The Logical Reason That Cats Like Laser Pointers

Kids of all ages are crazy about laser light pointers. You can buy them online, in big box stores, at pet supply outfits everywhere. They are small enough to easily fit in your pocket, yet can shine a pinpoint light over long distances. Available in colors like red, green, and blue, these pointers are amusing and fun. One common use for laser pointers is to play “catch the light” with cats. So what’s so great about these little beams of light, and why can’t most cats resist them? Believe it or not, there is a logical reason why curious cats are just crazy to play “chase”. Animals (and humans) respond to two visual phenomena–light and movement. Cats are keen observers, and that’s how they are able to swat a bug hidden in the grass or a mouse scurrying across the floor in the dark of night. There is another factor at play; however, and it is the reason that cats have survived since ancient times.

All Down To Prey Drive

This instinct to follow a moving object is called “prey drive”. All cats, dogs, and other natural hunters have that prey drive. In the wild, animals rely on their prey instincts to catch food in order to survive. If you’ve ever seen a cat crouch down and stalk something, it is their prey drive in action. Nature has hardwired this skill into animals. It’s a game of hunt, stalk, capture, kill, eat, and repeat. A darting point of light imitates the movement of scurrying prey so of course, the chase is on! That is why so many cat parents purchase laser light pointers. At the end of a long, hard day, you can amuse your cat while watching your favorite show without getting off the couch! Cats, (like dogs), need exercise so this is one convenient way to give your cat a workout.

Does Color Matter to Kitties?

According to the VCA Animal Hospitals Website, there are two schools of thought on how cats perceive color. Although humans and cat eyes each have three types of retinal cones, humans have ten times the number. Many scientists believe that cats can only see shades of blue and grey, while other researchers differ in opinion, declaring that felines of all sizes can also see shades of yellow, just like canines do. It’s hard to imagine that cats would let dogs have this evolutionary advantage, so most pet lovers bet the cats can see just as well. So no matter what color laser light you choose, it’s the light itself and the movement that incites the chase.

Are Laser Pointers Safe To Use With Cats?

According to Hills, the pet food company that makes Hills Science Diet, playing with a cat using a laser pointer is fine if you follow the following caveats: Never, ever point the laser light at the cat’s eyes Laser Beams are powerful lights. They are used (in various constitutions and strengths) to bore through the tissue to remove cataracts, scarring, and even tumors. As it is so powerful, it’s imperative not to point the light near or in the cat’s eyes. Of course, no adult would do it on purpose; however, the children in a home with a cat, or (even when playing with each other), need to know how to keep their cat safe while having fun with a laser pointer. Parents of children also need to be sure that their kids aren’t shining the light in their siblings’ or friends’ eyes as a joke. Laser light shone in the eyes can cause temporary blindness and perhaps long-term damage down the road. So the rule is whether person or pet, keep in mind that a laser light pointer is really not a harmless toy and should always be used under parent supervision.

Don’t Overdo It!

Further advice given on the Hills site is backed up by an article from The Cattington Post. It seems the main problem with overplaying with laser pointers is frustrating the heck out of your cat. Felines love a good game: however, if the cat is constantly chasing but never catching anything, it can only serve to annoy the cat. Imagine someone showing you something you really want (a cookie, a piece of cake, the latest phone you’ve wanted) and they do that old schoolyard game of “keep away” with you. Once you have it within your grasp, it’s jerked out of your hands. The more frustrated you get, the more someone moves the coveted item out of reach, usually the very second you are ready to grab it. To add insult to injury, (as they say) those you love and depend on think it’s funny and insist on keeping you from getting what you’re chasing. Time after time you just keep climbing the walls in pursuit. Does that sound like fun? Not so much. Also, cats don’t give up easily, even when frustrated, so just because they are still nimbly “tripping the light fantastic” around the room doesn’t mean they like it one bit.

Other Ways to Entertain a Cat

Before laser light pointers were invented, older folks used to entertain cats with just a wad of string! You can either unspool the string or twine and inch it away from the cat till it gives chase, or if you have an extra ball of it, just let it drop to the floor and let the cat bat it around the room. It’s safer and far less frustrating. Conventional cat toys are also a bit hit with most household felines. For those who love a bit of catnip, you can buy small toys scented with it or even stuffed with it! Some animal lovers don’t like that many of these toys are shaped like mice or birds; however, it’s better for the cat to bat around a fake bird or rodent than torture the real live thing. The consensus seems to be that laser pointer lights are fine as long as they are safely used and not relied on too often for your cat’s stimulation. It’s food for thought. The next time you’re shopping for that cool laser light pointer with the changing colors and the extra-long battery life, remember a ball of yarn is cheaper and can also provide tons of kitty fun.

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