The Hervey Foundation for Cats

Cats and Laser Pointers – A True Love Affair

Laser cat graphic

Have you had the joy of experiencing a cat play with a laser pointer? As soon as they hear the click of the button, nothing else matters. They drop whatever they are doing, and this includes sleeping, to get up and chase a tiny dot of light around the room.

What is the deal with this? Why are cats so drawn to laser pointers? Well, the truth is that cats are drawn to anything small that moves quickly. Retinas, in both cats and humans, are comprised of a series of rods and cones. Cats have more rods than humans do, while humans have more cones. This results in cats being able to pick up on even the slightest movement with ease, and even in the dark!

Cats are some of the most efficient predators in nature (within their scale). When a cat sees something small zipping across the floor, be it a piece of string, a ball, a laser pointer, or even a mouse, their minds register it as potential prey and their entire body leaps into action. This is their predator/prey instinct going full tilt.

What might be the most charming part about the whole thing is the fact they seem powerless to it all. A cat can go from sleeping to sprinting in a matter of seconds if they notice movement or hear familiar sounds of potential prey. In this case, the click of a laser pointer. If you were a mouse or a bird, however, you may not find it charming.

What You Should Know About Laser Pointers

While these instruments are a great way to get your cat up and moving around, you need to keep in mind there is one key ingredient missing. Your cat can never actually ‘win’. The laser pointer is simply a dot of light, and even if the cat catches it, it can’t ever feel the satisfaction of grabbing its prey. This has the potential to reduce their interest in this style of play.

What should you do to keep your cat interested? There are a few options available. One of the simplest options is to provide them with a snack after all the hard work of chasing the laser around. Another thing you can do to switch things up, is mix some other toys into their play time. The age-old classic of having a cat chase a shoelace or a long piece of string can satisfy the same urges the laser pointer does. It also provides them with an extra layer of satisfaction as they can actually catch the ‘prey’.

Cats are generally more interested in live prey than prey that stops moving. This means throwing a shoelace or another item towards your cat may initially get them interested, but when it stops moving, your cat will likely move along to something else. To keep them interested, every once in a while, make sure you wiggle the item so they still think it is alive. It sounds morbid, but cats are carnivorous predators, and they cannot help the way they behave in these situations.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact laser pointers can adversely affect a cat’s vision if shined directly in their eye. Laser pointers do not exist in nature and a cat’s eyes, much like many humans, are not calibrated to receive concentrated doses of light. So, when playing with your cat, make sure you are shining the laser down onto the floor and not onto the cat.

Why You Should Play with Your Cat Everyday

There are a lot of house cats who are overweight and while they may be bold and beautiful, they have increased health risks. Everyone loves a chonky cat, however, life can become stressful and painful for an overweight cat. Over time, the extra weight on their joints can lead to arthritis. Not to mention the other risks that go hand-in-hand with an obese cat, such as diabetes, circulation issues, urinary problems, liver disease and more. Extra weight also prevents them from jumping up to some of their favourite places. Daily play is one of the best ways to get your cat back in shape and the laser pointer is an affordable and easy way to get them motivated to move! Just make sure you don’t overdo it, and also be sure to reward them with lots of attention and a treat. If you are playing with your cat to lose weight, a single piece of their regular kibble makes an easy reward that won’t affect their weight.