Why Do Cats Zoom Around the House?

April 27, 2018


By Julia Williams

Picture this: You’re sitting in your living room chatting with a friend when out of nowhere a blur of fur streaks by you at the speed of light. Next thing you know, your cat races up the arm of the couch, zips over you and your startled friend, takes a flying leap over to the loveseat, jumps down and zooms out of the room…only to come back seconds later and repeat the whole thing. Your friend looks at you and says “Holy heck, what just happened here?”

“Oh, that,” you reply. “Not to worry. That’s just my crazypants cat. He gets the zoomies once in awhile.”

“The what?”

Obviously, your friend doesn’t have a cat, or they would almost certainly be familiar with the zoomies. You may not know the behavior by that particular name, but the zoomies are when the cat gets a sudden burst of frenetic energy and runs around the house as though they’re possessed.

Just about every cat gets the zoomies from time to time, but have you ever wondered why? As with nearly every other odd behavior displayed by our funny feline friends, no one knows for certain why cats race around the house. There are some theories, though.

Release Pent Up Energy

This is the theory that cat behaviorists seem to give the most credence to. The thinking is that domestic cats spend so much time at rest that they feel the need to burn off their excess energy once in awhile. When you consider that a typical cat will sleep about 16 hours a day (and laze about for the rest of the time), it makes sense that they’d display a burst of energy now and then.

Engage Their Inner Predator

Felines in the wild would be roaming their territory, searching for and stalking their prey. Even though our kitties don’t have to hunt for their food, they still have that innate desire, and the zoomies are a way for them to engage the wild cat within. If you’ve ever watched a nature program that featured big cats hunting, you may recall that they stealthily and slowly stalk their prey before dashing after it in hot pursuit. The zoomies look an awful lot like that, don’t’ they?

The “Post Poop” Zoomies

When my cat gets the zoomies, this is my cue to clean the litter box. I don’t need to go check the box or smell the lovely aroma wafting through the house; I just know, because Rocky only goes crazypants after doing his #2 business. In 15 years, there hasn’t been a single zoomy incident that didn’t involve a visit to the litter box beforehand. The theory for this particular zoomy behavior suggests that it has something to do with a feline’s survival instinct. In the wild, felines will bury their waste and sprint away to avoid being detected and ambushed by a predator.

Another theory says that zooming around could be the result of the cat feeling good after doing his business, a sort of “poo-phoria” if you will.

It’s Fun

As much as cats seem to enjoy being a “house sloth in a sun puddle,” don’t you think they’d occasionally get bored by all that inactivity? I do, and racing around the house at breakneck speed could just be their way of having a little fun. They become Supercat who can fly and jump and leap over stuff, and it’s exhilarating! This is probably especially true for cats who live indoors 24/7.

Fleas

Ever been bitten by a flea? It hurts! Cats don’t like the sharp sting of a flea bite any more than we do, and the pain could cause them to jump up and sprint around the house. Maybe they’re running around to try and ditch the annoying hitchhikers, or perhaps the bites have driven them a little bit batty for a moment. If you see any sign of fleas on your cat or in your home, be sure to take swift action to eradicate the pests or you’ll end up with a full blown infestation.

Feline Hyperesthesia

This medical condition can cause brief bursts of erratic behavior in cats, including mad scratching of their body with the back paws, and obsessively licking and biting at their back, tail or flank. Many cats follow up this behavior with a frenzied dash around the house.

For the vast majority of cats, the zoomies are a healthy expression that’s no cause for alarm. We might never know what, exactly, our cats are expressing when they get the zoomies, but now we have some good theories. Just enjoy your kitty’s burst of energy for what it is – harmless feline fun. If you’re like me, watching your cat zoom around the house makes you laugh and appreciate the uniqueness of your feline friend even more than you already do.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Share this: