Part Three: The Bad and The Ugly
Now let's look at the dark side of laser pointers.
We can start by putting everything in perspective. Anyone who's had a cat behavior consultation from me (or seen My Cat From Hell) knows how nuts I am about the importance of play therapy in a cat’s life. For confidence building, a sense of bonding and routine, and expressing their core need to hunt, nothing works like a daily play session (not to mention the obvious cardiovascular and weight control benefits).
But so many cat guardians have related to me that they've had a rough time finding toys that their cats will focus intently on for the required 15 minutes (at least 15 minutes).
Then, one day, these beleaguered cat guardians discover that their play-finicky cat goes bonkers over a laser pointer. Great, right? What's the harm?
In one word – frustration.
Successful play therapy provides satisfaction on all levels of predation: not just stalking, but catching and "killing" as well. When the pointer is used as the sole toy, the cat never actually CATCHES anything. It may be amusing to us to watch them run around and around in circles, but remember, in the primitive cat mind, they live for the entire hunt, not just one aspect of it.
If they can't catch "the dot," and the dot is put away at your convenience, then there will be an “inappropriate victim” down the line: other cats in the house, or your ankles as you walk by. It’s like winding up a jack-in-the-box and expecting the top not to blow off. If used as the only toy in the cat's play life, the laser pointer can actually help promote further play aggression, and undo the benefits of play therapy.
So remember to use the laser appropriately: as the first phase in two-phase play therapy.
Now, here's The Ugly.
If you do use a laser, be careful NOT to shine it directly into the cat’s eyes; lasers can damage the sensitive retina and cause blindness. Also, be sure to supervise children when around the cat, and put the laser away in a safe place.
Even better, you can just use a small flashlight that has a very focused beam. It's much safer. And hey, you can even use it as a flashlight. (Right?)
I hope you found this series informative and fun. Happy hunting to you and your cat companions.