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Why Does My Cat Run Around at Night?

Why Does My Cat Run Around at Night?

Most cat owners are all too familiar with nighttime ‘cat zoomies’, a phenomenon that has baffled cat enthusiasts around the world for as long as humans have had cats. Cats rarely follow our schedules, preferring to march to the beat of their own drum.

Even though cats are known for sleeping 16 to 20 hours a day, they seem to have a penchant for running around precisely when their owners are trying to get some well-deserved rest.

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Whether you’re looking for a British Shorthair or one of Australia top cat breeds, part of the appeal of caring for a cat is their mysterious and independent nature. However, many novice cat owners will not have taken into account this type of bizarre behaviour. Some cats will seemingly run around at full speed, with little regard for furniture, knick knacks, other pets and even their owners. 

There’s even a scientific name for this behaviour: Frenetic Random Activity Periods, or FRAPs. While most owners will be left scratching their heads at FRAPs, there are actually some fairly simple reasons why cats do this. 

Why Does My Cat Run Around at Night?

1. It’s part of their natural instincts

While each cat is an individual and will have some variance in their sleeping and waking schedule, cats in general are crepuscular, a term which means that they are more active during dawn and dusk.

Like all good hunters, house cats will wake up and hunt when their prey is most active. Rodents and other small animals are typically awake and scurrying around at the same time our cats are up. By the time cat owners are settling down for the night, their cat is just about warmed up and ready to go. 

2. They have excess energy to burn

House cats are usually left alone for most of the day, since many owners have work or school obligations and have to leave the house. Once your cat is fully awake and energised from a whole day of sleeping, they have to get rid of that energy somehow. Some cats will want to play with their owners, while others will simply want to have a good run. 

Regardless of what they prefer, your cat will get rid of that excess energy somehow, whether or not it’s convenient for you. Cats are very adept at entertaining themselves, even if their entertainment is not necessarily compatible with other people’s schedules.

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3. Cats can tell when other animals are active

Cats are naturally alert, and their sleep is light enough that they can be awake at a moment’s notice to fight or flee. This is where we get the term ‘cat nap’, after all. 

That same alertness allows them to tell when other animals are moving through their territory. Many cats that experience cat zoomies do so because there are other cats or prey animals that are awake and moving around outside their home.

Male cats can become particularly agitated and energetic when they sense a female cat in heat. If your male cat suddenly starts running around at night, there could be a neighbour cat or stray that’s hanging around outside your home.

4. You cat might be feeling unwell

Sadly, cats can also start running around at night due to medical conditions. Some cat illnesses can cause them to be hyperactive and vocal at night. Some common causes of this type of behaviour include: 

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dementia
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Flea or tick bites

If your cat suddenly starts exhibiting FRAPs without any history of behaving that way before, it may be a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any health problems or infestation. This type of preventive care will help ensure that you aren’t simply writing off your cat’s health issues as ‘just weird cat behaviour’. 

How To Prevent Cat Zoomies at Night

Finding a solution to FRAPs has been a big concern for many sleep-deprived cat owners. There are a couple of simple things that cat owners can do to hopefully prevent cat zoomies at night. 

  • Give your cat more exercise – Many pets are woefully under-exercised, which not only causes them to gain weight, it can also cause excess energy. Play with your cat a couple of times a day instead of letting them sleep the entire time. Even just two 15-minute interactive play sessions per day can keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated.
  • Change your cat’s feeding schedule – Cats are naturally predisposed to go back to sleep after eating. You can opt to feed them later at night, just before you go to sleep yourself. Avoid feeding your cat in the middle of the night, as this will teach your cat to stay awake for food. 
  • Consult your vet – Ruling out any health issues can help you determine the real cause of your cat’s zoomies at night. 

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Cats are some of the most popular pets for sale, and living with them is relatively easy. Knowing the causes of and solutions to cat zoomies can make owning and caring for a cat even easier.

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