Are Laser Pointers Ok for Cats?

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While they may seem like a fun toy, laser pointers should not be used when playing with cats.​ If you have spent any time looking at cat toys, chances are you've seen laser pointers. These are usually small handheld devices that emit a small red dot. They can be pointed at walls or the floor for cats to chase. Though laser pointers are sold as cat toys, they are actually dangerous.

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Cats have different playstyles. Laser pointers might sound like a fun way to play with cats. But, they have the potential to be stressful and harmful to a cat's health.

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Laser pointers can injure a cat's eyes

It's best to avoid using laser lights with your cat. The type of light they omit can be hazardous to them. Some cats chase the red dot and seem to enjoy these types of laser pointer games. But the laser beam is dangerous if it shines in a human or pet's eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that if it's a strong enough laser pointer, the red light can cause retina injuries and lead to temporary or permanent vision loss.

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Laser pointers are dangerous and not intended to be used as toys. It's very easy to accidentally shine the pointer in your cat's eye — even though cat owners might not intend to directly point it at them.

Laser pointers are frustrating for cats

Even though the moving light of a laser pointer can encourage cats to get more exercise, they can also be very frustrating to them. These toys can tap into a cat's natural hunting instincts and prey drive. However, they do so in a way that isn't very productive or rewarding for them. Cats can't actually "catch" the laser pointer's red dot. Therefore, they can become increasingly stressed, anxious, and frustrated with the game.

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Some cat owners credit these toys for tiring their cats out and making them easier to live with. Yet this exhaustion is often the cat shutting down. Cats love to chase and pounce, but when they can't catch the light dot, they end up getting frustrated. The jerky movements of the light can also lead to cats running into walls and furniture — making laser pointers bad news for kitty playtime.

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Let your cat win while playing

Instead of using laser pointers during cat playtime, it's much better to engage your cat to play with cat toys that allow them to win. They should be able to catch the toys they chase. Physical and interactive playtime is important for your cat's mental and physical health — but the play should also be productive.

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Fishing pole-style wand toys allow for interactive playtime. Give your cat the chance to see, touch, and catch the toy during playtime. This will help keep your cat engaged in playing and reduce their frustration with the game.

The importance of mental stimulation for cats

Enrichment and mental stimulation for indoor cats are important. Play is a great way to tap into your cat's natural desires. However, not all play and enrichment are created equally. Play can encourage physical activity which cats need to stay healthy. Interactive playtime is a great way for cats and their people to bond together. A cat who is getting enough stimulation and enrichment is less likely to display unwanted behaviors in the home — like eliminating outside the litterbox and scratching.

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Try different toys and games which channel your cat's natural instincts. Many cats enjoy puzzles or other toys that are treat and food dispensing. Interactive toys such as wands can also channel these cat instincts.

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The bottom line

Laser pointers for cats might seem like a fun idea when you see them in the toy aisle in your local pet store. But it's best to avoid letting your cat play with them. Laser pointers can lead to severe injuries to a cat's eyes. They can also be frustrating and stressful for cats, because they can't "win". Instead of laser pointers, select cat toys that your cat will be able to pounce at and catch while playing. This creates a safer and more satisfying playtime for you and your cat.

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