Who needs a streaming service when you have a cat? No period drama can compare with the entertainment of watching your cat get the post-litter box zoomies, swat at things that may or may not be there, attack your other pet’s tail, or go a little nuts while chasing a red dot. I mean, those gorgeous costumed people on your TV may not break several things in your home during the process of entertaining you like your feline friend does, but that’s okay. What is it about lasers that make your cat go a touch crazy and possibly leave a little collateral damage in the process?
Why Cats Are Attracted to Lasers
It’s no secret that cats like to hunt, which isn’t surprising, given that they descended from wild cats. In fact, the population of cats is originally thought to have spread around the world because ships had them on board to protect food stores from mice. Today’s domesticated cats continue to provide those mousing services for their humans, charging just the fee of some extra treats and prompt meal times.
Their hunting instincts make them especially attracted to the movement that lasers provide. The back and forth motion with intermittent pauses simulate what prey would be doing. It’s hard for cats to pass up the chance to chase that dot around. This playtime allows cats to take part in two of their favorite hunting-related activities: stalking and pouncing.
Benefits of Lasers
Many domesticated cats remain indoors at all times to keep them safe from cars, predators, people with bad intentions, diseases, and the risk of getting into poisonous substances. Other owners prefer indoor kitties to keep them from killing wild animals outside. Domestic cats have been known to kill birds, small mammals, and even reptiles. That can leave other wild animals with fewer food options and lead to fewer pollinators.
When cats remain indoors, it’s important to provide lots of stimulation, hunting alternatives, and exercise. Though they can seem aloof and entirely self-sufficient, they need their humans help to make life a little more playful and exciting.
The Central California SPCA explains, “Cats can become bored, but the simplest and healthiest answer to boredom is merely to play with them more. Even though they may not seem quite as playful as a dog, they still need enrichment!”
The enrichment cats get from laser play isn’t the only benefit. Running around after that red dot helps them release pent up energy, indulge their predatory instincts, and remain at a healthy weight. The mental stimulation is helpful, too, especially for our all-indoor feline friends.
Playing with your cat is also important to help you bond with them, and appropriate play makes them less likely to attack people as a means to release their energy.
Detriments of Lasers
One issue that can arise with lasers is that they don’t have the same reward that hunting ultimately provides: the chance to kill and eat. Some cats don’t care and can happily chase that dot around for a while. For others, it’s a problem.
To address this, you can have the laser point to a toy on the ground that the cat can “catch.” There are other options, as well.
The Ontario SPCA says, “Remember that it can be a frustrating experience for the cat to continually chase something he can never catch. Try adding a treat reward periodically where you point the laser, this will give the cat the satisfaction of getting something for all his efforts in chasing that red dot.”
Picking a Laser
So you’ve decided you want to buy a laser to play with your cat. Armed with knowledge of benefits and possible issues, you have several choices. You can start with a more basic laser to see how your cat feels about it. If the lack of “reward” doesn’t seem to be an issue for your furry friend, you can stick with that. You, of course, can also supplement the play with their favorite treats or with a favorite toy.
If you find that the lack of “kill and eat” is making the game less fun or a little upsetting for your cat, you can take it up a notch with a more stimulating laser. One that has treats and extra toys built in may be just the ticket. It’s important to watch how your cat responds to each to see if it’s the right fit.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are a few things to remember about laser play. Make sure you don’t shine the beam in your cat’s eyes. Be aware of whether or not the game is getting frustrating for your cat. You can address that with treats or additional rewards, but make sure your feline friend is still having fun and isn’t stressed out. Finally, thank your lucky stars that you have such an endearing and entertaining pet… and that you were smart enough to get fewer breakable decorations.
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