dog & cat zoomies: what are they and why do they happen?

dog & cat zoomies: what are they and why do they happen? | small black dog in backyard with the zoomies
Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on May 05 2016

Has your pet spontaneously raced around the house before coming to a halt? Then you may be familiar with the zoomies, or what’s clinically referred to as Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs). Let’s take a closer look into this peculiar behavior to better predict when it’ll occur and how to make the fun frenzy safe for everyone.

What are the zoomies?

Zoomies, midnight crazies, fur and blur or whatever you want to call it, is when our pets experience inexplicable bursts of intense energy.

Although each pet experiences the zoomies differently, the extreme energy is universal. Some pets may spin in circles, while others sprint back and forth. Dogs typically run erratically with their rump tucked and back rounded, mixing in a play bow here and there. Cats on the other hand, will pounce on everything in sight.

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How long do the zoomies last?

Most pets can’t sustain this zooming behavior for more than a few minutes. As pets age, the FRAPs often get shorter and less frequent.

Why do dogs and cats get the zoomies?

While most of the reasons are completely normal, there are several medical and behavioral origins that every pet parent should be aware of.

Medical reasons

Perhaps the most serious medical cause of the zoomies is feline hyperthyroidism. If you have a middle-aged to older cat who suddenly begins staying up late, losing weight, acting jittery or behaving oddly, have them checked by your vet.

Dogs can get a condition known as Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, which can lead to sleep alterations and unusual behaviors. Arthritic pain, flea and tick bites, kidney and liver disease, toxins and brain tumors can also cause strange behaviors.

Finally, age-related dementia and cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) should be considered whenever a senior pet begins bolting or acting abnormally. Changes in sight, hearing and smelling may also contribute to bizarre behavior. It’s not uncommon for pets with failing eyesight or hearing to snap, bark or flee from invisible foes.

The bottom line is, if your dog or cat suddenly starts darting about, springing awake when they usually rest or acting abnormally, seek veterinary advice.

Behavioral reasons

Zooming may be rooted in a behavior issue. Anxiety and stress can heighten senses to the point where an animal reacts to the slightest stimulus. Depression or emotional strife can produce sleep-wake imbalances and unusual social responses. It’s best for your vet to rule this cause out by visiting your vet.

Normal reasons

This is often how pets (especially indoor cats) engage their inner predator. These play periods allow our furry companions to hone their survival instincts – think stalking, pouncing and pursuing. For the vast majority, zoomies are a healthy expression of excitement.

Once you know why your pet whizzes and whirls, you’ll be able to predict and prepare for future zoomies.

When is my dog or cat most likely to get zoomies?

Certain times of day may elicit the zoomies more than others. Take the morning for example: After a full night’s rest and a nourishing breakfast, pets are ready for mind and body stimulation. Evenings are also common for pets to zoom if they didn’t get enough exercise or are eager to play when you come home from work.

Stressful triggers (like bath time or lifestyle changes) can also warrant a race around the living room. It’s your pet’s way of calming pent-up nerves or showing relief that the uncomfortable situation is finally over. Cats for instance, may zoom after visiting the litter box if it’s not clean or if they were in discomfort. While some cats are simply celebrating a job well done, it’s best to check for abnormalities in the stool and urine as well as to speak with your vet in order to rule out constipation and anal gland infection.

How to handle your dog or cat when they have the zoomies

While entertaining to watch, our zooming pets and their unpredictable paths can result in injuries or household damage, so it’s important to know how to handle them.

  1. Most of the danger lies in your pet being unaware of their surroundings. Keep your fenced-in yard and your house free from breakables and obstructions, including older pets or children. Hardwood floors can cause your pet to slip so direct them to a carpeted room if needed.
  2. Don’t punish your pet for this normal behavior. You may have guests over or in the middle of an important phone call, but let your pet release the energy.
  3. Never chase or raise your voice at a zooming pet. This will only encourage their frantic activity and may lead to excited nips or bites. If that should happen, simply redirect their energy to a favorite toy.
  4. If your pet is in a safe and confined space, remove their leash. Leashes can tangle and cause them to trip.
  5. Enroll in comprehensive pet insurance. If your pet gets unexpectedly injured, you’ll be able to afford the best medical care for them without worrying about the cost. Be sure to sign up before anything happens!

How to prevent dog and cat zoomies?

The zoomies are not something you should prevent or discourage as long as your pet is in a safe space. Instead of trying to control your pet’s zoomies, control the environment.

There are numerous benefits of exercising with your pet. In this case, a tired pet is one that’s less likely to zoom inside. By providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day, you can lower the likelihood or frequency your pet zooms. Unsure if you are walking your dog enough?

Speak with your veterinarian Remember, these seemingly crazy moments won’t last long. You should supervise and direct your pet’s energy as needed for everyone’s safety.

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