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Are Laser Pointers Good Cat Toys?

Laser toys may be bad cat toys.

Laser pointers are popular for playing with cats. A human can sit or stand anywhere he or she would like and move the laser toy to point all over the room. Most cats will chase the resultant red dot around crazily.

But are laser pointers good cat toys?

Why Do Cats Play?

It's important to understand the purposes that play serves for cats when considering whether a laser pointer is a good cat toy.

Cats are hunters by nature. In the wild, they are predators that stalk, catch, and devour prey. Indoor cats don't have much of a need to hunt, being fed and watered routinely by humans, but that doesn't remove their predatory drives. Cats need to catch their prey sometimes.

Play helps cats act out their instinctual urges to be predators. It lets them stalk, pounce on, and pretend to eat prey.

Play also helps kittens and cats learn social skills related to living with other cats and humans. It helps them learn to control their biting and scratching and find out what acceptable behavior is.

Exercise is extremely important for indoor cats, to help them stay physically strong and healthy and to fight obesity. Play is a wonderful form of exercise for the feline body, and it also keeps boredom at bay by providing mental stimulation.

Problems with Laser Cat Toys

Now that we know the benefits and the reasons behind play for cats, let's reconsider laser toys.

When a cat chases the red dot of a laser light, she never catches it. It dances around, and she stalks it and pounces only to find that it has disappeared or is now on top of her paw. This is incredibly frustrating for your cat; she needs to feel the satisfaction of catching her prey at least once in a while.

Laser lights are also dangerous when shone into a cat's eyes, which can lead to permanent eye damage and is a concern for humans' eyes also.

The Best Way to Play with Your Cat

When playing with your cat, the best thing to do is mimic natural prey behavior with the toy. Use an interactive toy like a wand toy to provide your cat with a mock hunt. Move the toy away from your cat, bouncing it and making it zig-zag like a chased bird or rodent would do. Occasionally, allow your cat to catch her "prey."

Playing with your cat this way doesn't result in frustration for her but rather fulfills her inborn desire to hunt and lets her experience success sometimes.

If you must use a laser pointer to play with your cat, be sure to keep prey behavior in mind. Make the light zig-zag, and always direct it away from her. Prey doesn't usually run back toward its predator, after all. Occasionally, allow the red light to land on a soft cat toy so your cat can pounce on that and feel the satisfaction of the catch.

Take extreme care when playing with a laser pointer never to point the light toward your cat's face or eyes.

Another way to use the laser light to play with your cat is to let her chase it for a while, then switch to another physical toy so she can catch it and end the play session on a satisfactory note.

You can make the play session even more rewarding for your cat by giving her a yummy meal after her final "catch."

It's important to make sure your cat is getting enough exercise, and a laser toy can be a good tool for that if you use it with your cat's hunting instinct and safety in mind.

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