Are Laser Toys Safe For Cats?

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Most pet owners know that cats go crazy for laser toys. It’s very entertaining to watch them perform Olympic-grade gymnastics while they flip about trying to catch the tiny red dot. They can be an excellent way of exercising your cat indoors as they are natural predators and adore chasing the little red light. Are laser toys safe to use in your home? Let’s find out!

Quick Overview

01

Laser toys are a popular plaything because they trigger cats’ natural prey drive.

02

Laser toys are an excellent way to keep cats physically and mentally fit.

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There are some potential dangers when using laser toys, but as long as you follow some simple guidelines you'll be able to enjoy playtime with your cat safely.

 

Why Do Cats Like Laser Toys So Much?

cat looking at laser toy

Laser toys trigger cats’ natural prey drive and tap into their predator instincts.

Laser toys come in a few different shapes and sizes. They are usually small, battery-powered, hand-held devices that use a laser diode to emit a narrow laser beam. The thin width of the beam and the typical low wattage means the beam is invisible in normal light and the only bit our eyes see is the concentrated dot at the point where it hits a surface.

Cats are instinctive predators and they have a strong urge to hunt and catch prey. When cats see the red dot from the laser toy, they follow it with their eyes, then stalk and pounce on it.

Laser toys are especially exciting as they can be moved very quickly, over furniture and up and down walls, jumping from place to place. This means it poses an enticing challenge for cats to chase it as it triggers their natural prey drive and their predator instincts.

Also Read: The 5 Best Interactive Cat Toys for Bored Cats

Are Laser Pointers Good or Bad for Your Cat?

cat standing with laser toy

Never shine a laser light directly into your cat’s eyes—lasers can cause permanent eye damage.

The short answer to this question is yes. However, it does largely depend on who is using the toy and how sensible they are. In the wrong hands, laser toys can be unsafe. The main issue with laser toys is that they can cause permanent eye damage if they are shone directly into a cat or human’s eye.

Lasers damage an area of the eye called the retina. In severe cases, shining a laser light into the eye can cause blindness. The higher the wattage, the more damage the laser does. It is strongly advised not to let young children anywhere near the laser toys as they might not be able to control the beam, or they simply might not understand not to shine it in anyone’s eyes.

It is also strongly advised to avoid laser toys that shoot out random flashing beams. You might not be able to predict where the beam is going to go and it might end up shining in someone’s eye. The best type of laser toy to use with your cat is a standard laser pen with a thin, focused beam. This way, you have the most control possible.

Also Read: The 12 Best Cat Toys: Keep Your Cat Fit And Happy With These Irresistible Toys

Ways To Safely Use A Laser Toy With Your Cat

cat playing laser toy

Be sure to move the laser in such a way that your cat doesn’t lose sight of the red dot.

Laser toys are fantastic for cat owners who are less active. It enables owners to exercise their cat from the comfort of their favorite armchair. Cats absolutely love to hunt and pounce on things. They cannot resist the thrill of the chase. Any toy that helps to mimic the natural instinctive behavior is a brilliant choice for cats. Chasing a laser offers a very good cardio session for your cat, though this does depend on how you are using the laser toy.

The best way to engage your kitty is to point the laser at the floor near them and move it around in small circles and zig zags in front of them to encourage them to start chasing. When they start chasing, you can then move it farther away from them.

Using a laser toy this way is not only brilliant for your cat’s fitness levels, but also good for their agility, and offers excellent mental stimulation, too. Make sure not to move the laser over a larger distance too quickly as your cat won’t be able to follow or keep up and this will take the fun away.

Also Read: How To Safely Play With A Cat, According To A Cat Behaviorist

Potential Issues When Playing With Laser Toys

cat yawning near laser points

Take care when using laser toys so your cat doesn’t become frustrated or injured.

Laser toys only offer cats the chasing and pouncing part of the hunting ritual. When the cat pounces on the red laser light, even if they land right on it, there’s nothing for them to actually catch. This can be incredibly frustrating for cats and may leave them disheartened and not wanting to play any longer.

To keep your cat interested, you can point the laser at an actual toy placed somewhere in the room. This way, your cat will feel the satisfaction of catching something and are likely to be more engaged in the game.

Another option is to use the laser as a sort of warm up so your cat can burn off some energy and get really excited chasing the laser about, then when you have the adrenaline and blood pumping, take out some regular cat toys and start playing with them instead. Your cat will love having something to hold and feel and physically interact with. This will make them feel satisfied and prevent frustration from building up.

If you only use the laser toy with no real prize at the end of the play session, you might run into a few behavioral problems. Your cat will become frustrated and feel dissatisfied. If they still have lots of energy still to burn, they usually find someone or something to take it out on when they feel like this.

If you play with a laser toy and offer no reward or treat at the end, your frustrated cat might need lash out to release pent-up energy. Your cat might suddenly attack you or another pet in the household or decide to sink their claws into your favorite furniture or shred your sofa. In the long run, using a laser toy incorrectly actually encourages aggression and can have a very negative effect on your bond with your cat and your cat’s relationship with other pets in the household.

Another issue is that if you are using the laser toy your cat will run and jump very excitedly. If they are prone to crashing and bumping into things, they can easily injure themselves. They can also trash your home very quickly, too. Always ensure you use the laser toys in a wide open space clear of obstructions.

Also Read: 8 Purrfect Games You Can Play With Your Cat

Pros And Cons Of Laser Toys

cat playing laser toys

Cats of all ages love changing and pouncing on the little red dot emitted by laser toys.

Pros

  • Exercise benefits: Laser toys are a great way to encourage your cat to get moving and increase their cardiovascular fitness. Play helps maintain muscle mass and bone density.
  • Mental stimulation: Games that mimic hunting require a lot of mental focus. A game of chase with a rapidly moving laser toy will improve your cat’s problem-solving skills and decision-making ability.
  • Simple and easy: Exercising your cat with a laser toy is convenient and easy. It can be done in any location in the house. You can sit in your favorite chair or even curl up in bed.  Laser toys are cheap to buy and readily available.

Cons

  • Ocular damage: As mentioned above, the beam of the laser can do some serious damage to the retina at the back of the eye and can affect your cat’s vision. Lower-wattage laser toys are safer but always take precautions. Never shine the beam directly into anyone’s eyes.
  • Stress: Some cats become stressed and anxious when playing with laser toys. Unless you provide some sort of real prize at the end of the game, it sets them up for repeated failure because it’s a game they can never win. Cats do all the stalking, chasing, and pouncing, but they can never “catch” the laser so they get incredibly frustrated.
  • Injury: Because it’s a high-speed chase, often even the most agile of cats end up skidding and face-planting at some point, or crashing into something. (Hopefully not your priceless vase!)

Also Read: 5 Visual Signs Of A Stressed Cat And How To Help

Laser Toys: Final Thoughts

cat playing

When used properly, laser toys offer cats a fun way to get exercise and mental stimulation.

Laser toys can be an excellent choice for keeping your cat physically and mentally fit and healthy. They also provide an opportunity for brilliant bonding time between cats and humans.

Laser toys are not suitable for every household. It is strongly recommended to keep them out of reach of children. Some cats just don’t enjoy laser toys as they find them too stressful and they can encourage undesirable aggressive behavior.

If this is the case you need to avoid using them completely. See how your cat responds and gauge their reaction. If they aren’t enjoying themselves, you can explore plenty of other options to keep them occupied.

Also Read: 10 Causes Of Aggression In Cats And How To Help

Frequently Asked Questions

Are laser pens bad for cats?

Laser pens can be perfectly safe and can provide an excellent playtime activity for your cat as long as you follow a few strict rules:

  • Do not use automatic laser toys as the random beam can easily shine into your cat's eyes. A manually operated laser is much safer as you have more control.
  • Do not shine the laser on anything wobbly or unstable that your cat might jump on and tumble off. Stick to open spaces and keep the laser lower down, near ground level.
  • Let your cat win by incorporating a toy mouse or other prey toy that your cat can catch at the end of the game to give them some satisfaction.
  • Don't tire your cat out. As long as you keep shining the beam, they will keep playing. Keep the game short so that they don't overexert themselves. This way they will remain excited and not get bored.

Is it OK to play with a cat with a laser pointer?

It is OK, providing you take a few sensible safety precautions. Don't shine the beam directly into your cat's eyes. Make sure you do it in a wide open space so your cat doesn't crash into anything. At the end of the game, allow your cat to catch something real like a toy.

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About Emma Chandley MRCVS

Emma graduated from the Royal Vet College in London in 2011. She has a keen interest in surgery and went on to do a post graduate certificate in small animal surgery and was then awarded advanced practitioner status in the same discipline.

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