Cat zoomies: Why do they happen and how to stop them

Out of the many peculiar things your cat does, at top of the list sits the zoomies. What are they, though, and what causes them? It's time to find out everything there is to know about cat zoomies!

Zoomies are when your cat starts running around like crazy, seemingly out of nowhere!
Zoomies are when your cat starts running around like crazy, seemingly out of nowhere!  © 123RF/Avernia

In much the same way that delirium can set in when a human gets tired or uncomfortable, cats get a little strange sometimes as well.

One particularly bizarre habit is the phenomenon of cat zoomies, which can see much of your house trashed and your kitty zonked out on the floor.

So what are cat zoomies, and what causes them? It's time to guide you through what you can expect from cat zoomies, how long they will last, and what you can do to stop them. Try not to worry, but be prepared!

What are cat zoomies?

Cat zoomies are when a cat has a sudden burst of energy and, for about five minutes, races around like crazy. It's an abrupt and often surprising moment characterized by a wildness that is short-lived and intense. Most will find that their cat runs around in circles, attacks random objects, and behaves wildly whenever it has a fit of the zoomies.

During a zoomies attack, a cat will often make cooing noises or even yowls that sound like fighting cries. They will slap their tail, pin their ears back, and spontaneously explode into a frenzy of activity that is usually harmless but, when left to run its own course without supervision, could easily end up leading to injuries.

There's nothing to really worry about when your cat gets the zoomies as it's quite normal, but it is still worth keeping an eye on it and making sure that your pet stays out of trouble as much as possible!

How long do cat zoomies last?

Cat zoomies are often referred to as "the mad five" because they generally last about five minutes. Often only going on for a couple of minutes, even less than five, the zoomies will rarely go over the "mad five." This is primarily because of what triggers a zoomies attack and, more importantly, the fact that it can be very tiring to zoom around and is therefore unlikely to continue for very long!

Important: Excessive zoomies, or an apparent attack of the zoomies that lasts way too long or seems to never go away, could be caused by health issues. If these are the symptoms you are observing, it might be best to go to the vet.

Your cat might start chasing imaginary things around the house due to its hunting instinct.
Your cat might start chasing imaginary things around the house due to its hunting instinct.  © 123RF/Ingusk

Why does my cat get the zoomies: Causes

There are many reasons why a cat might end up being triggered into a fit of the zoomies. Some are perfectly normal and unimportant, but others are more worrying, it is best to know what the signs and symptoms are and make a judgment call as to what you think might have caused a zoomies attack. If you do so, you may find that you're able to predict and mitigate future attacks.

Learn the following cat zoomies causes as best you can, and apply that knowledge where possible. In whatever case, if you think that your cat is unwell, get off the internet and into a veterinary clinic.

Cat zoomies causes: A surplus of energy

Cats are a bit like children in that they will go nuts if they don't get a chance to expend their excess energy. When a kitty sleeps too much throughout the day and/or can't go outside, explore, and use its body, it will start to get restless. The same goes for mental challenges, as your cat gets cooped up and a bit crazy through endless repetition and a lack of physical activity.

When this pent-up energy gets to be too much, it will release it in a burst of impulse and spontaneity that we have come to call the "zoomies." It often happens at the weirdest of times, too, with cats going from chilling on the floor having a nice nap to rushing around the house like a chicken without a head.

If your cat has too much energy to expend, the solution is pretty simple – give your cat more to do. These little fluffy fellows deserve a happy and interesting life, so give it to them!

Cat zoomies causes: Hunting instincts

Cats are instinctive predators and have a strong desire to go on the hunt for prey. When this happens, they will often take it a tad too far (after all, cats hardly have proper social skills), rushing around the place and getting a little too over-excited. Such situations are often very cute and can be a lot of fun, but can also end up being especially dangerous for small children in the house.

When a cat gets the zoomies and – instead of just randomly running around – starts chasing things and slapping people's ankles, it's probably because it is in a hunting mood. Cats need to satisfy the need to use their claws, paws, teeth, and tails to fight it out with something and anything nearby will do. This can be a particularly worrisome problem if kids or other animals are in range.

Get your cat some toys to attack when it gets like this and learn your cat's body language. When it has an attack of the hunting zoomies, you'll want to stay away.

Cat zoomies causes: Litter box antics

Cats often have a zoomies attack after relieving themselves.
Cats often have a zoomies attack after relieving themselves.  © 123RF/nilsjacobi

Cats have a strange habit of zooming out of their litter boxes. It's quite bizarre but exceedingly common. Litter tray-related zoomies generally happen after your fluffy friend has laid a nice, solid lump in the bottom of the box. Instead of carefully burying it in the litter and walking away, the kitty chooses to explode from the box at a gallop!

There are many theories as to why this might be, ranging from absurd ideas like the one positing that a cat will run away because it doesn't like the smell of its feces, to more likely scenarios that it's an instinctive response from their years in the wild.

This particular theory believes that cats were particularly vulnerable when relieving themselves, so would run away to reposition themselves as quickly as possible.

Kitten is already raising her own family in heartbreaking TikTok clip
Cats Kitten is already raising her own family in heartbreaking TikTok clip

Whatever the explanation, there is not much you can do except clean up the ensuing mess if and when this happens.

Cat zoomies causes: Parasites and health issues

Certain parasites and health issues can cause your cat to greatly increase its zooming antics. Parasites like fleas can be particularly bad, as the pain of the bites can frighten cats and make them run away. You may also notice that, if your cat has a health problem, it will experience a variety of other symptoms that'll make it far clearer.

Here are some possible health problems that can cause cat zoomies:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Irritation due to fleas or other parasites
  • Allergic reactions
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • A health issue causing severe and sudden, frightening pain

As always, if your cat is showing signs and symptoms of something that could be a health issue, it's time to shut the laptop and go to the vet.

Cat zoomies causes: Old and young cats like to zoom

It is not unusual that cat zoomies also have something to do with the age of the kitty. Younger cats, or kitties considered to have entered their puberty years, are more likely to get major fits of the zoomies. This is due to a general wildness, recklessness, and behavior that is often rather uncontrollable. These particular kitties also experience major mood swings, which certainly doesn't help.

Older cats also get fits of the zoomies, but for a very different reason. If your cat is older and is having regular zoomies, it is likely something that needs medical attention. In many cases, such behavior in older cats is caused by disorientation, fear, or cognitive decline that could signal something much more sinister.

If your cat is old or young and suffering from regular and severe zoomies outbursts, have a long hard think about what is triggering them. In the case that there is no obvious answer, medical advice may be necessary.

One way to distract a cat's hunting-based zoomies attack is to play games with it.
One way to distract a cat's hunting-based zoomies attack is to play games with it.  © 123RF/Algieba

How to stop cat zoomies

Seeing as attacks of cat zoomies often come at nighttime when you are trying to sleep, it is best to develop a few strategies that are tried and tested to stop your kitty from being too disruptive. Crazy cats can cause an acute lack of sleep in pet owners and thus the behavior often needs to be dealt with. As a result, we would recommend trying to figure out what is causing the zoomies and then taking action as soon as possible.

Here's how to stop cat zoomies:

  • Having identified an obvious and solvable cause, take action against the zoomies and try to remove the stimuli that have caused the behavior.
  • When sleeping, set up a space for your cat to sleep in the room furthest from where you sleep. Put your cat in that room and close the door so that, even if your cat gets the zoomies, the noise won't bother you at 3 AM.
  • Try to find ways to mentally and physically exhaust your cat at times that are convenient for you. Some examples include:
    • Get your cat some toys that will allow your cat to use its brain
    • Make sure your kitty spends the day outside when you are at work
    • Be careful to feed your cat in advance of sleep
    • Play with your cat before bed
  • When your cat gets the zoomies, ignore it by turning your back and not engaging with it.

  • Never reinforce zoomies and, instead, reward calmness and politeness.

The zoomies can be very frustrating, but there are ways to reduce them and at least make them less disruptive when they happen. Give them a go and, if they don't work, then it's time to ask your vet.

Important: Whether you can stop the zoomies or not, you must cat-proof your house to make sure that an attack of the zoomies won't cause any injuries. It might seem extreme, but your kitty can easily knock things over when it goes crazy, so it's best to be careful!

Cat zoomies are truly nothing to worry about!

It is perfectly normal for your cat to have a zoomies attack and truly nothing to concern yourself with or stress over. Your cat is not likely to be sick or unwell – it's just having an attack of energy so strong that it seems to lack all self-control. Simply be cautious about whether it's going to break something or hurt itself while zooming, and otherwise go ahead and leave it be.

As annoying as persistent zoomies attacks can be, there is very little you can do to stop them as they are completely normal. If you are particularly concerned, though, don't try to apply home remedies and get your veterinarian involved instead.

Cover photo: 123RF/Avernia

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