Frenetic Random Activity Periods: When Cats Go Crazy
If you’ve seen a sedate cat suddenly zip across the house, bursting with energy, then you’ve experienced what’s clinically known as a frenetic random activity period (or FRAP). You might call them something different. Some feline fanciers call these periods “the zoomies” or “the midnight crazies.” Whatever term you prefer, these periods of hyperactivity (however surprising) are usually brief and don’t typically point to any serious underlying health concerns.
FRAPs and Cats
Frenetic random activity periods are seemingly random bursts of activity and energy which inspire cats to behave strangely. A cat owner may see their pet run in circles, climb and jump, or bound up and down the stairs before, just as suddenly as it began, the FRAP comes to an abrupt halt.
Both cats and dogs experience FRAPs, but different circumstances are more likely to trigger the behavior in one species than in the other. Dogs experience FRAPs throughout the day. Most often, they occur after low-activity periods like naps, baths, and hours spent inside in a crate. Feline FRAPs most often occur at dawn and dusk, though activities like grooming and using the litter box may inspire them at any hour.
What Causes Frenetic Random Activity Periods?
In most instances, a cat’s FRAPs are perfectly normal and in keeping with their natural instincts. FRAPs aren’t just common among cats and dogs. Animal experts have observed similar behaviors in wild beasts like elephants and bears, as well as domestic pets like ferrets and rabbits. For rabbits, FRAPs are colloquially known as “binkies” and thought to coincide with periods of high excitement. “They’re just having fun,” notes the American Veterinary Medical Association’s President-elect Dr. José Arce, encouraging pet owners to accept their four-legged friends’ sometimes-quirky behavior. After all, FRAPs are among the only times when domestic felines get a chance to exercise their in-born predatory instincts.
FRAPs can sometimes indicate underlying behavioral concerns including anxiety, stress, and depression. Talk to your veterinarian if you believe FRAPs have become more frequent, if your cat seems distressed, or if you’re observing any strange new nuances in their behavior.
Though they’re generally nothing to worry about, late-night FRAPs sometimes indicate hyperthyroidism. Pet parents with older cats should visit the veterinarian if their pet seems to be experiencing more frequent or more intense FRAPs than usual.
Since midnight crazies are generally both natural and short-lived, there’s no need for most cat owners to intervene when they occur. Cats may risk injuring themselves during FRAPs if they’re unfamiliar with their surroundings or if those surroundings are characterized by hazards. Hardwood floors could lead to slips and falls and clutter presents a continuous risk. That’s not to mention all the fragile household objects a FRAP may put in jeopardy.
Take care to cat-proof your home after welcoming a pet and make adjustments as necessary throughout their life. If you’re especially concerned about injuries that may occur while your cat plays, consider investing in a pet insurance policy offering coverage for accidents and injuries. Your policy won’t stop your cat from letting their energy get the better of them, but it could dramatically reduce the stress and expense of medical mishaps.
What Not to Do
Frenetic random activity periods can easily go from fun to contentious when cat owners respond inappropriately. Avoid the following behavior, which may cause more harm than good.
- Don’t chase your pet: Following your cat throughout their FRAPs won’t inspire them to cut it out. More likely, your behavior will validate the behavior, encouraging them to become even more frantic.
- Don’t scold your pet: Shouting at a pet experiencing the zoomies may have much the same effect as chasing them. Frustrating as your cat’s behavior can be, try your best not to lose your cool.
- Don’t punish your pet: Simply put, negative reinforcement in pet care is never a good idea. Punishment and harsh reprimands can inspire cats to double down on unwanted behaviors and make life even more hectic for hapless pet parents.
It might mean a few unexpected bumps in the night, but living with FRAPs is just another part of caring for a feline family member. Regularly exercising with pets may help to tire them out and discourage sudden bursts of energy at inopportune times.