Have you ever wondered why your cat suddenly gets a large burst of energy after sleeping all day? Cats that typically spend most of the day alone will build up energy that needs to be released at some point. Often we see this surge of energy in the evening or even in the dead of the night when everyone – well, almost everyone – is asleep.
This cat behavior is lovingly known as the zoomies. Let's dig in to why they happen and how you can help Ms. Soft Paws get them out before it's time for lights out.
What Causes the Zoomies?
Zoomies are sudden bursts of frenetic energy in which an animal (typically a dog or cat) runs to and fro, also known as frenetic random activity periods or FRAP. Zoomies are completely normal and to be expected as a cat owner, so if your cat starts, well, zooming around, there's no need to worry in most cases.
There are three main causes for your cat to get the zoomies: excess energy, pain or fear, and using the litter box.
Your cat has excess energy
The first and most common trigger for zoomies is excess energy. Indoor cats spend the majority of the day lounging and sleeping, so it makes sense for them to have bursts of activity where they run around and release pent-up energy. Without regularly scheduled play time and mental stimulation throughout the day, it is common for your cat to wake up fully charged and ready to release energy, often seen as circular running or sprinting or you know, parkour.
Your cat is scared or in pain
Another cause of zoomies: being spooked or experiencing pain. Loud noises, such as a vacuum or blow dryer, can startle your cat into a full sprint. While pain-related zoomies are far less common than typical energy-release zoomies, it is still possible. If your cat appears to be itching, it could be running frantically to try and forget the itchiness. If you think the latter is an issue, it might be worthwhile to consult your vet.
Your cat is taking a victory lap
Lastly, cats experience zoomies before or after using the litter box. It is common to see your cat dashing into the litter box, releasing energy. Or sometimes, a post-poop exit from the litter box might result in a case of the zoom zooms and litter spray. Aye.
How To Manage the Zoomies
Now knowing there are different types of zoomies, we can identify a couple ways to help your cat productively expend their energy at a more... appropriate hour.
Two key ways to alleviate your cat's zoomies:
- Decrease the amount of time your cat spends sleeping during the day
- Develop a routine that encompasses mental enrichment and physical playtime
Many cat owners believe it is normal for their cat to sleep 18 to 20 hours a day, but there is such a thing as too much sleep for your cat. Cats are naturally crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), and they tend to doze throughout the day. However, a domestic cat who sleeps all day is usually bored (truth bomb!) which means, the more time kitty is awake and active, the less time he is spending snoozing during daylight hours.
This brings us to our second point of developing a solid routine of enrichment and play time that sparks interest in your cat. Even though Mr. Whiskers is an indoor-only boy, he's still a cat with cat-needs of expressing the same behavior as an outdoor cat like pouncing, running, and climbing.
Ways to Encourage Playtime for Indoor Cats
Even if we can't be at home with our fluffy pal 24/7, we can encourage and enable them to play on their own by creating opportunities to hunt, pounce, climb and perch.
A play rug, pile of packing paper, or Magic Carpet is a fun way to encourage playtime even when you're not home. Try creating a tent by draping it over a chair, toss some treats under there or crumple it up with their favorite toy hidden within the folds for them to dig around and find.
The Wiggly Ball, is a fan favorite when it comes to solo-play. It wiggles and bounces and rattles around (your pick!) and the best part is, you don't have to be around for kitty to enjoy a play session – although it's so much fun, you and kitty might enjoy tossing it around. Bonus points if you sprinkle a little bit of silver vine on the tail.
Sprinkle on a pinch of silver vine on Mr. Cat's favorite toy and he'll be entertained for a while! Remember that Magic Carpet tent? Toss a couple toys dusted with silver vine underneath play rug or crumpled Magic Carpet and your kitty will have fun hunting for it.
Don’t Forget To Engage With Your Cat
All of the toys mentioned above can be used for solo-play, they're also super fun to use in tandem when you're playing with your cat, especially if you combine it with a Wiggly Wand or some other lure toy. The more interactive and engaging you make your play sessions, the more gas gets used, which means your cat is less likely to wake up at 3am with a full tank ready to go.
Bonus tip: Playtime before Bedtime
We mentioned finding a playtime routine for your kitty, so in addition to how many times you're playing throughout the day, don't forget to consider when those playtimes occur. Now, keep in mind, all cats are different so we encourage you experiment a little with your whiskered pal to find the balance that works best for you. I've found that a ten minute playtime session with my boy before heading up to bed has drastically improved his sleep time throughout the night, which means, I get undisrupted sleep too. Win-win.
Although zoomies can be frustrating, especially when you've just dozed off into oblivion, it is not all doom and gloom. With a few tweaks to their environment and day-to-day activity level, you'll both be on your way to catching those deep REM zzz's.