Lasers can be a fun and easy way for your cat to have some play and get some exercise inside of the house. They are especially good if you have limited mobility but still want your cat to get exercise from running as you can sweep the laser across a whole room without getting up. Some pet owners worry about lasers being cruel as they don’t give your cats the ability to naturally satisfy their need to “kill” their prey. We think these concerns can be valid depending on your cat but there are also ways to give your cat the full hunting experience they would get if they were chasing live prey. Read on to look at our research into using lasers as toys for cats.
Are Lasers safe for cats?
Lasers come in a variety of colours and powers. Recently, super powerful lasers have become a popular toy for tech enthusiasts. Its important that you buy a the right type of laser so you can still be safe while playing with your cat. Only use laser toys from a reputable cat-toy brand. Laser power is normally measured in Watts, you should only use lasers below 5 milli Watts (5mW) when playing with your cat. The science behind lasers also means that red lasers tend to be the lower powered compared to other colours.
Even with the correct powered laser, you need to be careful not to shine them directly into you cats eyes. A brief shine of a over powered laser could blind your cat. Even a prolonged exposure from a cat safe laser into any animal’s eye can cause permanent blindness. You should also avoid pointing your laser at reflective objects as the light can bounce off and hit your cat’s eye without your realising.
If you accidentally shine a laser into your cat’s eye during play for a brief moment they should be okay but do your best to avoid this during play. A quick glance shouldn’t do any harm to your cat but if you keep doing it by mistake they may become aggravated. Shining a laser on your cat’s face during play is unnecessary and likely to annoy them. From experience, cats don’t play with things that annoy them and they may become aggressive if you keep doing this. If you find it difficult to control a laser around your cat’s face you should look for other forms of play.
Aside from this there is no immediate danger in using a laser to play with your cat. There is no proof showing that lasers cause seizures in cats. As long as you use a safe laser and avoid your cat’s eyes, lasers are an easy way for you to get your cat to play. However, there is a valid argument that incorrectly playing with lasers can leave your cat frustrated. The problem isn’t as simple as lasers driving cats crazy.
Are laser cat toys cruel?
Cat owners have recently become worried that it is cruel to use laser toys to play with cats as they never get the experience catching the laser during play. Cats need to satisfy their natural instinct of hunting, catching, and “killing” prey. Physical toys can do this as you can let your cat interact with whatever they are chasing and have a moment to catch and attack it before restarting the cycle of chasing. Obviously, no matter how many times your catch thinks that they have caught a laser they will never have anything physical to interact which can lead to redirected aggression.
Redirected aggression is a common cat behaviour problem to have and usually happens when a cat becomes overstimulated by something that they can’t interact with. A common problem is when an indoor cat sees an outdoor cat behind a window and feels threatened. They are left with the feeling of needing to defend or hunt something without the ability to actually do it. When another indoor cat or a human comes along they release their need to attack on them instead. It is fair to see why people would be worried about a laser doing the same thing. Cats don’t understand that the laser pointer is just light and no matter how much they chase or swat at it they won’t be able to catch it.
Luckily, we find that cats normally have short attention spans when playing and its quite easy to distract them with another toy to fight after a quick session with a laser pointer. You can do this by switching to a wand toy after a couple minutes of getting your cat to chase a laser dot. Alternatively, you could try to shine your laser on to a larger toy to see if your cat will switch their attention to attacking the physical toy. We don’t think that using a laser to play with your cat is cruel as long as you make sure your cat has a chance to release their pent up energy on a real object.
How do I use a laser to play with my cat?
Cats chase lasers as the rapid movement that you can make the dot makes your cat think that it is living prey. In your cat’s mind, a small randomly, quickly moving shiny object is a potential source of food. If they are in the mood, chasing a laser dot will be irresistible to their nature.
Start by shining your laser toy on the floor where your cat can see it. We usually find they will be more focussed on the laser if they don’t realise you are the one pointing it. Cat’s eyes aren’t good at seeing things close up but they are really good at detecting motion. Start moving your laser point similar to how a small animal would. Do this by switching between keeping the laser and still and then rapidly moving. Sudden changes in direction and hiding behind objects will also be effective.
After your cat has warmed up and become interested you can start to move the laser rapidly across the length of the room to give your cat a cardio workout. Shining the dot on a wall within their reach can encourage them to jump up and play in a different way. Keeping a bit of variety in the form of play will keep your cat interested for longer. You can make them feel as if they have “caught” the light by tunring it off after they cover it with their paws. Giving them this satisfaction of winning is an important part to play.
As we said, you should also try to mix in play with a physical toy to avoid redirected aggression. How often you need to do this will vary by cat. If you notice your cat becoming frustrated by meowing loudly or using more force behind their swipes its time to switch out to something they can sink their teeth and claws into. Otherwise we would switch to a physical toy every five minutes or so to keep play fun. You can switch your laser to a cat teaser toy like a feather on a string. You may need to spend some time getting your cat interested in the new toy so be patient. Alternatively, you can try redirecting your cat’s attention by shining the laser onto toy on the ground. Our cats love to chase ping-pong balls in this way.
Personally, we’ve found that using lasers is hit or miss with the same cat. Sometimes our cats will immediately start chasing a laser about the apartment and other times the same cat is fine with completely ignoring it. If your cat doesn’t warm to a laser toy the first time be patient and try again later. We would recommend coming back again a day or two later with the same method we outlined.