Red vs Green. The Great Cat Laser Debate

Introduction

It’s a common sight – a cat intently watching a little red dot on the wall, floor, or furniture, body tensed and ready to pounce. The dot darts around and kitty leaps after it, attacking the elusive prey. Of course, the dot is produced by a handheld laser pointer, much to the amusement of the human holding the device. This game of chasing an ethereal laser beam has become a beloved activity for cat owners. The appeal is understandable – cats seem enthralled and energized by stalking, pouncing on, and attempting to capture the moving red dot. It’s an easy way to engage cats in predatory play. However, despite its popularity, the use of laser pointers for feline entertainment remains controversial among cat experts and guardians.

History of Cat Lasers

Laser pointers first emerged in the 1960s but did not become widely available to consumers until the 1980s (https://www.quora.com/When-were-laser-pointers-invented-and-first-used-in-classrooms-How-long-did-it-take-before-they-were-used-as-cat-toys). Originally created for use in classrooms and presentations, people soon discovered that cats loved to chase the focused red laser beams. The exact origins of shining laser pointers for cats to chase are unclear, but the activity grew in popularity in the 1990s once the devices became inexpensive and common household items.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, laser pointers had become a popular cat toy and tool for stimulating felines. The low-cost handheld devices allowed cat owners to engage their pets in interactive play by moving the laser beam around for them to chase and pounce on. The laser provided a source of exercise and enrichment for indoor cats. While the origins of cat laser play are uncertain, it clearly emerged as a beloved form of playtime once laser pointers became readily available to the public in the 1980s and 90s.

Why Cats Love to Chase Lasers

Cats love to chase laser pointers because of their natural instinct to hunt prey coupled with the stimulating activity it provides. When cats see a laser pointer, their vision and instincts kick in, making them want to chase, hunt, and pounce on the mysterious red dot much like they would stalk real prey [1]. The laser provides great mental stimulation and exercise for cats by triggering their prey drive.

Chasing a laser pointer satisfies a cat’s innate desire to hunt. Cats are natural predators with instincts that drive them to chase anything that moves. When they see the laser beam dart around, their eyes follow it intently and their hunt response is activated. They cannot resist the urge to run after it. It is an outlet for their energy and hunting behavior [2]. Though they don’t actually catch anything, the movement and pursuit itself is rewarding and fulfilling to their inner hunter.

In addition to being mentally stimulating, chasing a laser pointer provides good exercise for cats. As owners move the laser around, cats will run and jump as they follow it. This type of vigorous play and activity meets their needs for an active lifestyle. It is an engaging way to interact with their environment and burn energy in a confined space, keeping cats in good physical shape. The laser gives them a fun way to be active.

Red vs. Green Lasers for Cats

When it comes to cat lasers, there are two main color options – red and green. Red lasers operate at a wavelength of 650nm, while green lasers emit light at 532nm. There are some key differences between these laser pointer colors when it comes to feline vision and safety.

In terms of visibility, cats can see both red and green lasers quite well. However, according to laser pointer forums, red lasers tend to stand out more to cats and provoke a stronger chasing instinct. This may be because a cat’s vision peaks in the middle of the red spectrum. So for creating the most vibrant and exciting chase, red laser pointers have an advantage.

When it comes to safety, green lasers have more potential to cause eye damage compared to red. As explained on Quora, green laser light focuses more tightly and intensely in the eye, increasing the risk of retinal damage if shone directly into a cat’s eyes. Red lasers can still cause issues if improperly used, but green poses more of a hazard. For safe play, laser pointers should always be carefully directed away from faces and eyes.

Overall, red laser pointers tend to create more vibrant chase scenes for cats, while green poses slightly higher risks if misused. When shopping for cat lasers, red models around 650nm are a good option for exciting yet safer interactive play.

Best Practices for Laser Playtime

When using laser pointers for playtime with cats, it’s important to follow some best practices to keep your cat safe and having fun. Here are some recommendations for frequency, duration, and safety when playing with laser pointers:

You’ll want to limit laser play sessions to about 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day. Any longer and your cat may become obsessed and frustrated trying to catch the impossible prey. Keeping playtime brief prevents issues like laser pointer syndrome.

Make sure to end each session by redirecting your cat’s attention to a toy they can physically catch, like a stuffed mouse or ball with feathers. Allowing them to “catch” something rewards their hunting instincts.

Never point a laser directly in your cat’s eyes, as this can cause damage. Keep laser pointers aimed below eye level. Also avoid letting your cat jump or climb to swat at a high laser dot, which could lead to falls.

Put laser pointers away when playtime is over, rather than leaving them lying around to tempt unsupervised play. Store out of reach of kids as well.

Outdoors, never use laser pointers around roads or other unsafe areas. Indoors, make sure your cat has ample open space to chase the laser dot, avoiding furniture they could knock over or crash into.

With some common sense safety measures, laser pointers can provide great interactive exercise for indoor cats. Just be sure to follow frequency and duration best practices to prevent obsession.

Fun Laser Pointer Toys for Cats

When looking for a fun interactive laser toy for your cat, there are some great options to consider. The Sofolor Automatic Cat Laser Toys is a motion-activated toy that shines a random laser pattern for your cat to chase. It has a rechargeable battery that allows for silent operation and automatic shut-off after 15 minutes of playtime. The laser pattern covers a wide area to keep your cat entertained.

The Valonii Rechargeable Motion Activated Cat Laser Toy is another fun hands-free option. It can run for 8+ hours on a single charge and has 360 degree coverage. The random laser pattern keeps cats engaged and active. This toy allows cat owners to relax while providing cats with needed stimulation and exercise.

When shopping for an interactive cat laser, look for toys that have automatic shut-off features, motion-activation, and random laser patterns to keep your cat challenged and entertained.

Other Fun Interactive Cat Toys

While laser pointers can provide great enrichment for cats, it’s important to also provide a variety of other interactive toys to prevent boredom. Some excellent alternatives to lasers include:

Feathery toys – Cats love batting, pouncing, and chasing after feathery toys that mimic prey. Good options include teasers on a string or pole for the human to control the movement. The feathers appeal to a cat’s natural hunting instincts. Popular picks are the Da Bird Feather Toy and the GoCat Cat Feather Toy.

Light-up toys – Toys with lights and sounds grab a cat’s attention and spark their prey drive. Try the FroliCat Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy that shines a random light pattern for cats to chase. Or the PetFusion Ambush Interactive Electronic Motion Cat Toy that rolls and flashes.

Treat dispensing toys – These provide mental stimulation as cats bat and roll them around to get treats to fall out. The Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Cat Toy Mimic feeds cats’ natural foraging behavior. Other options are ball-shaped treat toys like the PetSafe SlimCat Ball.

When supplementing laser play with other interactive toys, rotate them out to keep things exciting for kitty. Ensure the toys allow the cat to mimic hunting behaviors for a rewarding playtime.

Training Cats to Play Without Lasers

Laser pointers can be addicting for cats, so it’s important to teach them to play with other toys as well. If your cat is obsessed with chasing lasers, there are some tips for redirecting that fixation:

Use food puzzles like treat balls or hidden feeding toys to engage their natural hunting instincts in a different way (1). This activates their brain and body without dependency on humans pointing lasers.

Try introducing new interactive toys like feathers on strings, crinkle balls, or motorized mice for them to chase and kick. Rotating a variety of toys keeps things interesting.

Limit laser pointer playtime to short bursts of 5 minutes or less. Quit before your cat gets overstimulated or fixated. And make sure laser play is just one of many games in their routine.

Pay attention to cues when your cat loses interest in the laser. End the game before frustration sets in if the dot becomes too difficult to catch.

Never leave a laser pointer on so your cat can “catch” it. The inability to ever capture it can lead to obsessive searching behavior. Always keep lasers put away securely.

With time and redirection, you can teach your cat to enjoy a range of playtime activities, not just laser chasing. The key is being attentive to their engagement and providing positive reinforcement with other rewarding games and toys (2).

Outdoor Safety with Cat Lasers

Pointing a laser outdoors, especially at night, can be extremely dangerous if not done properly. The powerful beam of a cat laser pointer can travel long distances and flash aircraft pilots. This is why there are legal restrictions on outdoor laser use.

According to the FDA, pointing a laser beam in navigable airspace or at an aircraft is a federal crime in the U.S. Laser pointers should never intentionally be aimed up at aircraft, as it can cause temporary flash blindness and afterimages that impair a pilot’s vision.

Under U.S. federal law, it’s illegal to point handheld lasers at aircraft, or any moving vehicle. The FDA restricts outdoor use of lasers above 5 milliwatts. Laser shows and displays used outdoors have additional requirements. Many states also prohibit minors under 18 from possessing laser pointers.

The safest way to play with cat lasers outdoors is to keep the beam low and avoid flashing at buildings, vehicles, aircraft and people’s eyes. Use common sense and be responsible when playing with laser pointers.

Conclusion

In summary, most cats love chasing laser pointers because of their natural prey drive and instinct to hunt. Red laser pointers tend to be more visible and exciting to cats compared to green ones. Laser playtime can be a fun form of exercise and stimulation for cats, but should be used in moderation. Cats can become obsessed and frustrated with laser pointers if overused. It’s important to use laser pointers safely by avoiding cats’ eyes and finishing each play session with a real toy “catch.” Good cat parents will mix up their feline’s playtime with a variety of interactive toys to keep them engaged and prevent boredom.

The key takeaway for cat owners is that laser pointers make excellent supplemental toys when used properly, but shouldn’t be relied on as a cat’s only form of play. Rotate a diversity of toys to keep your cat’s prey drive satisfied. Most importantly, always put the laser away after 5-10 minutes of playtime and let your cat “win” with a treat or toy they can physically catch at the end. This will prevent obsessive behaviors and keep laser time positive.

Scroll to Top