You probably know by now that if you use a laser pointer around a cat, they’re highly likely to start chasing the red dot. It’s such established behavior that it frequently appears in the media, from cartoons to hilarious home videos. Why exactly do cats act this way around laser pointers, though?
It represents prey
Pet cats that are cared for by their owners never have to work hard for their food. There’s always something for them to eat at mealtimes, making their lives much easier than they could be. These animals are predators, though, and it’s in their genes to hunt for prey. That’s why cats will sometimes bring mice, birds, and other small animals home that they’ve caught outside. It’s also why they go wild when there’s a laser pointer around. When they see that red dot zooming from one spot to another, they interpret it as a creature trying to run and hide. That kicks in their predatory instincts, prompting them to try to hunt and pounce on it. They don’t realize that they’re just chasing a dot on the wall because they’re running on auto-pilot at this point.
It’s impossible to ignore
A cat’s eyes don’t function the same as a human’s. The retinas of the former have more rod cells, while the latter has more cone cells. What this essentially means is that humans have a more colorful view of the world, and cats can pick up the slightest movements far better. That makes a laser pointer impossible for them to ignore. Even if the dot is moving in a cat’s peripheral vision, it’s too prominent for them to overlook. They’re hardwired to pick up on the slightest movements, so laser pointers incite the need to strike.
Is it wrong to use a laser pointer?
Given how cats react with laser pointers, some people wonder whether it’s actually a good idea to use these devices around your pet. After all, you’re essentially teasing the animal with something that it wants but can never have. Although a cat may seem to be enjoying themselves, they’re not doing this as a form of play. Their predatory instincts are inspiring them to act, and failure to catch anything may cause frustration and disappointment.
What to do if it inspires bad behavior?
There’s always a risk with laser pointers that your pet may begin to behave aggressively and be destructive. If that’s the case, you should probably re-evaluate using this device around the animal. As fun as it may be to watch the cat try and catch their “prey,” you don’t want them destroying your house when they fail to do so. Try switching to other toys that allow them to use the same instincts but offer a more rewarding experience overall.
Playtime is good for your cat, but you need to remember they may interpret it differently from you. What seems like harmless fun to you may be more serious to them. So, you need to ensure the experience is as fulfilling and free of teasing as possible.