If your feline friend suddenly rips through the house at top speed, you’ve got yourself a case of the cat zoomies. This is usually a perfectly normal (and highly entertaining!) behavior, but why do cats get the zoomies? And when do zoomies signal that something else is going on? We checked in with cat experts to find out when zoomies are harmless fun and when to look more closely.
What Are Cat "Zoomies"?
When a cat suddenly gets up and starts running around the house, it’s referred to as “the zoomies.” This might be paired with the sound of claws clacking against the floor and a low YEOOOOOOWL or MEEEEOOOOOOOOOWWWW. Other times, when kitty goes too fast around a corner, a crash can follow. But most often, cats are agile enough to avoid any real catastrophe. Yep, the name is just about as cute as the behavior itself.
Why Do Cats Get the Zoomies?
Cats get the zoomies for a bunch of different reasons — most totally ok — however, sometimes it can point to something a bit more sinister, like anxiety or pain.
1. Burning Off Excess Energy
One of the big reasons indoor cats get the zoomies is because they have excess energy to burn off. They’ve been cooped up in the house without enough stimulation or enrichment, which can lead to a sudden outburst of zoomies. According to Vet Voice, by the Australian Veterinarian Association, "These inexplicable bursts of energy are a completely normal part of cat behaviour. In particular, younger cats and kittens will show a higher incidence of this behaviour."
Even though these zoomies aren’t inherently bad, they might be a sign that your feline friend needs more engagement. Providing them with interactive games, toys, and exercise can help keep them mentally and physically stimulated, plus it’ll make their days a lot less boring.
2. Cat Zoomies After Pooping
Have you ever seen your cat race out of the litter box and get the zoomies immediately after pooping? You’re definitely not alone. A lot of owners report their cats doing this after a bowel movement, and cat experts have a few theories about why.
You know that feeling of “poo-phoria,” the feeling of relief felt post-poop? This is real science thanks to vagus nerve stimulation and cats have the same nerve. Interesting, right? While a lot of other theories are out there, well-known and respected cat behavior expert Marilyn Krieger suspects this or potential pain are the two most credible reasons a cat races away from the litter box. "A medical issue, such as constipation or diarrhea or pain when eliminating may also be an underlying cause for the zoomies." Check whether your cat has other signs of pain when using the litter box and talking to your veterinarian just to be sure never hurts.
3. Nighttime Zoomies
A lot of cats zoom at night, which makes perfect sense considering their sleep behavior. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they’re most active during dusk and dawn. If your cat gets the zoomies in the wee hours of the morning, it could be because they’ve just woken up and are ready to start their day, even if you’re not… But cats who zoom or meow all night might have other things going on, according to animal behavior expert and trainer, Mychelle Blake. So while the occasional nighttime zoomies is very normal, consider that your cat may be conveying a need if it gets to the point of keeping you up at night.
4. Zoomies Due to Discomfort
Unfortunately, some cats can get the zoomies from discomfort. Pain from arthritis, a sore belly, itchy skin, or biting parasites, like fleas, can set your cat off and trigger their zoomies. They might race around to try to escape the feeling. "If your cat is suffering from some type of irritation stemming from allergies or fleas, then they may race around to escape the unpleasant feeling," notes Bayshore Animal Hospital in Florida. "Keep in mind that the zoomies are normal for all cats but can be cause for concern if their activity is not consistent with their normal behavior."
5. Zooming Just for Fun
Sometimes a kitty just feels the urge to run, and they do it for no reason other than because it’s enjoyable. Cats are playful by nature, and racing around or parkouring off of furniture can be loads of fun!
Some cat breeds, like the bengal and Devon rex, might be more likely to get the zoomies because they’re generally higher-energy breeds.
Should You Worry About the Zoomies?
Cat zoomies are usually not a cause for concern, but do be aware that it can be a sign of something else at times. Cats who engage in sudden zoomies and are also losing weight, vomiting, yowling, having trouble pooping, excessively itching, biting at their skin, hiding, showing aggressive behavior, or not wanting to be touched likely have something else going on. Bring your feline friend to the veterinarian to rule out any problems so you can enjoy peace of mind that their zoomies are just playful and fun.
Cat Zoomies Are Entertaining & Normal
Cats are silly and sassy pets that love to play, so it’s no surprise that they’ll get the zoomies, just like dogs. This isn’t a behavior you should try to prevent or curb because it’s something cats naturally do, but if you’re concerned, it’s also wise to consult with your veterinarian. And if everything checks out, go ahead and enjoy your cat’s zoomies because they’re probably having as much fun as you are watching them!