Why do cats suddenly make mad dashes around the house?

Why do cats suddenly make mad dashes around the house? This is otherwise known as the zoomies or the cat crazies. It is a very comprehensively discussed topic on the internet. I have written about it before but here I go for a third time!

Feline zoomies
Feline zoomies. Double trouble version. Pic: Pixabay.
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Every cat caregiver has noticed their cat companion suddenly make a headlong dash around the house. And I’ve just watched a video on Twitter of a rescue cat in a Perspex cage waiting to be adopted. And he was doing his version of the cat crazies within a very confined space. His behaviour leads us to a reason for this well-known phenomenon.

Some new cat owners might become seriously concerned when they see it for the first time. They might ask whether their cat is having some sort of seizure. They won’t know how common this sort of feline outburst is, believing that it is abnormal behaviour. Some even might go so far as to take their cat to the veterinarian!

They shouldn’t be worried. Well, they might be worried in an indirect sense. I mentioned the caged rescue cat above (trapped and bored out of their mind) and the kind of cat who does the cat crazies is the one who is confined to their home. Not quite the same sort of cage but they confinement nonetheless. And, importantly, I am not criticising cat caregivers who keep their cats indoors full-time. It is eminently sensible in many places and under many circumstances.

The experts might call the behaviour a vacuum activity. This means is an activity which a domestic cat normally does but, in a vacuum, meaning not for real.

The raison d’être of the domestic cat is to hunt. To be a predator. They need to express that urge which is constantly within them as a driving force. Inside the home 24/7 they lack the opportunity to express this inborn urge to hunt and to flee from danger.

There is no prey to catch are no predators or rivals from which to escape.

These finely tuned aspects of feline character suddenly explode to the surface when stimulated by the smallest event. Their pent-up energy overflows and the cat crazies begin.

The cat crazies are also called an overflow behaviour meaning their innate desires overflow the boundaries of a normal sedate life.

Sometimes as shown in the video, they just bounce around the home burning up energy. The cats in the video are climbing when presumably there is not much to climb. They might be chasing each other when there is no prey to chase. They might attack the family dog as some kind of ghost prey.

If you want to avoid the cat crazies you’ve got to play with your cat a lot to burn off some of that energy and some of those desires to hunt, to run, to attack, to kill, to escape, to hide and do all the things that they would normally do outside in the wild. Or give them a secure outside enclosure which is a rare construction as they are expensive.

Postscript: the well-known cat behaviourist, Jackson Galaxy, the author of the book TOTAL CAT MOJO tells us that if you want your cat to modify their circadian rhythms slightly at least and get them tired when you are tired and ready to go to bed, you should burn up some of their energy before it’s your bedtime. You can do this through vigorous play with your cat. The idea that he proposes is that you try and alter the feline circadian rhythm so that it is more in line with that of humans. It’s part of the same problem that I’ve described on this page. It’s about ensuring that the domestic cat is fully stimulated and can express those desires.

This is one of the great challenges for cat caregivers of full-time indoor cats. And to be honest, I do not believe that cat owners have risen to that challenge properly thus far. And there are an increasing number of full-time indoor cats nowadays, far more than before. There was a time perhaps a hundred years ago and more when virtually all domestic cats were indoor/outdoor cat. The concept of indoor cats wasn’t dreamt about.

I also believe that the so-called cat obesity epidemic in which around one third of domestic cats are overweight in America and the UK, is partly due to boredom. Domestic cats are eating for pleasure or they are not burning off the calories that they consume. The other reason is the high carb dry diet so popular nowadays.

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