Laser pointers are the perfect toy for cats because they are so easy to use and watching your cat tear around the room in a frenzy is very entertaining, but are they actually enjoying themselves or are you watching them experience psychological turmoil?
Why Do Cats Love Laser Pointers?
If you are not familiar with what laser pointers are, they are usually quite small – about the size of a lipstick.
There is a button on the side that you press and hold down for the laser to project a small red dot onto the floor or wherever else you want to point it.
Laser pointers were originally used for things such as presentations and talks as they allowed people to point at things without having to physically move around the room.
However, it is now common knowledge that cats love these laser pointers because the sharp movements and small size of the dot taps into their natural prey instincts.
Some cats could not care less about laser pointers but for the most part, cats will dart up the walls, curtains, and more just to get to the dot.
Are Laser Pointers Bad For Cats?
Some people are worried that the bright light will hurt their cat’s eyes, but you don’t need to worry about this because it is perfectly safe for both human and cat eyes to look into, but of course, it is not recommended to stare into it.
Having said this, not all laser pointers are made up to code so make sure to check that they have lasers that range from one to five milliwatts in strength as this is the safe range.
The biggest hesitation that owners have with using laser pointers is the psychological impact of it.
Some argue that using laser pointers with your cat can make them frustrated and confused because they are chasing something that they cannot catch.
The cat is so invested in chasing after the laser pointer because it mimics real prey so closely as it moves quickly and erratically like a mouse for example.
Since the cat believes that this prey is real and worth catching, they get increasingly more frustrated that they cannot complete their hunt no matter how hard they try.
However, some cats are known to get bored with something if they feel that they cannot get what they want out of it.
Therefore, it depends on your own cat’s temperament as some cats will get worked up whilst others will catch on pretty quickly that they cannot catch it.
There are no known long-term negative effects of using laser pointers with cats, but it is understandable as to why people are unsure about it as dogs can face bad side effects of laser pointers.
It is found that dogs that play with laser pointers experience an increase in an obsession with lights and shadows and are even more likely to develop OCD.
The main danger that comes with using laser pointers with cats is the risk of them getting injured by quickly running into things or knocking things over.
When playing with a laser pointer, it should be done in an open-plan room with plenty of space for your cat to run around in.
Pros And Cons Of Laser Pointers
If played safely, there are some great benefits that come with playing with laser pointers for your cat.
One of the pros is that it is a great source of exercise for your cat which is especially valuable for ones that are kept indoors as they do not get the same hunting opportunities as they would outside.
Exercise is important for your cats because it helps to keep their body a healthy weight, maintain muscle mass, and work on their cardio which helps the heart and keeps them overall more healthy.
When hunting, cats need to problem-solve and use their brain to anticipate the next movements of their prey which requires brainpower.
Tapping into these natural urges is great for their mental stimulation and just in a five or 10-minute session, you will see your cat has burned off some pent-up energy and will happily wind down and have a nap.
Another pro for using laser pointers is that you can be as lazy as you want, it can all be done from the comfort of your armchair.
If you have injured yourself or are not otherwise physically able to move a lot then the laser pointer will be your saving grace for giving your cat that much-needed workout.
As mentioned earlier, one of the cons is that your cat can get hurt by running into things and knocking things down which can then land on them or shatter which can cut their paws.
Some cats can get anxious and desperate to catch the dot as the play session goes on which can make them take more risks with scaling the walls, furniture being scratched, and even hands being bitten and scratched.
This goes hand in hand with this next con which is the lack of satisfaction of catching the prey.
Cats are fantastic hunters and most times are successful with catching what they are hunting but failing constantly back to back with the red dot can make them frustrated and uneasy.
To give your cat that satisfaction and confidence boost, make sure that you give them something physical to catch.
This can be done by using the red dot to lead to a treat before promptly turning it off so that your cat believes that it caught the dot and is now eating it.
If you prefer, you can change this treat to a physical toy so that your cat can wrestle with it physically.
Laser Pointer Substitutes
If you are still a bit hesitant about using a laser pointer to play with your cat, you will be glad to know that there are numerous toys out there that will give your cat good exercise and mental stimulation.
A great substitute for a laser pointer is using a pole with a fluffy toy on the other end of it like a fishing pole.
You hold one end of the pole whilst the other end is dragged along the floor or bounced along in the air – whichever is most appealing for your cat.
You can also get them a toy that consists of an enclosed tube with balls that roll freely throughout it which cats love to swat at with their paws and run along the side of which gives them good cardio, as well as the requirement to problem-solve how to get to the ball.
These are just a couple of some many toys that you can get for your cat, you may have to try to test a few toys before you find the one that your cat will fall in love with as each cat has a different idea of what is fun.
In conclusion, laser pointers are not bad for cats as long as you play with them safely by taking precautions with the space that you play in.
Having lots of furniture or unstable things on tables is a recipe for injury as a lot of cats will only have eyes for the red dot and will not look where they are going.
You should not shine the light directly into the cat’s eyes but if you do accidentally, don’t worry as it will not cause any damage.
There are also no negative psychological effects that come with playing with a laser pointer that cats experience but if you notice that your cat is getting very frustrated and anxious, then you should stop as soon as you can after giving them a physical thing to catch.