Cats and Laser Toys: Does Your Cat Really Like the Chase?
Lasers get a bad rep as far as toys for cats are concerned. While watching cats play with them may be entertaining for humans, a simple Internet search brings up numerous horror stories of preventable deaths or behavior problems, all of which seem to be associated with laser toys.
To understand the good and the bad sides of cat laser toys, you first have to understand cat biology and how to use laser toys wisely with your particular cat. What’s most important to understand is that the laser toy play needs to mimic a real hunting predator and prey situation in order to be beneficial.
Further, laser toys may be best for bored, overweight, or under-stimulated indoor cats. Given the benefits of physical and mental stimulation, we set out to learn whether laser cat toys were actually good for our cat – read on to learn more now.
What Attracts Cats to Laser Toys?
So what exactly is it that attracts cats to lasers, given that the tools are essentially their technological nemeses? It’s not like lasers resemble mice or birds, a cat’s typical prey, yet indoor cats will attack with the same ferocity as if the laser light were alive and fluttering about the house.
According to Ira Hyman, PhD, in Psychology Today’s Blog, cats and humans are attracted to the motion of a laser or other light because it mimics the speed and directional movements of real animals, which he calls “animacy.”
If you think about it, it’s pretty clear. A cat doesn’t tend to show any real interest in inanimate toys. The most popular toys for cats (evolutionarily speaking) are toys that can move or be moved very fast, like feathers, bouncy balls, or laser pointers. This is because cats are natural predators. Most laser toys are just a little mean, because cats can technically never catch them, even if they’re up for the chase.
The Pros and Cons of Laser Toys for Cats
Aside from the occasional accidental blast to you or your cat’s eye, is it safe to use laser toys for cats? The jury’s out on a consensus opinion, but according to Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” laser toys can be beneficial – especially for indoor cats that don’t tend to get enough exercise.
The obvious downside Becker mentions is that because the cat can never catch its prey, the animal might get frustrated and start exhibiting problem behaviors like excessive grooming. He suggests using a laser toy for a while, and then switching to a toy on a fishing rod or a toy mouse so that your cat can experience the joy of actually catching its prey and “killing” it.
There are mountains of cat (and other animal) videos on youtube.com and you may have seen cats literally flipping out over lasers in real life. But if you want your cat to meow and not say “me-owwww,” then you’ll have to be mindful of where you shine that laser toy.
Further, it’s wise to be prepared for the occasional display of aggression – another common negative aspect to using laser toys with cats. This can be alleviated, however, by giving them treats after “catching” the laser. Cats can definitely get hurt from lunging into a wall or cabinet, or by jumping off of furniture. For optimal safety, we suggest avoiding heights, stairs, and dangerous areas when playing with the laser and your cat.
Will Your Cat Enjoy This Video Laser Toy Game?
We are leaning towards a strong “yes” at this point.
So Should You Buy a Laser Cat Toy, or Not?
Though there appear to be many cons to getting a laser toy for your cat, there are very nearly an equal number of positive things to consider. First and foremost, if you want a happy and healthy indoor cat, then you need to keep him or her engaged and active. For this purpose, a laser cat toy can be very handy.
Getting a laser toy makes sense when you want to keep your cats occupied from a safe distance. Moreover, with safe use and indoor play, you never have to deal with dead mice at your door or a missing cat that has followed its hunting instincts right out the door. In the end, consider rewarding your cat with a treat at the end of playtime, to keep him or her actively engaged and happy with the “final catch.”
[Photos via Instructable, Trinacria Photography]