Are laser pointers bad for cats?

The Laser and the Cat

A question has been recently brought to our attention here at CatTamboo. The question they asked was: “Are laser pointers bad for cats?”
laser toys for catsI know from experience that cats love chasing the laser. My little girl “Lynx” loves them and so does my spouses cat “Mojo” but the question is valid “Is the laser toy bad for the cat?”
I did some research on this and noticed a pattern; there doesn’t seem to be a correct answer.
One of the first things I found was that laser toys are therapeutic for cats. They are also very good to use for exercising your cat. Chasing laser toys is also fun for many cats. So, a positive for the laser is that: If you happen to have a cat who is obese or a cat whom you are wanting to put on a diet, the laser toy is fun and appealing. It is an easy way to catch your cat’s attention!
Laser cat toys are also easy for you to turn off when you have had enough or when you feel that your little friend is tuckered out. Playing with the laser also releases your dopamine in your pet cat, thus promoting a reward motivated behavior which creates in your feline a need to chase prey.

are laser pointers bad for catsFor anyone who has an indoor cat, the laser is a fun toy because it can be placed anywhere in the house and is entertaining to the cat and the person using it. Being that our little felines are mimicking the hunt, chase, and stalk motions which they would have been taught to do by their mother; the laser spikes a cats interest with the possibility of a satisfactory ending, yet with the laser that is not likely the case :(.

Although it is fun in many cases for your cat to play with the laser, we have found that there are a few negative things which also come with playing with the laser.

Are laser pointers bad for cats? They definitely can be!

THE FRUSTRATED CAT AND THE LASERIt seems that the laser can cause cats to become frustrated and develop ill tempers or compulsive habits. It is also said that they can begin to display excessive fixations while grooming.

“The main problem with the cat playing with the laser is that there seems to be no reward for the cat at the end of the chase.”

In the wild or even in the home, our little friends know that there is a very good chance of a positive outcome if they chase down a mouse or a bird. At the end of a chase with a laser, the cat will not gain anything. This fact is the leading cause of its frustration.
There is also the question of the laser causing damage to the retina in the cat’s eye. Many would agree that this is less probable if the laser is not being pointed into the cat’s eye or at the cat’s face, yet let us look at why this question may be relevant.
In 2010 there was a news story stating that allegedly some teenage boys were seen pointing a laser at several airplanes causing an issue for the pilots. The pilots said that from the ground it appeared to be a single laser yet by the time it reached the cockpit it was a blinding beam. For the human eye this can cause blindness and possibly other issues thus making a clear case against the idea of using lasers as play toys for humans and cats alike. Now imagine that you are the size of a cat, or imagine your family members as being 20 times your size. Now imagine this is your life. Where are you usually looking? Up right? This point is just to say that there is some risk involved.
Another fact to take into consideration is that cats are nocturnal creatures, and as such are more sensitive to light than are humans.
one eyed cat visionAlthough cats cannot see in the dark per say, they need one-sixth the amount of light that a human needs in order to see. There pupils can dilate three times larger than a humans can, and the cornea is bigger allowing in more light. Also our little friends have reflective cells that amplify the light coming into the eye.
The tapetum (the reflective cells) are responsible for the glowing appearance of the eyes for which cats are known. Cats are also nearsighted. The human is known to have very good vision when they have 20/20, but a cat is known to have a visual acuity between 20/100 to 20/200.

Cats also have a larger field view which spans about 200 degrees compared to the humans 180 degrees, and the have a greater range of peripheral vision which they use quite skillfully during hunting.

Cats are usually most active during dusk and dawn; cats also have 6 to 8 times more rod cells in their eyes than human beings do. These extra rod cells allow cats to sense motion in the dark better than their human companions. Cats can also see colors well, although they seem to see colors more like pastels (more dull), yet it is clear that they can perceive many of the same colors as we can.

THE CAT AND THE LASER 3With these facts about the cat and it’s beautiful eyes, we can conceive that the laser may not be the best thing for them, let alone for us. Instead it may be a better idea to understand that the objective is to spend time with your little friend and devote that time to quality time having fun! To our little friends it is the interaction with you which most entertains them. I will not say eliminate the laser altogether, that decision I would leave for you but instead, I would say be proactive in playing with your feline friend. Find a way to be present with a cat toy that you can also have fun with.

We have come to a time in history where we understand the needs of others better every day. The needs of our little friends are no different. Sometimes just picking up your feline friend and stroking or hugging them can do wonders.

Finding what your feline likes may take time and you may have to try many different kinds of cat toys including some that we have here at CatTamboo before you find the right one; yet knowing the pro and cons of any cat toy will only help you to make the right choice in a safe toy for your feline friend.

Below is a quote from expert Pam Johnson-Bennett for more information on the laser and the cat:

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the best-selling author of 7 books on cat behavior, host of the Animal Planet UK series Psycho Kitty, and one of the most popular and sought-after cat behavior experts in the world. She is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting and has influenced many practicing in the field today.
Pam answers the question:  Should You Use a Laser Light Toy With Your Cat?

Quoting from her website: “I think many people who use laser toys like it because it gets a guaranteed reaction from the cat but unfortunately it can also cause lots of frustration. If you really take time to understand how cats hunt and how they use ALL of their senses, you’ll come to realize that chasing a red beam of light without ever having the satisfaction of capturing it isn’t a lot of fun.”

If you follow the link above, it will take you to a blog article on CatTamboo cat toys and how they appeal to all 5 senses of a cat.

Hopefully by reading this information, it answers the question “Are laser pointers bad for cats?”. Our family here at CatTamboo Pet Toys values cats as beloved family members. We wouldn’t point lasers at our babies. Instead, we choose our unique feather toys called Tamboo Flyers because they are safe for even human babies. Our cat toys imitate all 5 senses of a cats natural prey; they are challenging for a cat to catch; and they reward the cat with a victory when caught!

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