Is your cat frequently running in circles, trying to catch imaginary objects, zooming back and forth over the room or even climbing curtains? Even though cats are well known sprinters, such sudden bursts of activity, at their extremes, can raise a lot of eyebrows.
Hyperactive behavior, though normal and cute for kittens, is also commonly seen in adult indoor cats. It is expressed as sudden bursts of activity, which usually appear to start out of nowhere and be addressed to no one in particular. Finally, they normally end their energetic activity abruptly before eventually repeating it all over again.
What causes hyperactivity in cats
Since hyperactivity is commonly seen in indoor cats (Heidenberger, 1997), it must have something to do with their forced confinement and sedentary lifestyle–in fact, in most cases, it is.
NOTE: While hyperactive cat behavior is most commonly linked to inadequate stimulation, it can also be caused by medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, infectious peritonitis, feline immunodeficiency virus and other conditions that affect brain function (Beaver, 2003). No need for panic, but it is wise to visit a veterinarian if your cat displays unusual behavior, especially if it develops suddenly and if you observe other signs as well.
Inadequate activity and stimulation is the most plausible explanation for increased activity in your cat if you are sure that it has nothing wrong medically.
Being super-active and appearing crazy is so cat-like. These animals naturally contain intense amounts of energy, which they usually release explosively. This is how cats hunt: They sloooooooowly approach their target and attack it in just a few pounces. In the process, their tension builds up and gets released–a cycle that is repeated periodically throughout the day.
Then there are those household cats who do not hunt. Their food is brought to them on silver plates, or, in some cases, is even accessible to them at all times. As a result, their energy doesn’t get released periodically; it only builds up.
Once a cat’s energy builds up to a certain point, it becomes too difficult to hold it all in. What happens next? The cat starts running around, seemingly for no reason–at least, for no observable reason, to be more precise.
How to decrease hyperactivity bursts in a cat
If your cat engages in sudden activity bursts, you must assess the situation. Does it seem unusual or abnormally intense?
If your cat makes quick sprints from time to time, it’s most likely okay. After all, it’s probably only releasing its energy through healthy activity instead of directing it towards furniture, other pets or people. Now, if your cat climbs walls, that’s disturbing; you’ll want to do something to direct its activity to more appropriate targets.
To reduce your cat’s hyperactive behavior, you must provide it with avenues for expressing its natural behaviors in as many ways as you can possibly think of.
For example, try grabbing a cat toy and letting your cat experience hunting. Let it “stalk” the toy, chase it, and, better yet, catch it from time to time. However, you don ‘t have to invest your time in long play sessions. Remember, cats are sprinters, so short but frequent play sessions are sufficient for them.
In addition, since you may not be available for all the playtime your cat needs daily, there are other ways to provide it with activity opportunities. For example, you could create more places for your cat to climb, such as cat trees, shelves and furniture tops. You could also provide it with solo play toys and activity centers, and you could let it work for its food by using food puzzles or feeding games. To give you further help, here’s a list of more ways to keep a cat active.
At the end of the day, it’s obvious that you don’t need to reduce your cat’s hyperactive behavior. Just let it happen at appropriate times and direct it towards appropriate targets. Even if you or your cat aren’t suffering from activity outbursts, you both will benefit from a broader range of alternatives. Besides, it will also help to stop other cat behavior problems.