By: | | Cats

When you have a pet with boundless energy, anything can be a toy, even a beam of light. Laser pointers have become so commonly used as pet toys that they are even manufactured specifically for pets. However, just because you can find them in the toy aisle at the pet store does not mean that they are safe for all pets.

Can Laser Pointer Play Lead to Vet Visits?

All laser pointers come with a warning on the package to avoid shining directly into eyes. If you happen to look directly into the light, you’ll probably end up with temporary spots in your vision. Most red laser pointers are regulated by the FDA and are unlikely to cause eye damage to humans. You should avoid green laser pointers, which are illegally imported and may exceed safety limits. Regardless, when used properly, eye damage is not a cause for concern.

Cats tend to follow the red dot obsessively, and may not notice obstacles and high ledges in their path. Take care not to cause your cat to run into walls or fall off tables and desks.

The Psychological Implications of Laser Pointers

The major cause for controversy over laser pointers is the effect they can have on your pet’s psyche. Cats and other predatory domestic animals, like dogs, chase anything that moves. When that red dot darts around the room, their hunting instincts engage. But, since the red dot is not tangible, your pet will not feel satisfied even when they do “catch” it.

If you are going to use a laser pointer to play with your pet, use it as a warm-up to your cat’s play session, then switch to something your cat can catch and end the laser pointer play by aiming the light on “prey” items like toys and treats to reward their chase. This can be a great way to increase your pet’s drive for toys that they may normally not have any interest in.

In some cases, laser pointers can cause obsessive compulsive light-chasing in animals. Your pet may pounce on any light or shadow in your home. Just as they get frustrated when a laser pointer game does not result in a “kill,”  your pet may spend their days obsessively chasing light, chronically stressed over the lack of a reward for the chase.

Alternatives to Laser Pointer Play

The laser pointer can be a fun tool for helping your pet get more exercise, particularly if they have a lot of energy, or if their owner is disabled or has limited mobility. Even so, it’s good to explore other ways to stimulate your pet so they do not become too fixated on lights.

If your cat does not have any interest in their toys, you might want to try some new ones. Shimmery toys can catch your cat’s eye, while providing a physical form for them to catch. Some cats prefer feathers, others like crinkle toys, and you can even find toys made with real animal fur and hide to engage your cat’s sense of smell.

Cats can enjoy hunting for their food if you place their food in homemade or store-bought puzzle toys like The Hunting Feeder, a set of toy mice that your cat has to bat around to release pieces of dry food. Think outside the bowl! Use empty paper towel rolls or water bottles to hide food. There are even food puzzles for wet food if your cat does not eat kibble.

Does Your Cat Need a New Playmate?

When you’re away, your cat can still play. A visit from a professional pet sitter is the best way to make sure your cat is getting attention from someone they trust, and exercise with their favorite toys in their home environment. If you and your cat live in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, or DC, contact us to schedule a Meet & Greet.