Any cat owner knows what zoomies are. You’re sitting on your couch, minding your own business, when all of a sudden your cat turns into The Flash and starts rocketing around your house. All you see is a blurry ball running up and down hallways, ricocheting off furniture, and just wreaking general havoc.
What do these bouts of mania mean? What is your cat trying to tell you? What is the true motivation behind zoomies?
There’s actually a name for the “zoomies.”
“Zoomies,” popularized by Reddit, is an excellent description of sudden bouts of animal mania. However, there’s also a medical-ish term for this phenomenon: Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAP). FRAPs are periodic bursts of energy sandwiched between normal levels of relaxation. They are completely normal, so don’t worry: Whiskers is fine. He’s just FRAPing out.
“These fun episodes are simply bursts of energy,” says veterinarian Sarah Reidenbach. “Some animals experience them more or less often, some never. For some animals they last a few seconds and for some, much longer. These bursts are completely normal and fun.”
Sleeping all day leads to an overcharged battery, and since your indoor cat doesn’t need to use its conserved energy to hunt for survival, it comes out in this way.
“In the wild, [big cats] sleep through the hottest parts of the day and awake to hunt once it has cooled down,” says Stephanie Mantilla, a positive animal trainer and enrichment specialist who has experience working with big cats. Your housecat has these same biological tendencies.
“Often during this time of zoomies, your cat will either attack your feet, another pet, or find a toy, leaf, or bug to chase. This is an expression of their hunting instinct and is completely natural,” says Mantilla.
The Zoomies can occur at any time, but they’re most common at certain times of day.
Cats are crepuscular animals. This means they are most active during twilight hours (right before dawn and dusk). If you are constantly being woken up by your cat pouncing on you early in the morning, or in the middle of the night, it’s because Whiskers is ready to go.
You might notice Whiskers also sprinting away after using the litterbox. Post-poo zoomies motivations aren’t completely understood, but can sometimes be a sign of digestion distress. However, if everything else about your kitty seems normal and fine—and you don’t notice anything out of the ordinary in their litterbox—their zoomies are fine, too.
“The only time to be concerned [about zoomies] is if the animal seems anxious, is hurting itself, or is hurting another animal or person,” says Reidenbach.
It’s also important not to encourage biting or other aggressive behaviors during these bursts. If you’re concerned about your pet’s safety, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your vet. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the show.