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July 13, 2018 |4 min read

What Your Cat's Midnight Gallops Mean

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You know the drill.

It’s 9:27 PM.

You’re getting your Netflix + chill on.

Then, suddenly, a furry blur gallops through the room.

On the beast’s second pass, you see it’s your cat, all poofed up and actin’ a fool.

Don’t worry: your cat’s not broken.

In fact, there’s a very instinctual reason for your cat’s night-time behavior. Here’s what you need to know to understand your cat’s craziness.

The Hunt

Cat Hunting Feather Toy

By nature, cats are nocturnal – meaning they prefer to sleep during the day and be active at night.

While this is something that proved far more useful to your cat’s very distant, larger relatives like lions, tigers, and pumas, it’s a preference that many domesticated cats still have today.

Instinctually, your cat likely prefers to sleep during the day and be active at night. This helps your cat conserve energy by sleeping when it’s warmer but is also a throw back to the days when your cat’s ancestors would hunt for food at night to avoid exerting energy under the hot Sahara sun during the day.

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When Fluffy starts going bananas while you’re watching the latest episode of 
Game of Thrones, it’s because she’s feeling that inner drive to hunt for food.

You’ll likely also notice that your cat’s tail is now twice its normal size and her body hair seems to bristle. This is a useful trick in the wild that allows cats to look bigger and therefore more threatening to other cats who may be lurking around trying to snatch your cat’s dinner.

The Prey

Cat with Pink Mouse Toy

Another reason why your cat may run around like a lunatic at night is that he hears prey nearby. Cats love to hunt, but our domesticated friends often forget about this favorite pastime... until they get a reminder.

If your cat smells or hears mice or other small critters, it might trigger his inner hunter and inspire him to chase down the prey. If the target is in the walls or outside, your cat may not even know why he’s spazzing out, but he’ll continue to be a poofed up Usain Bolt until he no longer hears the sounds of his would-be-dinner.

The Zoomies

Kitten Running

The so-called “zoomies” don’t have anything to do with needing to hunt or being triggered by the sound of prey nearby. Rather, the zoomies occur when your cat has a lot of pent up energy and she just needs to let loose

Oftentimes cats going through the zoomies will dart around your house like they’re trying out for the Olympics.

One key difference, though, is that cats typically don’t get the poofed up tail and body hair when they have the zoomies. Rather, it’s more of a quick sprint session that ends in yet another nap.

When your cat goes through her midnight gallop phase, on the other hand, look out! That tail could knock over a small elephant.

Can’t quite visualize the “cat gallop”? Here’s a great visual for NASCAR fans.


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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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