How Fast Can a Domestic Cat Run?

Gandalf isn't lazy, he's preparing for his next hunt.
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Although Gandalf the cat probably spends most of his time dozing, your champion napper can turn on the speed when he needs to. His body is designed to make him not only an excellent climber and jumper, but a fast runner as well.

Built for Speed

If Gandalf needs to chase down prey that moves quickly, or to get away from a dog that's barreling after him, his limber spine and powerful back legs allow him to sprint a lot faster than you might think. A domestic cat can run up to 30 mph in a short spurt.

When he walks, he moves both left legs, then both right legs. When he breaks into a gallop, both of his back legs move in front of his front legs, launching him airborne for a moment midstride. This technique, combined with his flexible spine, makes him a superb runner.

Power Nap

Although you might think Gandalf is lazy because of his propensity to hit the snooze button, all that sleep is what allows him to run so fast. He'll nap for long periods, conserving his energy for the hunt.

Cats are built to hunt and take down prey, which takes a lot of energy. A long nap allows him to have a reserve of energy to tap when he needs to run at full speed.


Gandalf might be able to move quickly, but only for so long. He's more of a sprinter than a distance runner. He'll be able to maintain top speed for about a minute before he has to stop for a breather.

The fastest land animal on Earth is a cat -- the cheetah. The cheetah can run about 65 mph. But after about 20 seconds he has to stop for a break.

Crazy Time

To get his food, Gandalf needs only stroll to his dish, so he doesn't need to stretch his running muscles very often. Yet even a kitten who's never been taught to hunt will still have an instinctual desire to chase. This is why Gandalf is so eager to chase that wriggling string you taunt him with.

If it's been a while since Gandalf has gone for a run, he might start chasing some invisible target throughout the house. If you have more than one cat, they're likely to run at full speed after one another up and down a long hallway. Your cat might seem a little crazy when he barrels across you on the couch, but it's perfectly normal for him to keep his running skills up to speed.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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