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Do cats know the red dot?

Why do cats like to chase lasers? It’s more than just a game to them

Are laser pointers safe for cats? Here’s what you should know

By Paige Cerulli January 6, 2023

Do you play laser tag with your cat? Then you’ve most likely spent hours watching your fur baby’s frantic scrambling after her nemesis — a tiny red dot. While it’s entertaining to watch your usually cool, calm, and collected cat race through your house after the laser beam, there are a few things you should be aware of during playtime. Why do cats chase lasers? And should you play with your cat using a laser pointer? We’ve consulted the experts, and here’s what they have to say.


  • Why do cats love lasers?
  • Are laser pointers good for cats?
  • Tips for successful laser playtime

Gray cat looking at a red laser on its paw

Why do cats love lasers?

Laser dots are colorful, vivid, and most importantly, they’re unpredictable and constantly in motion. If you watch a laser pointer, it almost seems to be alive because of the light’s vibrations and the movement of the pointer. There’s no predicting which way the laser will move, and when it does move, it can move rapidly.

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All of those qualities resemble the actions of the prey animals that your cat would hunt in the wild. According to Vet Street and Dr. Gary Landsberg of the North Toronto Animal Clinic, this resemblance to prey is particularly intriguing to cats. In fact, during a single day, your cat would naturally chase and possibly kill his prey eight to 10 times.

That’s a lot of hunting and pouncing, and just because your cat doesn’t depend on his hunting instincts to feed himself in your home doesn’t mean those instincts are gone. In fact, when you bring out the laser pointer, your cat may be reconnecting with his inner hunter, and then the chase is on.

Studio shot of black Bengal cat

Are laser pointers good for cats?

Laser pointers mimic your cat’s prey, including mice, bugs, and small birds. As a result, chasing a laser can help to satisfy your cat’s natural prey drive. This play gives your cat valuable physical exercise, and it can also help to prevent boredom.

But that doesn’t mean that laser pointers can’t be bad for cats. Used incorrectly, laser pointers can be dangerous and even potentially lead to injuries, especially if your cat is super enthusiastic when he plays with them.

The good news is that you play an important role in keeping your cat safe during these play sessions, and you can use laser pointers carefully to maximize your cat’s safety. PetMD recommends that you introduce the laser pointer gradually, especially if your cat is unfit and doesn’t often play. Start with short play sessions and then end them early to give your cat a little bit of exercise without getting him too tired or sore.

You’ve no doubt heard to never aim a laser pointer at anyone’s eyes, and that’s just as true for animals. Also remember that wherever you point the laser, your cat is likely to end up in that spot seconds later, so think carefully about how you’re using the laser. Avoid shining it on the top of stairwells, on bookshelves, up high against walls, and in any other area that could cause your cat to fall or otherwise be injured during his pursuit.

If you have multiple cats in your home, you’ll need to either have them in separate rooms or have multiple lasers to keep everyone safe during playtime. Enlist a family member’s help to handle the extra lasers, and let each cat lock onto a laser. Then, direct the lasers in opposite directions so the cats don’t collide with each other as they play.

When you use lasers appropriately, you will give your cat valuable exercise and potentially help him lose weight. Playing with a laser can help your cat feel more confident, and it might be the perfect way to help a new cat come out of his shell and explore his new home.

Cat staring at a red laser on the carpet

Tips for successful laser playtime

While most cats will be naturally intrigued by lasers and are more than happy to play with them, it’s important to keep your cat entertained and satisfied. Make sure that you let your cat “catch” the laser every now and then, just like he’d catch prey. That principle applies to any toy that your cat is playing with — if you don’t let your cat catch the toy now and again, he may get frustrated and not want to play at all.

There are tons of fun cat toys on the market, and you might go through dozens of them before you find one that your cat actually adores. Lasers, however, are super appealing to most cats. The small, handheld types are easy to use and compact, so you can tuck them away into a drawer or cabinet between play sessions.

With the ability to give your cat plenty of exercise, satisfy his natural prey instinct, and help keep him entertained, a laser pointer just might be the best cat toy you could ever buy — and possibly the one your cat enjoys more than the box it came in!

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Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Many cats enjoy chasing after red dots, also known as laser pointer projections, as a favorite pastime. So why do cats like lasers so much? Are laser pointers good or bad for cats?

There are many reasons cats go crazy for laser pointers. And it turns out, when used properly, lasers can actually be good for your cat.

Why Do Cats Like Lasers?

Cats are natural predators and often have a high prey drive—the instinctual drive to catch rodents, birds, and bugs.

It’s the reason your cat stares at small bugs crawling on the floor before pouncing on them or looks longingly into the yard at the birds at the birdfeeder. It is also the reason your outdoor cat may occasionally bring you “presents,” such as birds, lizards, or even small bunnies to leave on your doormat.

Are Lasers Bad for Cats?

You may have heard that laser pointers are not safe or are bad for cats. The truth is that you just need to make sure you are using the laser pointer in a safe manner that fulfills their hunting instinct and doesn’t cause stress.

Here are some guidelines for playing it safe while using a laser with your cat:

  • Don’t use the laser in a way that overworks your cat or allows them to hurt themselves. For example, if your cat is usually a couch potato, try starting slow.
  • Be careful where you aim the laser pointer. Never shine the laser directly in your cat’s eyes, and do not aim it at a spot high up on the wall. That can lead to injuries if your cat tries to jump higher than they should.
  • With laser pointers and any other chasing-type toys, you should let your cat catch them occasionally. This is important for several reasons, including building confidence. No one likes to play a game they can never win, and the same goes for your cat. Also, for more sedentary cats, they will likely lose interest quicker if they don’t catch the light.

How Can Laser Pointers Benefit Cats?

Laser pointers can be great for helping cats lose weight and mental stimulation. They can also help cats learn to play with each other while building their confidence.

Housecats can often lead a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to boredom, obesity, and aggression towards their housemates and humans. Obesity is one of the most frequently diagnosed problems in pets. Just like humans, pets need a proper diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

As pet parents, we can use our cats’ natural prey drive to help keep them mentally and physically healthy. To get your cat moving, a laser pointer can be a great tool that you can use in conjunction with a good diet.

Laser pointers can also be useful in getting cats to bond. For example, when trying to introduce two cats to each other, laser pointers can offer an effective distraction while the cats are in the same room.

Each cat should have their own laser pointer light to chase, and the lights should be moving in opposite directions. Until the cats know each other well, refrain from having them play together with the same light.

How to Use a Laser Pointer With Your Cat

Depending on the fitness level of your cat, you may want to start off slow.

  1. Start by aiming the laser pointer just a few feet away from your cat.
  2. Move it around in small, prey-like movements until you have your cat’s attention. Imagine a mouse running around on the floor. Sometimes it runs in a straight line, or into a corner, or back and forth. These laser pointer movements will likely catch your cat’s interest the quickest.
  3. Once your cat moves toward the light beam, move it again a few feet away. Remember to let your cat catch the light here and there.
  4. After your cat catches the light, let them study it for a little while, then slowly start moving it away as though the “prey” is escaping. The race will soon be on again.

Cats can have different degrees of prey drive. Many cats will chase the laser pointer at a high pace for several minutes. Some cats need more encouragement than others. If your cat does not seem interested or loses interest quickly, using the laser pointer in conjunction with catnip for a bit more excitement may help.

There are many types of lasers on the market—even some that are automated so your kitty can play when you are not at home.

What If My Cat Doesn’t Like Laser Pointers?

Not all cats like laser pointers; they may just not be that into chasing the light.

There are plenty of other interactive electronic toys to help get your cat moving, like remote-control mice. Your cat may prefer a teaser toy or wand toy with feathers that you can wave in the air to simulate a bird flying. There are even cat-safe toys that make bubbles for cats to chase!

You may need to try several different types of toys to see what your cat likes best. But don’t get discouraged if you are having trouble finding the right toy. There is always one toy that gets kitties moving for any budget.

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