Cats may look like relaxed and tranquil animals, but this could not be further from the truth. Cats doze for prolonged periods to conserve energy for when they need it most. If your cat does not have an outlet for this vitality, it will quickly grow hyperactive.
Schedule two 20-minute playtimes in your cat’s daily routine to satisfy your cat’s hunting instincts and provide an outlet for energy. If your cat doesn’t calm down, hyperactivity (feline hyperesthesia) could be the cause. This condition can be caused by allergies, parasites, hypertension, or skittishness.
A certain level of excitability is to be expected in cats, especially kittens. Older cats can still be prone to hyperactivity, but it’s much less common. If the behavior becomes an issue, your cat may have a health problem.
Why Is My Cat Running Around So Much?
First-time owners are sometimes surprised by a feline’s energy levels. Cats can spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping. When the cat is awake, though, it will have energy to burn. This needs to be expended somehow.
The catch-all term for a cat growing hyperactive is feline hyperesthesia. Unfortunately, as explained by the Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, explanations for hyperesthesia are tough to narrow down. It seems that a cat is just having fun and playing. Feline hyperesthesia can become a serious concern if left untreated, though.
If your cat rushes around the house, seemingly at random, learn why. The first step is to assess its lifestyle. There may be a simple explanation for this behavior. Unfortunately, a number of illnesses, ranging from minor or significant, can be responsible for excess energy.
Your cat may have frustrated hunting instincts. Cats burn a lot of energy through hunting. If they are denied this opportunity, they’ll have an excess of vigor. This needs to be used up somehow.
Be mindful about managing your cat’s level of stimulation. An excess of sights, sounds and smells will leave a cat tightly-wound. In addition, ensure your cat has assigned territory in the home. This will keep it calm, minimizing fear of predators.
Your cat may also be stressed or living with high anxiety. Some cats are skittish by nature, especially if they had troubling early experiences. You’ll need to manage this anxiety, building trust and comfort in your cat.
Lack of Territory
Cats require assigned territory in the home to feel safe. If it lacks this, it will never be entirely comfortable. The slightest noise or movement will cause a reaction. The cat will bolt, racing somewhere else where it feels safer.
This is an easy fix in most homes. If you have a spare room, assign this to your cat. Fill it with your cat’s favorite belongings, not entering unless necessary. This means your cat will always have somewhere to retreat to.
Even if you live in a small apartment, you can assign territory to a cat. Place a familiar item, such as a bed or favored blanket, in one corner. Your cat will soon start to claim this area as its own. The top of a closet may also be favorable to energetic cats that can jump.
Take a look around your home. Is it filled with sights, sounds, and smells that activate feline instincts? If so, this would explain your cat’s hyperactivity. Cats can grow overstimulated and overexcited.
Reduce your cat’s stimulation one sense at a time. Close the drapes and cover any fish tanks or similar, brightly colored homes to potential prey. This is especially important if your cat chirps at birds at a window. It is growing increasingly excited.
You’ll also need to consider noise. Skittish cats will grow aggravated by loud noises. If you live in a city, car horns and loud conversations will create excitement. Distract your cat with background noise, or simply by talking to it in a calm tone.
Take smells under advisement too. Try to time cooking of human meals in with your cat’s feeding time. If cats scent tempting meats or fish after eating, they gear up to eat again.
Escaping Potential Predators
Does your cat race around the house after eliminating? This will be due to a fear of predators. Cats groom so much to stay clean, avoid emitting scent and avoid detection. The cat is fleeing from its waste, lest it attracts unwanted attention.
You should pay attention to this behavior. For reasons you may not understand, the cat does not feel entirely safe in the home. Ask yourself why this may be. Do you have other pets that bully and dominate your cat? Do you have a secure bond?
In the meantime, attempt to manage this issue by investing in a hooded litter box. This will give a cat a sense of security and mask any scents.
It may take time to train your cat to use such a litter box. Cats feel vulnerable while eliminating. An already-skittish cat will not enjoy being blind to potential threats at this time. Eventually, it will come to appreciate the privacy and security provided.
An excess of hunting energy is always a likely explanation for feline hyperesthesia. Cats sleep so much so they have energy to hunt. Indoor cats, in particular, will struggle to satisfy this instinct. If your cat is not stalking prey, it needs to burn off its energy somehow.
Ensure that you schedule a minimum of two 20-minute play sessions with your cat daily. These need to be interactive, involving a hunting toy. A laser pointer is usually fine, but a toy on a string is better. This gives your cat something tangible to stalk and capture.
Another advantage of play is tiring your cat out. A tired cat will lack the energy to run around the house. This is especially important if your cat grows hyperactive at night. A play session at night will help a cat adopt a traditional human sleep pattern.
Some older cats grow disinterested in play. If your cat will not hunt a toy but remains hyperactive, consider changing apparatus. Applied Animal Behavior Science confirms that new toys re-engage play instinct. The novelty of unique prey is too strong for cats to resist.
Stress and Anxiety
Consider whether your cat is living with generalized anxiety. Some cats are nervous by nature and require medical intervention. Most of the time, cats can be calmed down with lifestyle changes.
Get your cat it into a strict, reliable schedule. That means waking, feeding and playing with your cat at set times. The cat will learn to expect this and remain calm. Cats love routine. It helps them feel safe and secure.
You could also look into ways to keep your cat calm in the home through external sources. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery extolls the effectiveness of Feliway. You could also use calming scents, most notably lavender and frankincense.
A nervous cat will often run around. This is the feline equivalent of a human pacing a room awaiting an important telephone call. In addition, stress causes an increase in feline heart rate. The cat runs around to manage this but, eventually, its heart will suffer.
If you have exhausted all possible lifestyle changes, consider a medical explanation. Feline hyperesthesia is linked to a number of healthcare concerns. You can complete a provisional diagnosis of these issues by observing symptoms.
Help may or may not be required, depending on the severity of the concern. Allergic reactions, for example, will quickly pass. A more significant concern, such as high blood pressure, will need medication to manage.
Cats can experience allergic reactions to anything. Food allergies are the most common. The cat may also be allergic to something in its environment, though. If your cat has become prone to hyperactivity, consider any changes in your home. These could include:
- Different food or litter
- New laundry detergent or fabric softener
- A houseguest that smokes cigarettes
- Addition of scented candles or air freshener
- New perfume or cologne
In addition, couple the energy bursts with the common symptoms of allergies. These include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Itchy skin
- Breakouts of hives
- Coughing, wheezing, and sneezing
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
These signs that suggest that your cat is experiencing an allergic reaction. As you can imagine, this will be distressing for the cat. It will be racing around the home, attempting to rid itself of physical discomfort.
Diagnosing and treating feline allergies is a matter or trial and error. Do not waste your time seeing a vet. You will need to pay for expensive tests that will ultimately prove inconclusive.
Focus on removing access to potential triggers. If you have changed anything, including your cat’s food or litter, return to an old brand. If you have made additions to the home, remove them. The source of the allergy will present itself though an absence of symptoms.
In the meantime, you can offer your cat Benadryl to ease its discomfort. One milligram of the drug for each pound of body weight is considered safe. This is not a permanent solution, though. You need to get to the root of your cat’s discomfort and remove it.
Parasites, such as fleas or ear mites, will have a similar impact as allergies on your cat. Your cat will not understand why it feels so uncomfortable. It will just want to ease the symptoms, primary itching. The cat will run around, trying to walk off the problem.
Your cat may also be assuming that a particular location is causing the issue. This can become problematic. Your cat may become unwilling to enter certain parts of the home, including assigned territory. It believes that these areas are responsible for the itching.
Treating fleas or mites on cats is a two-step process. Take a trip to the pet store and pick up a remedy. This could involve spot-on treatments, ear drops or a medicated shampoo. It depends on the severity of the infestation.
Killing the parasites is only half the battle. Fleas and mites reproduce at a rate of knots, living in carpet fibers and soft furnishings. Wash everything in your home on a high heat, and shampoo all carpets, drapes and furnishings. This is the only way to purge your home.
Toxicity in felines often leads to serotonin syndrome. Serotonin is a chemical found in a cat’s brain that moderates the nervous system and behavior. If a cat consumes toxins, serotonin floods the brain, leading to erratic behavior. This includes hyperactivity.
Toxicity in cats is often caused by eating dangerous human food or plants. Another common explanation is the cat finding and swallowing human medication. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery links the issue to Tramadol, for example.
Aside from short, sharp episodes of hyperactivity, symptoms of feline toxicity include:
- Labored breathing
- Wide, staring pupils
- Lack of appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhea, which may include blood
- Muscular weakness
If you suspect that your cat has consumed something toxic, seek veterinary help. Treatment depends on how far the toxicity has progressed. Remedies include feeding charcoal to absorb the toxic chemicals and flushing toxins out with intravenous fluids.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often linked to hyperactivity in cats. The cat has a racing heart rate that it is looking to relieve.
Hypertension in a cat may be temporary or permanent. A period of intense fear of stress may provoke spontaneous hypertension. According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, older cats are prone to this issue.
Alternatively, hypertension may become a gradual concern as a cat ages. Once cats reach middle age and beyond, their hearts grow weaker. Hypertension then becomes increasingly likely. This must be managed with lifelong medication.
Take your cat for an annual veterinary check-up. Ideally, upgrade to twice a year once it reaches double figures in age. Tests will be run, and the risk of hypertension will be identified.
The earlier this concern is recognized, the sooner treatment can start. This, in turn, will grant a cat a longer lifespan.
The Canadian Veterinary Journal links feline hyperesthesia to peritonitis. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is highly contagious and easily passed between cats. Kittens are more prone to infection.
There are two forms of FIP, referred to as wet and dry. Wet FIP leads to an accumulation of fluid in the body. The cat will demonstrate swelling around the abdomen and struggle to breathe. The cat’s lungs are drowning in fluids.
The dry form of FIP will show limited symptoms. Swelling will occur in several key organs, but often remains invisible. The only warning sign that can arise is swelling around the eyes. This can also be attributed to a range of less serious illnesses, though.
Sadly, FIP is invariably fatal, usually in a matter of weeks. There is no widely accepted vaccine or cure for the condition. Thankfully, it remains rare, especially in older cats.
Spaying and Neutering
If you still cannot find an explanation for your cat’s hyperactivity, consider spaying or neutering. Intact cats are more active than their fixed counterparts. Any intact cat will be desperately keen to find a mate. This leaves them agitated and restless throughout an estrus cycle.
All cats run around the house like a maniac on occasion. It’s just part of being a cat. If the behavior becomes consistent, there will be an explanation. Assess your cat’s lifestyle and consult a vet if necessary.