Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Published Sep. 22, 2021

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.

Featured Image:

Tiffany Paul, DVM


Tiffany Paul, DVM


Dr. Paul graduated from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2005. She has practiced small animal medicine happily...

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