Does your cat or dog suddenly have a burst of energy and perform athletic feats around the house that would make even a gold medalist jealous? Welcome to the world of zooms.
Zoomies involve intense periods of high-energy activity, including running, spinning, jumping, and rolling. All at full speed.
A proposed scientific name is Frenzied Random Activity Periods (FRAPs). In rabbits, these periods of high activity are called “binkies”. But many cat and dog owners simply refer to them as “zoomies.”
So why do our animals experience zoomies? And is it something we should be worried about?
Why do animals have zooms?
Think about when your cat or dog gets the zooms.
You might see after bath zooms, dog park zooms, midnight zooms, and good old zooms out of nowhere.
The trigger can be excitement or a sudden increase in stimulation.
In cats, a commonly reported trigger is using the litter box. This can be explained by “poo-phoria”, a feeling of euphoria following defecation. This is possibly caused by large stools stimulating the vagus nerve, leading to positive feelings and a drop in heart rate and blood pressure.
Zoomies can be called a game because the two behaviors share many of the same characteristics. This would make zooms inherently enjoyable – in other words, a whole lot of fun.
If the zooms happen as part of your pet’s regular play routine, it indicates that your pet is happy and having fun.
Although we don’t yet know if zooms are more likely to occur at certain times of the day, or more in some breeds than others, we consider them a general indication of a high level of arousal. – and probably in a good enough mood. .
Humans are animals too and some people also experience what might look like “zooms”.
Have you ever felt a sudden feeling of intense excitement and wasted energy? Maybe you felt the urge to jump, shake, or dance before it wore off and you got back to your normal settings.
It can be caused by a multitude of things – an exciting or new situation, a spike in energy after a long period of rest, or perhaps a change in your internal chemistry. Maybe you had an adrenaline rush from excitement, overstimulation, or stress.
Are zooms always a sign that your cat or dog is happy?
It’s important to remember that animals are individuals, and just like us, the reason why they behave the way they do is complex and multifaceted.
When evaluating your pet’s behavior, it is essential to also assess the context.
Zoomies are mentioned a lot online, but there’s a real lack of scientific research into what causes them, how often they occur, or even an official definition of what they are.
Ask yourself: am I invited to zoomie?
In dogs and cats, zooms can include an invitation for others to join – in dogs this is most often a play arc, where the dog appears to “bow” to another in order to signal that he wants to play – followed by a pause commonly observed in dyadic play (play between two or more individuals).
In cats, an invitation may include a physical interaction with you or a repeated rollover. If so, your pet is probably feeling excitement and a desire to interact with you.
What should I do during a zoomie outbreak?
Unless there is an element of immediate danger (like zooms on or near a road), there is no reason to prevent your cat or dog from enjoying their burst of pleasure.
Cats and dogs are often superstars at avoiding obstacles, even at high speeds. If you are lucky enough to receive invitations to participate in the mayhem, do not hesitate to participate in the play.
Enjoying shared activities like playing with your dog or cat can have many benefits for the human-animal relationship. It’s also great fun for you!
When should I be worried?
Zoomies are generally a completely normal (and fun) part of being a dog or cat.
Sometimes, however, it can be a symptom of stress or an underlying medical condition.
As always, context is key. You should consult your veterinarian if your dog or cat displays the behavior for long periods of time (especially, turning or behaviors occurring during confinement periods). These could be signs of a repetitive behavior disorder.
If you have trouble distracting or stopping the behavior, or if it results in injury, consult a veterinarian.
Even if you don’t get the call of the zoomies yourself, take a moment to stop and enjoy your dog or cat’s fun.
Sometimes we all need to go wild.
Susan Hazel is an Associate Professor in the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide. Ana Goncalves Costa is a PhD student and Julia Henning is a PhD candidate, both at the University of Adelaide. This piece first appeared on The Conversation.