Why Do Cats Like Laser Pointers So Freakin’ Much?

Since cats are natural hunters, those quickly moving red dots satisfy their hunting instincts. But are laser pointers “bad” for pets? Read this article.

Why do cats find those red dots to be so irresistible?

Recently while visiting my neighbor, I witnessed for the first time a cat being completely entertained with a laser pointer.

The neighbor and her cat, Sunset, were under the carport. As I walked up, I heard laughter and saw Sunset pouncing and dashing all over the floor. Obviously reeling with excitement, Sunset was doing her darnedest to catch that little red light.

It was hard for me to tell which of them was having the most fun — my neighbor or her cat.

Why Do Cats Like Laser Pointers So Much?

Laser pointers throw out brightly colored red dots of light that move at different speeds and change direction quickly. Since cats are natural hunters, those moving red dots satisfy their hunting instincts.

Unlike many toys that just lie around in the same old place for kitty to paw, the laser pointer can be aimed in different directions (up, down, or round and round). For your cat, this makes it seem like real moving prey. Anything that moves and has some color is certain to bring out the predator in any cat.

Whether the cat chooses to chase the dot, paw at it or simply stare at it, curiosity will lead her into lengthy sessions of play and exercise.

Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Not everyone agrees that laser pointer playtime is good for pets.

Behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger (“The Cat Coach”), for one, says her biggest concern is that laser pointers don’t give cats the satisfaction that comes with the “capture,” because they will never be able to actually catch that moving red dot. Krieger says this can be incredibly frustrating for cats.

Her concerns are valid, but you should know that laser pointer playtime can be highly entertaining and rewarding for your cat as long as you follow a few important guidelines.

Check out this quick video:

Guidelines for Laser Pointer Playtime

  • Please don’t let the laser pointer become your cat’s only toy. You need a range of toys, such as wand toys, that your cat can paw at and capture.
  • During playtime, have on hand some stuffed cat toys that your cat can easily grab or paw. You might even put a little food in some of the toys for kitty to retrieve as a reward.
  • Once in a while, let the red dot of the laser land on one of these other toys and watch your kitty “capture” it. Be sure she has a firm hold on the toy before you take the light away.
  • Never shine the light directly into your cat’s eyes. You can cause serious damage to your pet’s eyes by doing this!

When the laser pointer is used properly with your cat’s hunting needs — and safety — in mind, I am sure you and your pet will derive great pleasure from this intriguing but simple toy.

Top photo: arkonan/Flickr

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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