BaxterBoo Blog
February 23, 2018

Why does my cat... run around at 3am?

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Kitty crazies, night runs, zoomies - does your cat ever go from completely asleep to crazy hyper kitty rocket? Why do cats do that? Should you be worried or trying to get the phenomenon on video so you can post it online?


There are a number of reasons why cats suddenly tear around the house for no (apparent to humans) reason. We'll talk about some here along with some examples from my own cat, Nezumi.


The chase is on!

Cats are natural hunters and with their heightened senses, they can find things to hunt that we can't. Just because you can't see or hear anything worth chasing, doesn't mean that your cat can't see or hear anything worth chasing. They might be going after dust motes in the air or possibly stalking critters they can hear under the floorboards or in the walls.


Run away!

Does your cat ever use the litter box and then run away as if they just laid the stinkiest bomb ever? Nezumi does this often, we call it her "poop crazies". She uses the litter box and then runs around the house "WAAOWW"-ing at top volume for about three minutes. Scientists suspect that this at least partially an instinct from cats' ancestors. In the wild, other animals will be attracted to the smell of urine or feces. Cats cover their business to disguise that smell and then they get as far away as possible, just in case a predator has already caught a whiff.


Another reason I think my own cats have done this in the past is discomfort. Have you ever eaten a lot of spicy foods and then later had… regrets? I had another cat, Mayonaka, who suffered from a lot of gastrointestinal issues when she was a kitten. She had very bad diarrhea often and would cry when she needed to go because she knew it was going to cause discomfort. She would then run around like crazy after & clean herself quite a bit. If you're noticing loose stool in your cat's litter box or if they seem to be going very frequently, this could be a sign of a medical issue that needs attention. Talk to your vet and see what they recommend.  



If your kitty has fleas, they might be suffering from a flea attack. The bites of fleas are decidedly unpleasant and scratching those bites only seems to make them itch more. Your cat might be running around in frustration because of the maddening itch. There are a number of flea sprays, wipes, etc. on the market to help combat fleas and other bitey, itchy pests.


Too. Much. Energy!

While cats seem like lazy bums, they are actually pretty good at burning calories, just in small bursts. Think of cats as sprinters instead of marathon runners. Calling back to cat ancestors again, cats in the wild often have to chase and catch prey that is very fast. To do this they rest and conserve energy until they need to hunt. Because your cat doesn't have to hunt any farther than the food bowl for a meal, they have to expend their built-up energy in other ways, namely running around like a loon at two in the morning. If you want to help your cat expend some of that energy at a more timely hour, give them an interactive feeder or some toys they can chase and roll around with. Nezumi loves to play fetch with these little mice.


Attention times now!

In the mornings, Nezumi will let us know that we have slept thirty seconds later than her usual breakfast and this must be remedied immediately or there will be Consequences. She reminds me of a toddler who pulls your eye open and whispers, "are you awake?" Only instead she licks my hair and paws at my face. When I finally succumb to her pestering, she always seems so pleased that I'm up. She will pace between me and her bowl over and over, telling me about her morning. Sometimes as she walks past one of her toys, she will attack it as if it insulted her mother. If I reach down for the toy, she immediately goes into the crouched, wiggly butt pose. As I said above, she loves to play fetch. When I throw the toy she will tear around the room, whack the toy as if it is now "it" in a game of tag, and take off again. Our morning ritual usually includes a few tosses of her current favorite toy until she decides that the food has been delayed long enough.


Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome, also known as "rolling skin disease" is an illness suffered by domestic cats that often includes symptoms such as rippling skin along the back and sides when touched, agitation in the cat, possibly self-biting or self-mutilation, compulsive grooming, and anxious running. The cause of this disease is unknown although some veterinarians classify it as a seizure disorder. If your cat seems genuinely distressed instead of just hyper, talk to your veterinarian about your concerns. They can offer anti-anxiety medication or other drugs that will help sooth your cat. Also, catnip has been known to help as it works more like a sedative in cats with this disorder.


As you can see, there are many reasons your cat is running around – most of them benign. If your cat seems to be in discomfort or distress, it won't hurt to take a trip to the veterinarian just to ease your mind. Otherwise, your kitty is just working out some natural, ingrained instincts and you should not feel guilty for filming her antics and sharing them with the world.


Simon's Cat Logic also covered this topic. Cat owners everywhere will relate to the 'Crazy Time' video below!


What do you think?

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This entry was posted by Shauna.

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