All cat parents are familiar with the eternal struggle between cat and laser pointer. For something so small and scentless, that little red dot sure can keep cats busy-in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that they never really can catch it. Interestingly though, there’s some debate about whether or not laser pointers are a great toy for our feline friends. So why do cats chase lasers, and is it time to ditch the laser in favor of a different type of toy?
Why do cats chase lasers?
Lasers are super stimulating to cats. To us, it looks like a red dot, to our cats, it looks like fast-moving prey. As the laser dots darts and whizzes around the room, a cat’s natural hunting instinct takes over and the cat natural predatory response is stimulated. Your cat isn’t thinking but instead operating out of natural, inherent feline behaviour.
What do cats see when they see a laser?
Cats think prey when they see a laser but that’s not all, they also simply like looking at it! Cats eyes differ greatly to humans and they are highly sensitive to even slight movements. The red dot is very visible to your kitty and even though they probably do understand that the laser’s not food, that darting dot is too tempting to resist.
How do cats’ eyes differ from ours?
In a comparison between our eyes and cats’ eyes, you’ll find a completely different core. It deals with the retina (where light is converted into nerve impulses).
The two important terms here are cones and rods, which are the two different types of retinal structures.
- Cones translate color vision.
- Rods deal with detection and vision under low light.
We humans tend to have a higher amount of cones in comparison to rods. Meanwhile, cats have a larger amount of rods in comparison to cones.
Your cat is a predator at heart !
According to animal behavioural specialists, cats usually engage in 8 to 10 ‘hunting expeditions’ a day due to their predatory instincts. When we tease a cat with a laser pointer, we often unknowingly mimic the actions of prey animals by darting it all over the place, pausing every so often. This stimulates the innate predatory sequence of stalking, pouncing, and then killing in cats, which is why cats find it so hard to ignore the bright dot of light when it dances in front of them!
What are the benefits of laser pointers for cats?
A laser can be a wonderful toy for your pet. Here are a handful of the benefits of lasers for cats:
- Lasers are great exercise for cats
A laser is almost irresistible to your cat and it can move large distances and at height, encouraging your cat to run, jump and climb. A great work out for your moggy while you stay on the sofa!
- They’re great mental stimulation, too
Lasers are great for indoor cats or cats who stay home for long periods of time. If your cat rarely chases mice around fields, this little red dot coud be the next best thing.
- A stronger bond.
When used correctly, laser pointers for cats can be a good way to bond with your pet through playing and fulfilling your cat’s natural drive to stalk prey.
- Playtime helps you to bond with your cat
Looking to develop a closer bond with your kitty? Laser play is a great exercise for the two of you to do together.
Safety tips for laser games
Provided that your cat seems to actually enjoy chasing a laser and isn’t just caught in an endless loop of hunt-pounce-disappointment, there’s probably nothing to be worried about. Chasing a laser is a fantastic way for your cat to get some physical and mental exercise, and also lets it tap into its kitty instincts for a bit—something that indoor cats don’t get to do quite as often as they might like to.
Of course, you should still make sure to follow proper safety tips to avoid harming your cat during play. Here are two big ones to note.
Don’t shine the light directly in your cat’s eyes. Even toy lasers emit an incredibly bright light, so you mustn’t shine it directly at your cat (or yourself!). If you do, you could cause vision problems and/or eye injuries.
Provide your cat with plenty of other toys. If the laser is your cat’s only outlet for play, it’s more likely that frustration will start to build up. Make sure that it has access to a lot of other objects for hunting and playing with, including catnip toys and wands.