Have you ever wondered why cats are so obsessed with laser pointers? Yes, that little dot of light seems to stir magic and illusion in cats, making them go extra lengths to catch that little spot of light.
There are various colors or laser pointers, but the color doesn’t really matter to cats. What catches their attention and elicits their response is the way the bright light is moving against a comparatively dark background. As the light darts to and fro, then pauses and moves, it actually mimics the movement of prey animals. And is there any cat that can ignore this ancient call of the wild? The movement of the light triggers their predatory instincts and they start to stalk, chase, and pounce in an effort to catch the “prey”.
Cats can easily see laser lights especially if there is a stark contrast between the light and the background. Both humans and cats have two types of cells in their retina called rods and cones. Rods are involved with vision under low-lighting conditions and detecting movement, while cones are responsible with color vision, focus, and details. Humans have more cones in their retinas than cats, while cats have more retinal rods compared to humans. Thus the eyes of cats are quick at detecting movement even when it is dark but they don’t really see colors that well.
However, not all cats play with lasers. The ultimate reason may be a loss of interest as they begin to find playing with it doubly frustrating. Imagine endlessly chasing after a moving prey to no avail – how frustrating! Some cats can also get tired of playing with the same toys every day. As such, it is a good idea to rotate toys on a regular basis to preserve their novelty. When it comes to some cats not seeing laser lights, it might be attributed to vision problems that should be checked out by a veterinarian.
The problem with letting cats play with laser lights is not the laser itself but the feeling of frustration that a cat feels when “preying” on the moving light. When a cat sees the moving light, he pours all his energy and concentration into catching it. Unfortunately, there is no “prey to catch”, since it is just a spot of light after all. This lack of closure to the predator sequence can actually be very frustrating for your cat. Given the different responses of cats to laser pointers, it is OK for cats to play with these toys as long as they continue to provide proper physical and mental stimulation to them.
In a way, cat laser toys can be “cruel” to cats because the movement of the laser light makes their hunting instincts go into overdrive, but the frustration that follows with not catching, killing, or eating prey can fuel undesirable behaviors that may hurt the cat, other pets in the household and even their humans.
There are also cat parents who have concerns about the possibility of laser toys causing anxiety and seizures in cats. A predatory sequence that is composed of stalking, pouncing, killing and eating is hardwired into the cats. Even with domestication, their predatory instincts are still very strong and can be stimulated in certain circumstances, such as when they see the moving laser light. You might have noticed, however, that laser pointers only satisfy the stalking and pouncing phase of the predatory sequence. There is no killing and eating; which means, these desires remain unfulfilled. While some cats don’t have any problem with this, some appear to get anxious and agitated because there is no prized prey.
Cats have also been observed to become frustrated and overstimulated after playing with laser pointers, which can possibly increase displays of aggressive behavior toward their playmates. Thus, they eventually lose interest after a round or two of playing with the laser pointer.
Contrary to popular belief, playing with laser pointers do not cause seizures in cats. If a cat suffers from a seizure, it is best to consult your veterinarian so a proper diagnosis can be made and the appropriate treatment can be given.
If you are worried that playing with laser lights can be causing your cat to become frustrated and anxious, try switching to more interactive games that allow your furball to participate and complete the predatory sequence such as wand toys, scratching posts, and other toys that provide physical and mental stimulation. And don’t forget to offer a bite or two of your cat’s favorite treats which are another highlight of their playtime.
Read more: The Cat Toys Handbook