If you’re anything like us, you spend a lot of time searching through and watching cat videos. (Hey! For us it can be considered “work related research”.) There is a genre of cat video for all tastes. You have your ‘Kitty being cute’ videos, usually yawning or cuddling up with an unlikely partner. Then you have your ‘Kitty getting into something they shouldn’t videos, that have kitties curling into vases, getting stuck in window sills, or occasionally you have the ‘Kitty shows another animal who is boss’ video, wherein the kitty boops a large dog in the nose or stands up on his hind legs to tell off a bird. All standard fare, really.
Then there are the infamous laser pointer videos. A kitty chases and bats wildly at the tiny red dot on the wall, purring, mewing, and batting at the beam of light. These videos are endlessly entertaining for sure, but are laser pointers safe to use for cats?
Let’s explore some of the pro’s and con’s:
The Good: Cats are natural hunters and thrive when given the opportunity to chase something. Their predatory nature is not often allowed to thrive in an indoor environment. Giving the cat an opportunity to stalk, attack, and chase its ‘prey’ is very satisfying to your furry friend.
The Bad: This can be a mental torture to your cat. While the chase, the attack, and the stalking are all incredibly satisfying to your cat, it is suggested that it can be mentally debilitating to the cat to chase but never be able to have the satisfaction of actually catching the prey. When you’re done with teasing your cat, offer her a physical toy because it gives her with a sense of finality and accomplishment that an unattainable target can’t provide. This creates a sense of closure and is a recommendation by the Humane Society of the United States.
The Good: Cats get outstanding exercise from chasing a laser pointer around. They run, they jump, and they get their heart pumping – all of which are fabulous for your cat’s life expectancy. Exercise will help ward off potentially life threatening conditions and keep your cat mentally active.
The Bad: Kitties playing with laser pointers has been linked to bad behavior such as biting or clawing furniture. It isn’t totally clear why, but some theorize that the inability to actually catch the light can lead to pent up aggression and bad behavior. However, it is important to note that correlation is not the same as causation, and the jury is still out on this. Some cats however, will become anxious or even paranoid after playing with a laser pointer and skulk around the house, chasing dots that disappeared minutes or even hours ago. If this happens to your cat, take a break from laser pointer play or simply stop it altogether.
The Good: It is an easy way to play with your cat. Even if you are firmly in Cat Person Camp as opposed to Dog Person Domain, it is pretty easy to recognize that dogs are easier to play with than cats. Cats don’t play as much or with as many outlets as their canine counterparts. A laser pointer is a fabulous and easy way to play with your cat.
At the end of the day, The Animal Advocate, a publication from the fine folks at The Humane Society of Grand Rapids Michigan stated that they felt laser pointers were great toys for cats, but points out that it is crucial to make sure the laser is not shot into the cat’s eye. As long as you avoid doing that, your cat can enjoy hours of chasing these light beams. Be sure to store laser pointers in a safe place so your cat can’t fiddle with it and accidentally shine the light in her eyes, which could cause retina damage.
Follow the simple guidelines above and go ahead and breakout the video camera and get some kitty laser tag going!
The video below was filmed with a GoPro camera inside a tissue box and attached a laser pointer on top of it. Shoe laces were tied to the laser pointer, which allowed the videographer to move the box around. Enjoy.
Does your cat enjoy chasing the red dot?
One of our cats (Milo) just loves playing chase the laser dot. The other couldn’t care less. Our dog just watches Milo chase the dot with a look of disgust.
AS long as you are careful not to shine in their eyes I think it’s a fun and playful way to entertain them
Its a nitely ritual at our house
Love this article – few people realise this can be debilitating to a cat’s self-esteem if not done properly, which can lead to either aggression and acting out or apathy and depression. I usually go for a wand or fishing rod toy instead – you as an owner can keep your ass firmly planted in the couch and the cat can chase to their hearts content and actually catch his prize 😉
i had one cat that chased the dot for awhile … then stopped, stared at my hand (which was holding the laser pointer … walked away and never chased the dot again. Smart kitty!
My cats absolutely love the laser pointer. I am pretty sure they know it is not something they can actually catch. Sometimes they just watch the dot. They ignore the automated one I purchase. If it is not me on the button, it is not worth chasing.
Griddlebone will actually be staring at me, if it is not interesting enough or tired or Macavity is taking turn. Yes, they take turns on who chases the red dot. The both know exactly when I am about to start form the sound of the key chain moving on the desk as I pick it up. They are actually able to the difference in sound as I pick up a real set of keys and the sound for the key chain that only has the laser pointer on it. They will even run in from other rooms as I pick up the pointer, I have tried to be sneaky so I can start up with them in another room, to NO effect.
It must be very confusing for a cat to get to the prey, land its paw on it, and then realize it’s not catching anything. They may not understand what’s going on. I’ve never thought of it until now. Perhaps catching is the best part of the game for them. They said on a nature show that once lions get their paws on a prey, they never let go, that it’s a matter of pride for them.
I had a cat that used to hold on to the shoestring after catching it. It would lay on it and fall asleep, making sure no one took it away from him.
My cat, Boo, loves the red dot but actually I think it is kind of cruel. if someone did that to me I would go bonkers. I am thinking about weaning her off it in favor of something better. The only thing wrong with that is that she is extremely fussy when it comes to toys. She mostly ignores the store bought ones so I made her some myself. My son’s cats like the homemade ones and all of my previous cats were not fussy about toys. She doesn’t much like the homemade ones either. Oh, what to do?
I occasionally will end laser time in the bathtub with the drain pulled up, and throw in two red hot (cinnamon) candies.
The cons: It can be noisy while trying to nap/sleep. Also it means finding red hots randomly in my bed, couch, and chair, as she doesn’t eat them but will occasionally transport them.
Pros: Red dot catching satisfaction. Almost- if not more- entertaining to watch this bathtub playtime.
For everyone who is going to be mad at me and call this dangerous: they are the same size as her kibble she doesn’t chew before she swallows, and I’ve been doing it for five years.
She too is not a huge fan of traditional cat toys and I’ve spent appropriate cat-lady amounts of funds trying to find anything to entertain her.
I have a dog & he was super interested in the green dot generating by my laser pointer. But one day he found that the dot is uncatchable!! Now he never chase for it again.I only can use the pointer in the presentation. LOL
My cat JaJa loves her laser pointer. I have one (actually an LED pointer) that projects different shapes. Her favorite is the butterfly. After about a minute of chasing very hard she gets tired. I think she’s tired as opposed to being annoyed, because she lies down on her side, watching it, trying to get it if it comes close to her. She loves it so much that she nags me about every half hour to play. If I ignore her she starts nipping and scratching at me.
The lazer light has turned my cat into a crackhead, still looking for it a week later. See’s any reflection and relapses.
I recently stopped it altogether. I was originally using it to tire out some of my cats that were bullying one of our others that we recently reintroduced. All it did was agitate some of the more high energy cats and after chasing the dot around for a while would then proceed to chase and attack the other one that we reintroduced. I’m now using cat wands, ribbons and have introduced them to new toys and we’re healing slowly.
I’ve always wondered if the laser dot$ game was a bit depraved… my kitty fully believes the dot lives under the refrigerator, since that’s where I will always make it go to disappear- she seems to reckon the dot “went home” and she doesnt obsess over its sudden departure anymore. It’s definitely helped ease her anxieties at the end of the game, but it never dawned on me that she needs that closure of “catching” her prey. I really like the red hots idea – I’ll be trying it sans bath tho… haha!
I pointed the laser on the surface of the lake next to my
Bangalore.but my cat didnt jump for it.i dont know why.
I tried throwing the cat to the river it just swam back.
I think his sick.and his been hiding all around the house for the past few days.PLS HELP ME!!!why isn’t he touching red laser