Do Lasers Encourage Play or Trigger Obsessive Behavior? How Different Cats React

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Photo by Dr. Karin Kanofsky

Information is based on the latest veterinary research.

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Hello, this is Dr. Karin. Read my bio, get to know me more, and meet his five cheerful cats: Clutch, Cyril, Alex, Zelda, and Zazzles.

One of the most difficult aspects of caring for an indoor cat is making sure they have enough exercise, contentment, and stimulation in their lives. While it’s easy to grab a leash and take your dog out to the beach or park, not all cats are suited to the harness lifestyle. One popular choice is a laser pointer, and it’s easy to see why.

With minimal effort on my part, I was able to get the cat running upstairs, upstairs, on the bed, and from the walls. Even Cyril, famous for his dedication to a life lived horizontally, cannot resist the flickering charm of that elusive red dot. But after reading about how lasers can harm dogs, I started to worry about Alex the ginger ninja.

Why do cats love laser toys?

Most modern domestic cats aren’t focused on hunting creatures and are more interested in creature comforts, but they’re not that far removed from their wild and free-roaming relatives. Not. Deep within its lazy exterior, a lion’s hunting instinct and desire for prey are buried, just waiting to be triggered by a fast-moving wild beast. When the cats see the laser’s twitching movements, their instincts take over and they quickly find themselves unable to resist chasing it.

The weird thing about this cat and…dot game is that you can never catch it, so you think you’ll eventually get bored of it. But as most cat parents (myself included) will tell you, every time the laser is taken out of the draw, the cat seems just as interested as the last time, and dozens of times before that. In particular, when Zelda hears the sound of a laser being brought out of its hiding place, she sheds her regal and calm demeanor and transforms into a cheerful, energetic they want that this When they finally catch their prey? Or do they just enjoy the chase?

Unfortunately, this is something that only cats can understand, so for now, it’s up to you to determine whether laser toys are simply an appealing way to get your cat to play and burn calories, or if they’re a potential source of energy. In order to do so, we must use the information that we know. Frustration, anxiety, unhealthy obsessions.

Laser safety notice:

Do not aim the laser directly at your face or eyes. This applies to cats and all other animal species, including humans. For more information about laser pointer safety, please visit click here.

laser eyes alex
laser eyes alex

When the game gets addicting

laser pointer syndromeThis is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that is also observed in our dog friends, who become transfixed by the rapid movements of the laser toy and are unable to relax. Unable to complete the pursuit, they are constantly on alert for the “escaped” and in a state of tension. This hasn’t always been a particular concern for me, but it made me wonder when I was playing with my cat. It wasn’t until Alex joined our cat family that I started to worry.

At first, like all cats, Alex loves the fast-paced game of chasing the laser pointer, running frantically around the house, chasing it up and down the stairs, and over the cat tree. I did it. Then I started noticing that he became obsessed with things with reflective surfaces that flickered on walls and doors, watches, cutlery, even reflections from metal door handles. Every night, Alex sits outside his bedroom, waiting for the moment when the light from the bathroom just hits the door handle and casts a shimmering light across the landing wall. This flash lasts only a moment, a second or two at most, but he waits for it every night. That’s when I started getting anxious.

How can I fix it?

The obvious solution was to just ditch the laser and give up cold turkey. That’s exactly what I did. However, this did not stop Alex’s mild chasing behavior. He was as fascinated as ever by flickering lights and shiny surfaces. He opened Pandora’s shiny box, but he didn’t know how to close it.

Don’t get me wrong, Alex was fine. He wasn’t stressed, he wasn’t forever trapped in tense anticipation, but he spent at least an hour or two each night just waiting for a fleeting glimpse of the quarry he’d never catch. What I was going through worried me. Hunting never ends with the satisfaction of catching something. Or can it?

A plan began to take shape in my head and I came up with possible ways to finish off Alex’s unfinished business. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was worth a try.

Step 1 – Buy a new laser toy

It might be a bit like buying booze for an alcoholic, but cold turkey didn’t work, so I wanted to try weaning him off.

Step 2 – Introducing new playable toys

Interestingly, the laser toy I purchased came with a bonus feathery mouse.

Step 3 – Start with the laser and end with the toy

My plan was to end the game with a physical reward and end all pursuit efforts by capturing something that Alex could actually grab, kick, and bite.

I had to time the laser to turn off the moment he grabbed the toy, but I was up for the challenge. But will it work?

Master Alex’s Reeducation

It takes some trial and error, but it turns out Alex isn’t as excited about the new toy as I expected. His best friend Cyril, on the other hand, was very interested. We found out that Alex was more interested in food, so instead of toys, he aimed the laser at a small pile of his favorite treats. His attention was quickly focused on the food and the laser was quickly forgotten.

In both cases, I was very pleased to see that Alex and Cyril didn’t start looking for the elusive little dot when they focused on the treat at the end of the laser game, even though they usually stay high . Alert and waiting to move again. I don’t expect this to completely eliminate Alex’s interest in all things shiny, but my first attempt went better than I expected, so I’m optimistic that I can change the way he views lasers. I am.

Alex doesn't have to look for food.
Alex doesn’t have to look for food…

Are laser toys a bad idea?

Not always, but in many cases, in fact, providing an outlet for their rarely used hunting instincts can be one of the best ways to turn a sedentary cat into a ferocious cat. However, just as some humans cannot drink, gamble, or shop without becoming addicted, certain cats are also more prone to becoming addicted. I think there is. laser pointer syndrome,something researcher I started exploring. In a proposal similar to my method, others We proposed a combination with laser play. clicker traininggive the cat a visible reward at the end of the game.

Early research suggests that obsession with laser toys is more likely to occur in cats under 2 years of age, which matches Alex’s situation. We obviously wish we had known about this potential danger when we first introduced lasers four years ago, but as veterinarians we are always learning.

And I hope my experience with Alex helps others avoid the same problem. If you want to introduce your cat to the thrill of chasing lasers, make sure you can give the chase a satisfying conclusion.

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