Cost: about $20 at online retailers and in most pet stores
Available: Chewy.com* and other online retailers; most pet stores
Length of ownership: 1+ year
[Edit 11/06/2014: Please see my response to Dr. Marty Becker’s article on the safety of laser pointer toys for cats here. Out of concern for my cats’ mental health, I am reducing the frequency of their laser pointer play time and using wand toys/jingle balls/fake mice instead.)
The Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy is a robotic laser toy that will whirl around a laser dot for your kitties to chase for 15 minutes (it can also be used as a regular, although bulkier, laser pointer). I found this on clearance at a pet store for $10 and purchased it impulsively. Upon reflection, I have NO idea why this item was put on clearance because it is AWESOME! I mean, it’s a pretty basic idea – entertain your cat for 15 minutes with as much effort as it takes to push a button – so what could go wrong?
The Bolt toy takes 4 AA batteries, which weren’t included but have lasted over a year for me. The robotic part of this toy works by using a rotating mirror to reflect the laser point around the room. The tilt of the mirror is adjustable, which I found useful if I put the Bolt toy on a table vs. the floor. The best results that I’ve had with this toy, however, came when I put the toy in our attic crawl space (which I converted to a secret cat lair). Because the ceiling is so low, the laser point is never out of reach for my cats, whereas in a regular room, the laser point will inevitably go somewhere the cats can’t reach. This isn’t a big problem but occasionally, my cats would become disinterested in the Bolt toy if the laser point was out of reach for too long.
As much as my old cats enjoy the Bolt toy, this toy was heaven-sent when I fostered kittens and a momma cat. The kittens were endlessly amused with this toy and I was likewise entertained with their antics. After the kittens left for adoption, the momma cat had bouts of loud nocturnal activity. I turned on the Bolt toy before we went to bed and if she woke me up in the middle of the night to wear her out so that she’d sleep when we slept.
Even though I got this toy a half-price, I think it’s definitely worth $20 for cat owners! The toy does make some noise as it rotates around but didn’t keep me awake at night or similar. I would advise keep this toy away from dogs when not in use because my dog chomped on the top, which made the mirror tilt-adjustment a little wonky. (I don’t consider this a fault of the toy – it’s obviously not meant to be a chew toy!)
The FroliCat company says that this is a “pet toy”, suggesting that it can be used with dogs and guinea pigs and etc. I don’t have a guinea pig or etc. but I avoid using this toy with my dogs. I’ve heard a couple horror stories from veterinary behaviorists of dogs who developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) behavior in association with laser pointer play. I have no idea if laser pointers cause or contribute to OCD in dogs! However, the dogs required extensive psychopharmaceuticals and behavioral therapy to overcome their OCD behaviors in these stories. Personally, I’d rather not risk it for my dogs! They have plenty of other toys anyway…
*I regularly use Chewy.com to order dog and cat food as well as other pet supplies. I’m not sponsored by this company in any way. I LOVE them because they are affordable, have great customer service and fast shipping.