Discover Why Your Cat Gets Zoomies

Written by Hailey Pruett
Updated: July 26, 2023
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Every cat owner has seen it: it’s 3 AM, and your feline companion is suddenly absolutely full of energy, practically (and sometimes literally!) bouncing off the walls with excitement! Or perhaps your cat just had a very productive trip to the litter box, and they seem to be celebrating the momentous occasion with a few laps around the house. Then, a few minutes later, they’re relaxing and back to their usual self. Many of us have come to know this amusing behavior as the “zoomies,” but why does it happen, and what does it mean for your cat’s health and overall well-being? Read on to learn more.

What Are the “Zoomies?”

Cat running in the garden

Think of the zoomies as a healthy way for your cat to burn off the energy they stored up while sleeping for most of the day.

©Nils Jacobi/

There are many names for it: the zoomies, the midnight crazies, and scrumbling, just to mention a few. But the scientific name for the behavior is frenetic random activity periods, often simply abbreviated as FRAPs. To put it simply, a FRAP or an episode of the zoomies is a sudden expression of your cat’s pent-up energy where they will run in a frantic, energetic, playful manner, usually for a fairly short time of around 5 to 20 minutes at most. 

The exact nature of the zoomies, how long they last, and what behaviors they entail can vary from cat to cat, depending on their personality, their age, their health, how they prefer to play, their diet, and even the layout of your home. 

Mainly, though, the zoomies are just a way for your cat to express their instinctual, predatory behaviors, like pouncing, running, jumping, and playfully chasing anything from their toys to other cats and pets in the home to their very own tail.

Why and When Do Cats Get the Zoomies? Are They Normal?

Ginger tabby young cat sitting on a wooden floor looks up, asks for food, meows, smiles close-up, top view, soft selective focus

Usually, cats get the zoomies at night, but they can occur at all times of the day.

©savitskaya iryna/

There are a few key factors that contribute to FRAPs, or zoomies, in cats. For starters, cats spend a lot of their time sleeping–around 12 to 18 hours a day. This is something of a holdover from their big cat ancestors who similarly spend much of their days at rest to reserve their energy for fairly short, yet very physically taxing hunts. 

Furthermore, cats are crepuscular animals. This means they tend to be most active during dawn and dusk, or very early in the morning and the evening. However, this can vary somewhat, with many cats also sometimes being active well into the late hours of the night. So, when your cat wakes up from a long day of rest, usually late at night, they have a lot of energy to burn off, and they want to burn it off quickly. This results in a FRAP, or an episode of the zoomies!

Another reason why cats tend to get the zoomies in the wee hours of the night is their excellent eyesight. Although they can’t see perfectly in total darkness, their eyes can take in far more light than ours in very low-light conditions. So, while it may seem way too dark for you to get around without turning a light on at 1 AM, your cat can navigate just fine–their eyes are designed for getting around in these settings.

Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the zoomies are perfectly normal in cats. Cats of all ages can experience them, from kittenhood up to their golden years.

Why Do Cats Get the Zoomies After Pooping?

Usually, cats get the zoomies late at night after waking up from a long rest. But you may have also noticed your cat getting a case of them after a trip to the litter box! This is also normal–and there’s a simple scientific explanation for this bizarre FRAP trigger.

When your cat finishes pooping, their vagus nerve is triggered. This causes their blood pressure and heart rate to drop, giving them a slightly lightheaded, euphoric feeling post-poop. This can also result in a brief burst of energy for them.

The vagus nerve is one of the longest cranial nerves in your cat’s body, as well as being among the most important to your cat’s bodily functions. It connects your cat’s gastrointestinal tract to its brain. It also regulates all kinds of organ functions, from swallowing and eating to digestion to coughing and vomiting.

All mammals have a vagus nerve, and it functions similarly from animal to animal, meaning it works mostly the same way in your body, too!

To sum it up: pooping can be quite satisfying for your cat, and that sudden triggering of their vagus nerve can give them a quick burst of energy, resulting in the zoomies.

Can Excessive Zoomies Indicate Boredom or Illness?

Scottish fold cat

Excessive zoomies or FRAPs can indicate anything from simple boredom to health issues like hyperthyroidism.


In general, the zoomies or FRAPs are a good sign your cat is doing well both physically and mentally. As we covered earlier, it’s simply their way of burning off a lot of stored energy very quickly. However, there are some cases where excessive zoomies can potentially indicate an underlying health issue or, more frequently, boredom. So, when should you worry about your cat’s FRAPs?

If your cat begins experiencing more frequent, daily, or longer episodes of the zoomies than usual, this can be a symptom of anything from simple boredom to potential hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism causes your cat’s thyroid gland to not function normally, which can affect its metabolism and lead to weight loss, increased appetite, and anxiety or excess energy. Thyroid dysfunction is especially common in older cats.

If you’re concerned about your cat suddenly experiencing more FRAPs than normal, look for other symptoms that something could be off with them, like weight loss or a sudden change in appetite. In this case, it’s best to consult with your cat’s vet to determine if further testing or evaluation is needed. 

If no other symptoms are present, your cat may simply be a bit more bored than usual. Providing them with more stimulating toys and interacting with them more during play time to engage their inner predator can help remedy this issue. But if you’re still worried, it’s always worth bringing it up to your vet anyway.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nils Jacobi/

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About the Author

Hailey "Lex" Pruett is a nonbinary writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care. A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

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