What are cat zoomies and why do they happen?

‘Cat zoomies’ is a cute phrase to mean domestic cats racing around the home going apparently bonkers for no reason. It is a mad burst of activity during which pent up energy is released rapidly.

The reason? The obvious reason, and I think this is the true reason too, is that domestic cats often don’t have enough to do. They are looked after. Food is provided. They often lack challenges. Certainly most full-time indoor cats live lives that are often severely supressed. This is why they often become obese. Eating too much is the flipside of this problem.

Feline zoomies

Feline zoomies. Double trouble version. Pic: Pixabay.

Their instincts kick in sometimes. Perhaps it is a survival instinct as being inactive goes against fitness and mental health so the brain tells the cat to be active.

And there is a natural, instinctive desire to hunt and be stimulated by the hunt. Without this outlet domestic cats, confined to the home, suddenly burst into frantic activity doing nothing and achieving nothing but burning off energy.

They run around apparently pointlessly. It is amusing to human bystanders. It is not pointless. The cat is releasing energy in a pseudo-hunting activity. It is as close as she’ll get to it when there is no prey to catch.

The way to stop it, if you want to, is to play a lot with your cat. This is rarely done if we are brutally honest. But I’d say that the zoomies are a symptom of human failure in the cat domestication process.

Wild cats don’t do the zoomies. Indoor/outdoor cats probably hardly ever do the zoomies. It is those poor devils stuck in the home who do it.

I am not criticising owners of full-time indoor cats. I fully understand and agree the reasons. The zoomies are a symptom of the failure of the entire process of the domestication of the cat. Big words, but it is a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

P.S. My cat is an indoor/outdoor cat. He has never done the zoomies. Not all cats do it even those who are full-time indoors. Once again it is down to personality. At a guess I’d say that no more than 25% of all domestic cats do them. Although personality dictates whether a cat does them, the underlying reason is the environment given to them by humans.

Cat play can dissipate the desire for the zoomies

Some articles on the topic of cat play:

Cats play-fighting
The Telegraph journalist who reported on a study has got the headline wrong I believe: "How to tell if your ...
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This article, social play in the domestic cat is based upon a research paper of the same title dated 1974 ...
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If you draw a black dot on a piece of paper your cat might cover it. Why?
There is another cat behaviour trend brewing up on TikTok. In a video which has gone viral, a tabby cat ...
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Snickers pushes Bailey down the stairs? Y or N?
It's an amusing little TikTok video which has captured the imagination of the viewing public. It was made by a ...
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Jackson Galaxy

Jackson Galaxy has some nice observation on the feline zoomies. He does not refer to this phenomenon as ‘zoomies’ but ‘the energetic balloon’. He writes in his book, Total Cat Mojo, that when cats sleep they are collecting energy. “They are in essence energetic balloons….The Raw Cat awakens and needs to hunt”.

When we interact with our cats we are “either putting energy in, filling the balloon, or taking energy out, opening the safety valve”.

Cat caretakers need to release some of the energy which has built up. I would say that the cat, herself, sometimes releases it through the zoomies. The owner can do it with play. And it should be structured play. Galaxy takes cat play very seriously. It is the major substitute for the major aspect of a cat’s life: hunting.

Petting a cat during the time when the energetic balloon is full can stimulate the cat to become aggressive if the petting is too stimulating. It is one of those times when the cat is more sensitive to inadvertent over-stimulation.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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