalization, abnormal sleep patterns, or other strange behaviors, as these could be signs of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), a common condition in older cats.

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Cat zoomies are a normal cat behavior and as long as they’re not excessive, or accompanied by any worrying symptoms, they’re nothing to worry about. In fact, watching your cat tear about the house can be quite entertaining to watch! Even better, grab a toy and get involved by playing with your cat. Encouraging your cat to chase, catch, and ‘kill’ the toy allows him to exhibit these natural hunting instincts and burns off any excess energy at the same time, all of which makes for one happy kitty!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS (Vet)
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS (Vet)
Joanna is an experienced veterinarian working in the UK. She has written about pets and pet health for many websites, blogs, and pet magazines and loves to help owners understand their pets through her writing.

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