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

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15 Comments

  1. Shazza
    November 15, 2012

    It’s always fun watching a cat play with a laser pointer. I agree with the idea of landing the light on a toy for the cat to ‘capture’. That makes complete sense!

    Reply
    1. Lilly
      November 30, 2014

      I have two kittens that love it! It is fun watching them run around in circles or jump at the wall!

      Reply
  2. veryhappycats
    November 18, 2012

    Chasing the laser dot provides our cats additional exercise which is part of maintaining a healthy weight.

    Reply
  3. Nancy Hinds
    November 19, 2012

    all our cats love the pointer. At times I can get 2 cats going in a figure 8 spnning around next to each other…It is great exercise. We also have all the other cat toys and some dog toys, too. We do have a ‘Ditty” a cat that thinks she’s a dog!

    Reply
  4. Lynn
    November 21, 2012

    This an awesome workout for your cat, even my chubby kitty likes it!!!

    Reply
  5. Hunter
    April 18, 2013

    Hi i have 3 cats and 1 dog and i have stop Play laser cause after 2 week one cat stop sleeping in night and always stay close to me searching for Red Dot, Look every where, and Start to see and run on nothing , After 1 Month the cat start to sleep again but still come close to me and search this laser every night, i gave It other toys, lighter, treat ect.. for change Is mine, and cat have stop running on what is not there too.

    1- Only one do This.
    2- My Cat no i control of the laser
    3- I Have room full of Toys for my Cats.

    Reply
  6. Stan...
    August 13, 2013

    people make something as simple as playing with your cat so complicated.
    Our cats love it, the mere mention of the word Laser, and they come running. Just say the word, Lasers and the cats mimic the word with a meows. they love jumping and chasing it around.
    I did have one old cat, who loved the laser until she realized I was holding a device that produced the dot. She promptly walked over to me and slapped the laser pointer out of my hand. And refused to play with it after that…
    Cats love the laser, because they are cats and love interacting with you…

    Reply
  7. Alex
    December 28, 2014

    I have 9 cats all mine cat love it been playing with it for 6 years everyday

    Reply
  8. Amanda Rae
    January 09, 2016

    The laser pointer gets even my laziest, fattest cat up and about! My youngest kitty is overly obsessed, so much so that even hearing the tinkle of the chain, or the click of the button sends her into head swiveling, ear twitching, eye darting high alert. To subdue any anxiety, I am doing sessions of gentle play with it, that consists of shining the laser in one spot, and playing with my fingers in the light gently. She pounces only to find the light shining on her paws and my fingers, and I explain it is only light. I know she can’t understand my words, but the act of talking gently and playing softly has it’s calming effect, and her overdrive is soothed.

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      January 10, 2016

      Amanda, it sounds like you really know your cats!

      Reply
    2. Josh
      November 04, 2016

      Very well written and informative, Amanda.

      Reply
  9. Theresa O'Neil Kessler
    October 07, 2016

    PLZ DO NOT USE LASERS FOR TOY FOR CAT. I’M SHOUTING TO ALL HERE…MY DAUGHTER HAD ONE AND IT WAS SHONE ON THE WALL. HER CAT JUMPED UP FOR IT AND CAME DOWN ON HIS SIDE AND INSTANTLY KILLED IT (SPINAL INJURY). I BEG OF YOU …PLZ DONT!

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      October 07, 2016

      I am so sorry for your loss, Theresa! 🙁

      Reply
    2. Josh
      November 04, 2016

      Teresa, my deepest condolences I had a cat of my own one time who almost suffered the same fate – thankfully we were able to rescue him get him to a vet before any permanent damage occurred.

      Reply
    3. Thanasis Xrisantzas
      February 28, 2017

      It must have been too high on the wall then…..Real pity for the kitty.

      Reply

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