ALL HAIL THE RED DOT! That little red spot made by a laser pen that drives your cat wild, it really is one of the best cat toys in the box.

Have you ever wondered why do cats chase lasers? Why they see it and their ears go flat, their eyes go black, and their cute butt wiggles ready to pounce?

Let’s take a closer look at these magical cat toys, why cats love them, and if they are in fact safe as a kitty toy.

How Do Cats’ Eyes Work?

Cats’ eyes are very different from human eyes. With both human and cat eyes there is a retina, something that sits at the back of the eye converting light into messages that are sent to the brain and turned into the images we see as the world around us. The retina contains two main types of cell – cones and rods. Cones tend to be more related to color and focus, whereas rods tend to relate to low light and movement.

Cats, in general, have more rods, making them phenomenal at seeing movement, even in the dark. This makes them great at naturally predating animals around sunrise and sunset, the time they are most inclined to hunt (which explains those early morning feet-in-bed hunting sessions!). They don’t, however, see color or details all that well at all, which is something we humans are generally better at.

You can learn more about cats eyes and how they work in this handy video.

Why Do Cats Chase Lasers? Color Doesn’t Matter

When it comes to laser pens, it isn’t actually the color that matters all that much to the cat. What is stimulating your cat is the bright dot which contrasts against any other surface your cat can see. It’s an instant bright light that moves. This alone is enough to make your cat intensely interested. Add to that a darting movement of the pointer, and you’re replicating how their prey moves, tapping into your cat’s deepest instincts to chase and kill.

Why Some Cats Are Not As Into Laser Pointers As Others

Laser pointers will always interest all cats, but some cats can end up getting kind of irritated after a while of playing. They may seek to express their aggression towards you or other animals. This happens because they do not get the ‘kill’ satisfaction that usually ends their stalk and pounce activities in nature. This leads to frustration for them because they never make a successful ‘kill’. Providing a kicker toy, stuffed animal or anything else your cat can attack at some point during laser play will help them to release their frustration and get the satisfying ‘kill’ they desire.

You can find some more tips on playing perfectly with your cat in this video by cat guru Jackson Galaxy.

Are Lasers Bad For Cats?

The pros of laser pen play for cats are huge and include:

  • Providing plenty of physical exercise for them
  • Encouraging mental stimulation (particularly important for house cats)
  • Enabling you to play with your cat easily, even if you have physical restrictions

There are however, some down sides.

One is the lack of ‘kill’ which we mentioned above. This can cause a cat to become anxious or frustrated which is why it is important to provide a way for them to ‘kill’ in combination with a laser pointer session.

Another issue can be that cats can be so desperate to catch that sneaky little dot they might hurt themselves during the pursuit. You can stop this happening by only using the laser in safe spaces, and avoiding encouraging your cat to jump from high places to get to the dot.

By far, the most dangerous aspect of a laser pointer is the potential for eye damage. Approved, low wattage laser pointers are not a problem for cats if they follow them around, and if it moves across her eyes for a split second by accident. Any prolonged exposure to her eyes, however, could damage her sight. For this reason, you should never shine a pointer into a cat’s eyes, or any other animal or human’s eyes for that matter.

Handy Safety Tips For Laser Pointers For Cats

To help you get the best possible use out of your cat’s laser pointer toy, consider the following safety recommendations:

  • Never point the laser beam at your cat’s eyes
  • Never point the laser beam at any animal or humans eyes
  • Keep laser pens out of reach of children and do now allow children to play with them
  • Do not use an automatic laser toy unless you can provide supervision
  • Avoiding shining the pointer on high or slippery surfaces
  • Try to play in restricted, low areas with soft flooring or surfaces
  • Try to allow the cat breaks between laser play so that she doesn’t exhaust herself
  • Allow the kitty to have her ‘win’ perhaps shining the dot onto a kicker toy at the end, then turning the toy off
  • Do not allow children any access to the laser pen, and keep it stored out of their reach
  • Never use a modified laser pen and instead only buy approved toys with less than 1mW of power
  • Avoid green laser pointers which are typically more dangerous

Cats Can Enjoy Laser Pointers Safely

With the right product and precautions, cats can enjoy playing with a laser pen safely. It provides them with exercise and mental stimulation. Plus, let’s be honest, it also provides plenty of entertainment for us seeing them go totally wild over the red dot. It’s a win, win all round.