By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 16 July 2011)
A cat that appears perfectly calm will suddenly go on a tear, running around the house as though being chased by a predator or chasing prey. Those who have never seen this behaviour before may worry that the cat is hallucinating or suffering a fit, but this activity usually indicates boredom rather than illness.
Housebound cats, while far safer than their outdoor counterparts, are more likely to engage in these mad dashes as a “vacuum activity” because they’re bored and lack opportunities to exercise their natural proclivities, such as hunting. The dash may occur out of the blue (chasing “ghost prey”) or be an overreaction to mild stimuli, such as a movement or sound. Some bored cats will even launch a mock attack on a human companion or another pet, or generally make a nuisance of themselves in order to provoke irritation so that they can overreact and run away as though being chased by an angry adversary.
To keep indoor cats from becoming listless and frustrated, owners can:
- Buy or make cat toys and play with their cats more often
- Purchase or build a cat enclosure or fence so that their cats can safely spend time outside
- Leash train their cats and take them for walks outdoors
- Purchase or build a cat tree to provide the cat with more indoor recreation opportunities
Reference: Morris, D. (1987). Catlore. London, UK: Jonathan Cape Ltd.
For more articles on the way cats think and the reasons why they do the things they do, visit the main Cat Psychology, Communication, and Behaviour page. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.