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What Actually Are the Zoomies?

Advice from an animal behaviorist, the son of ‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan, a dog owner who experiences daily zoomies and a cat owner who deals with post-poop zoomies

Parenting a pet, no matter what kind, can be a frustrating and bewildering experience. Animals can’t tell you what they want and need (directly, at least), so we’re here to help you answer any questions you have about your favorite companion — whether they be furry, slimy, feathered, scaly or anything in between — with insight from the experts. This is “Basic Bitch,” an advice column for pet parents who just want the best for their best friend.

The Very Basic Concern

Washing the dogs can be a pain, sure. But what comes next is a sight to behold: Both of my dogs, without fail, go full sicko mode in the backyard after having a bath. They run around in circles — eyes wide open, lips flapping in the wind, heads tilted toward the sun — at speeds I once thought were impossible. 

Among dog owners, this strange phenomenon is known as zoomies:

But despite bearing witness to zoomies whenever I bathe the bois, I can still never quite understand why dogs (and apparently cats, too) feel the need to just randomly run around like crazed maniacs for a couple minutes. 

Basically: What exactly are zoomies?

The Expert Advice

Kyle Kittleson, animal behaviorist: Zoomies” is the lay term for a seemingly sudden burst of energy from your dog. This behavior can manifest in fast sprints, combined with jumping, leaping and sudden changes in direction. The scientific term is Frenetic Random Activity Periods, or FRAP. FRAPs are completely normal and primarily occur after two types of events: A restful period or a period of some uncomfortability.

If your dog has spent a long time napping or just had a “lazy day,” they may release that excess energy by going into a FRAP. Additionally, you may notice a dog go into a FRAP after a bath or an uncomfortable visit to the veterinarian. During these events, your dog is storing up lots of energy, and when the event ends, the body naturally wants to expel that energy. 

Your best bet is to let the dog “FRAP it all out” and ensure there are no dangers in the environment, such as a cord they could trip over. I don’t suggest trying to stop your dog when they have a case of the zoomies. If your dog is having daily or weekly zoomies, though, it could be a sign that it needs additional physical exercise and better dog toys.

Andre Millan, son of “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan and Dog Nation co-host: Zoomies are an expression of excitement and happiness, whether that be from the people or the other animals surrounding the dog with happiness and excitement. This behavior tends to happen after a shower, completing an exercise and getting rewarded with excitement and affection, or with a change of environment — whether that’s going from a dirt ranch to a park or somewhere where any kind of new smells are being presented to the dog that make them excited.

I have a bunch of dogs on the ranch here in Santa Clarita, and we tend to go in the pool a lot when the temperatures are high. After we get all the dogs out, they love drying off on the turf, and then as a pack, they love to do the zoomies and play around with each other, sharing the excitement and happiness from going in the pool and drying off.

Jackson Souza, a dog owner who witnesses zoomies on the daily: Sadie always gets zoomies at this particular park on our daily walk around the neighborhood. We let her off the leash, scratch her butt and off she goes. We call it rocket butt. I think it’s pent up excitement, and it’s triggered by being in a certain place or during a certain time of day.

Sadie when she’s not zooming

My cat also gets hardcore zoomies around the entire house. She does huge cannonballs off the high surfaces, jumps from her scratchers, opens and closes doors and gets all puffy. Nothing seems to trigger them, but I’m glad she doesn’t do that in the middle of the night. Some cats do.

Jessica Jones, a cat owner who deals with cat zoomies every night: My cat’s name is Hector, and he’s normally the laziest cat ever — he never runs, unless it’s meal time. He’s also a huge chonker. However, every night after his nightly poo, he loses his mind and gets the zoomies. He literally tries to climb the walls, runs around the house like a madman and meows like he’s giving a speech. It lasts about five minutes, and then he’s back to his normal, lazy self.

Hector mid-zoomies

I did a bit of Googling because I was so confused by this poopmania, and it seems like it’s a common question. It seems like sometimes, just like humans, cat poops send stimuli up their vagus nerve, and they get post-poop elation. So basically, they’re so happy about their poop that they have to share their excitement in the weirdest ways to let everyone know they just pooped.