What Are the Cat Zoomies and Are They Ever Anything to Worry About?

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Picture this — you’re sitting around, having a quiet evening when suddenly your cat barrels out of nowhere, running around the house like a madwoman. This behavior is called the cat zoomies, and it’s probably completely normal … but there are some instances when it might necessitate a trip to the vet. Let’s learn more.

First, what are cat zoomies?

A calico cat walking up the stairs.
Cat zoomies come in many different forms — like when your cat runs up and down the stairs. Photography ©krblokhin | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats with the zoomies often get a bit of a glint in their eyes and then start rapidly moving. These rapid movements may take the form of running laps around the house, zipping out from under tables, going up and down the stairs, or running on and off your lap while meowing loudly. And then — as quickly as the cat zoomies started — your cat may just relax again.

I call cat zoomies the kitty Olympics in our house because of the sprints my three cats will do from one floor to the other. Cat zoomies have a scientific name: Frenetic Random Activity Periods or FRAPs. FRAPs are surprising and sometimes alarming (especially in the middle of the night), yet completely normal, cat behavior.

What causes the cat zoomies?

Kittens and young cats naturally have lots of energy and generally experience zoomies more frequently than older cats, though inspiration can strike cats of any age. Even my 17-year-old cats get inspired to run around like kittens when they experience the zoomies.

Many different things cause FRAPs. Cats may start zooming if another cat in the house has the zoomies, cats might zoom if they’re chasing a bug, and cats can zoom in the middle of the night when their human gets up to use the bathroom. Sometimes it feels like cats get the zoomies out of nowhere, or it seems like they’ve seen a ghost.

When should you worry?

Zoomies are normal behavior for cats and a great way to burn off excess energy. But, if you find your cat frequently zooming frantically around the house, it may indicate that she needs more exercise. Increase the amount of time you spend playing with your cat. Enrichment toys, in particular, may help.

If your cat suddenly starts experiencing the zoomies regularly, becomes unusually active or seems distressed by her cat zoomies, bring your kitty in for a checkup with your veterinarian. Increased and unexpected bursts of energy, especially in older cats, could be a sign of an underlying health condition such as hyperthyroidism.

For some cats, zoomies tend to hit in the middle of the night when the rest of the family is asleep. If your kitty only gets the zoomies when you are asleep, and if your household is regularly losing sleep because of your kitty’s antics, it might be time to adjust your morning feeding schedule or increase the amount of play your cat is getting during the day. If the behavior persists, consult your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t something medically wrong with your cat that is causing her to struggle with settling down at night.

Tell us: Does your cat get the zoomies? How does your cat usually zoom around?

Featured Photograph Photograph: Nils Jacobi/Getty Images

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

5 thoughts on “What Are the Cat Zoomies and Are They Ever Anything to Worry About?”

  1. My cat Ziggy gets the zoomies usually at least once a day and frequently his big brother Jackson joins in. Ziggy likes to zoom in a circle from the living room, into the front hallway through the kitchen and back to the hallway, then usually up and down the stairs a time or two, then frequently another one or two times around the circle. Ziggy is three years old, his brother Jackson is 8 and doesn't always zoom around with Ziggy, but they love to chase each other, and when one starts running the other frequently follows.

  2. My cat will be looking out the back slider at the deck and garden (he's a bird watcher) when all of a sudden he imagines there's something under the little rug at the threshhold. He dives his feet underneath and then turns it over and the next second he wheels around and runs out of the room into the garage, circles the cars and comes right back again diving his front feet under the turned over rug and off he goes again. We had a cat with hyperthyroidism who never once in her life ever zoomed. She got the memo that cats sleep 22 hours a day and she lived by that rule. Every so often she would walk out onto the deck when we were eating outside but if there was no patch of sunshine to find and lay in she would just go back inside and find someplace to nap.

  3. Our 2 female. cats, Meshach, age 3, and Abby, age 2, generally get the zoomies between 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. They zoom around chasing one another, hiding & trying to sneak up on the other cat, making circuits around the furniture without touching the floor, etc. We have a small house with mostly wood floors, so there is a lot of skidding around corners and wiping out. This can last for 15-30 minutes. After the zooming Abby will go sit in front of my husband waiting for him to get out the laser pointer. After another 10 minutes of play then find their respective resting spots to wait for their bed time snack. Every now and then they will get the zoomies around 07:00.

    1. I can always tell when Bernie, my 7 year old Russian Blue has impending zoomies- his 'pencil tail' puffs up to three times its normal size–aaand He's Off! Fun and games, not like when he bit into a Mother of All Chiles, a chiltepin, poor boyo!!He had the Mother of All Zoomies!!

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