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Laser Pointer for Cats. Good or Bad for Your Cat?

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: January 17, 2022 - Author: Jess Caticles
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: January 17, 2022  
Author:  Jess Caticles
laser pointer for cats glowing dot

Cat owners searching for ways to stimulate their indoor cats or just those looking to give their kitty a new way to play often ask this question, "Are laser pointers for cats good or bad?".

If you're worried that a laser pointer is bad for cats you should be reassured by the fact that cats are less likely to develop behavioral issues than dogs when it comes to laser pointers. In addition, most vets take the view that a cat laser pointer is generally good for the health and wellbeing of your cat.

Veterinary Doctor, Claudia Sims says, "You can lead your cat to a treat with the laser pointer so there is a reward for their efforts. When you turn off the light the cat will resume its normal activity quickly."

So, what do you need to think about when using a cat laser toy to ensure it's a good experience for your kitty (and you!)?

Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Overall, a cat laser pointer is generally good to use with your cat as long as you use it safely and don't overwork your cat. You should never point a laser directly at your cat';s eyes and should allow your cat to 'catch' the laser now and then as well as making sure to give them a break to catch their breath.

If you are looking for fun ways to provide exercise for your indoor cats, then a cat laser toy is a great cat toy to have on hand. Cats require daily exercise to thrive, especially those cats that live indoors all the time. Giving them a run around chasing a laser dot is something most cats will respond to. But, as you know, cats are finicky and most toys become old news quickly!

The laser pointer can be a great addition to playtime for your cat, but there are some things we need to consider first. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of cat laser pointers, a few different product features, and solutions to make sure our cats are safe and happy during playtime.

Cat Laser Pointer : Pros and Cons

Cats require exercise and mental stimulation to thrive indoors. Proper enrichment prevents boredom and unnecessary weight gain. We can provide enrichment with engaging toys and safe playtime. 

Toys that mimic prey behavior are the most fun for cats because cats are natural-born hunters. Even domesticated indoor cats are hunters.

There's no doubt that cats love chasing a laser dot. The laser pointer can be a fun toy that keeps our cats active. But, lasers can also be dangerous and cause stress in cats. We need to look at the pros and cons of this toy to make sure that we play with our cats safely.  

Always monitor your cat's behavior. Every cat is different and has different needs.

Cat Laser Pointer - The Pros

  • Excellent physical activity. Wild cats get plenty of exercise while they stalk and hunt prey. Since indoor cats do not hunt, you need to provide at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Bored and inactive cats are more likely to develop behavioral issues and serious health issues. The best way to provide daily exercise is with play. If your current toys are boring, the laser pointer might get your cats moving. An active cat is a happy cat.
  • Brilliant for mental stimulation. Does your cat knock things off the counter? Bored cats tend to be destructive. Destructive behavior gets your attention. Wild cats do a lot of problem-solving when they hunt. After hard work, they earn a yummy meal and mental stimulation. Using the laser pointer with indoor cats can be great for mental stimulation. The red dot looks like prey to your cat. This activates hunting mode and excites your cat.
  • Easy to use. Who plays with your cats while you work? Most cats typically spend the day napping. An automatic cat laser pointer toy is easy to use and can keep your cats busy when you're not home. This can be helpful for cats that would otherwise sleep all day. Perhaps running around and playing is the last thing you want to do after a long day at work. It's much easier to flip the switch of the cat laser pointer and wave it around. This attracts cats immediately, unlike some other toys.
  • Good bonding exercise. Most people assume that cats are less loving than dogs, however, studies have shown that cats prefer human interaction to food and toys. Cats show interest in us when we show interest in them. Playing with the laser pointer can show your cat that you care about his wild side. This can be a great bonding exercise for both of you. Your cat will enjoy that you're taking the time to play with him.

Cat Laser Pointer - The Cons

  • No reward after stimulation. Wild cats receive mental stimulation after they catch a meal. But, laser pointers don't provide a physical catch after stimulation. Since cats are natural-born hunters, they expect a reward after stimulation. No reward after stimulation can cause stress and frustration. Cats need routine in their lives to thrive. Any sudden changes in routine causes stress and can make cats very sick. So, a reward after stimulation is a must.
  • Can make cats anxious. Since your cat has nothing to catch with the laser pointer, this can cause anxiety. Anxiety and stress in cats can cause serious health issues. Cats must remain comfortable in their environment to prevent these health issues. A few signs of anxiety are hiding, inappropriate or sudden changes in eliminating, loss of appetite, and over-grooming. Cats cannot tell us that they are feeling anxious so we need to monitor their behavior. So if you're asking "do laser pointers give cats anxiety?", the answer is that they don't if used properly. Ensure your cat feels there is a reward for the hunt and do not overstimulate them with the laser toy. If you notice a change in behavior, stop using the toy.
  • Can cause confusion. Cats expect a "catch and kill" after play. Laser pointers can cause confusion because your cat chases and chases but never catches anything. This can cause constant frustration, and there's no way to explain this concept to a cat. As mentioned above, cats rely heavily on routines. Wild instincts have been ingrained for thousands of years. Any sudden changes to these routines are very confusing to cats.
cat laser pointer on kitten paw

Can a Laser Pointer Harm a Cat's Eyes?

Laser pointers can harm a cat's eyes, so always play with caution. Never shine the laser directly into the cat's face, and be wary of reflected light as well. Cat's eyes are more sensitive than human’s eyes, but laser pointers can be harmful to both of us. Keep a safe distance when you play, and take short breaks during playtime.

Laser pointer beams affect humans and cats differently. A cat’s eye can let in three times the light of a human eye. Cat’s eyes have a reflective layer behind the retina that allows light to bounce back to the rods and cones.

This is what helps cats see better at night. So, cats may be more susceptible to laser pointer injury because of the reflective layer in their eyes. We should also consider the power of the laser beam. Most countries establish a 1 milliwatt (mW) power limit of handheld laser pointers.

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That limit is 5 mW in the US. Always research the product features before making a purchase. Some handheld laser pointers may be mislabeled. 

What Attracts Cats to Lasers?

As discussed above, cats are natural-born hunters. These wild instincts are ingrained. Cats are attracted to lasers because the small dot of light and unpredictable movement mimics prey behavior. Prey dart around quickly and this is attractive to cats. We can recreate the hunt, stalk, and pounce instincts when we play with laser pointers.

Cats may not see color well, but they can detect movement easily because their eyes are different than ours. Cat's eyes have more rods than human eyes. These rods are responsible for the detection of movement, and they help cats see quickly moving prey in poor lighting conditions. Cats tend to hunt when their prey is active at dawn and dusk.

The color of the laser doesn't matter much because cats don't see color as well as we do. Cats have fewer cones in their eyes than we do. Cones are responsible for seeing color and fine detail. Cats notice the laser dot because it is brighter, contrasts with the floor or wall, and moves quickly. 

You can apply this concept to any cat toy. Mimic prey behavior and your cat will be happy.

best laser pointer for cats reflection on cat face

Using a Laser For Cats - Safety Tips

  • Never point at the eyes of cats, pets or humans. Laser beam lights can damage human and animal eyes. Never shine the laser pointer directly into the eyes, and be cautious about reflective light as well. Avoid pointing the laser at shiny and reflective objects. The laser beam can reflect and shine into your eyes or your cat's eyes. Maintain a safe distance between the laser dot and your cat.
  • No prolonged beam on any part of the cat's body. Cat's movements are unpredictable so for ultimate safety, do not shine the light on the cat's body. Your cat could quickly turn around and get a bright shock to the eye. It's important for you and your cats to take breaks while you play. The laser beam affects us differently, but a prolonged beam can be harmful to both of us.
  • Don't use near heavy moving objects - roads! Cats in rigorous play mode don't typically pay attention to their surroundings. Their prime motive is to catch that prey. Be aware of your surroundings when playing with your cats, and avoid heavy moving objects. It is best to play with your cats in an enclosed and controlled environment. Avoid playing near sharp corners and furniture as well.
  • Give some type of reward to stop frustration. Offering a reward after playtime completes the hunting experience. After a few minutes of play, offer a physical toy that your cat can catch, bite, or bunny kick. You can also offer a few treats as a reward. Using physical toys and treats with the laser pointer can help avoid stress and anxiety in cats.

The 5 Best Cat Laser Toy

1. Yvelife Cat Laser Toy Automatic (Best Automatic Pointer)

No products found.

This automatic laser pointer toy for cats might be a good choice for pet parents that work long hours.

Yvelife's automatic toy has a function that activates the laser pointer for 15 minutes every three hours.

This toy features five adjustable circling ranges, and you can use a fast or slow mode, depending on your cat's preference. It is rechargeable, and you can use batteries or plug it in.

A few customers mentioned that the cord is short so place this toy out of your cat's reach.

2. FYNIGO Cat Interactive Toys Wand

FYNIGO Cat Toys for Indoor Cats,Interactive Cat Toy Teaser Wand,Rechargeable Toys for Cats with 5 Patterns,Latest Safety Pet Toys

FYNIGO makes an interesting laser pointer that has four different light display patterns in addition to the conventional red dot. This laser wand also comes with a physical toy mouse.

You can recharge by plugging it directly into a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port like your laptop. There is a slide on and off button rather than holding the button down with your finger.

This laser wand comes with an emergency flashlight setting and a UV light to detect pet stains.

3. SereneLife Automatic Cat Laser Toy

SereneLife Automatic Cat Light Toy - Rotating Moving Electronic Red Dot LED Pointer Pen W/ Auto Wireless Control - Remote Light Beam Teaser Machine for Interactive & Smart Sensory

This automatic laser toy might be useful for pet parents that need to keep cats busy while they cook or clean.

It features adjustable speed settings and an unpredictable path.

You can position the laser to shine on the floor or the wall. You need batteries, but they are not included.

This laser toy does not turn on automatically, but it will shut off automatically after 30 minutes to conserve battery power.

4. TECHDON 2 Pack Multiple Pattern Pet Command Light

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The Techdon laser pointers come in a two-pack. This may be a good choice for multi-cat households.

It features the classic red dot, a mini flashlight, and a UV light.

You can charge these laser pointers using a USB port instead of a cord. This product also has a slide on and off button.

These handheld laser pointers don't have timers on them so you will have to play with them manually.

5. PetMuscle Best Automatic Pet Laser Toy

No products found.

This cat laser pointer toy might be a good choice for cats that need more advanced play.

It features an automatic 360° rotating laser head with four speed settings and four rotation angles.

You can display the pointer on the floor or wall and set a timer for 5, 10, 15, and 20 minutes. It is battery operated, and batteries are not included.

A few customers mention it is cheaply made and has inconsistent quality from unit to unit.

Laser Pointers for Cats  - Final Thoughts

Cats need daily exercise and mental stimulation to live a happy life indoors. Laser pointers for cats encourage them to play because the movements of the laser dot are unpredictable and simulate the hunting experience. Only use lasers that emit less than 1 kW of power, and avoid shining the laser at the cat's body.

A cat laser pointer is generally safe for playing with cats when used properly. Be sure to reward your cat with a physical toy or treat after playtime, and monitor your cat's behavior for signs of stress.

And, if you want to watch how much fun your cat can have with a laser pointer then GoPro made this great video:

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About the author

Jessie Lott is better known as ‘Jess Caticles’, after the blog of that name where she helps cat owners who want to better their cat’s lives through proper nutrition. Jess is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist who has written a best-selling course on how to switch your cat to a raw food diet.

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