I recently published a review of the FroliCat Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy, expounding my delight with this device. And I was delighted, until I read this beautifully succinct article by Dr. Marty Becker on VetStreet.com. The basic summary is that Dr. Becker believes that, because laser pointer play includes the “chase” and no satisfying “catch”, it can sort of mess with some cats’ brains. Dr. Becker’s conclusion is that some cats will be unaffected by this type of play but others might develop compulsive behaviors (including self-harming ones) or become destruction. This jives pretty well with my understanding of some dogs’ reactions to laser pointers.
I have never heard of a cat developing compulsive or destructive behaviors following laser pointer play, but I have heard them about dogs. Since most dogs have less of a prey drive than cats (because cats are ambush predators and dogs are…well, their prey drive really depends on what type of dog you have: herding, sporting, toy, hound, etc.), are laser pointers more or less likely to make them crazy? Are owners less likely to attribute laser pointer play to a behavior problem in their cat because laser pointer play is so accepted for cats? Do dogs cause more damage with compulsive/destructive behaviors because of their sheer size, so more owners seek professional help for them?
I think these are all very interesting questions for which I don’t have the answers. In the mean time, however, I’m going to reduce my cats’ laser pointer play time and replace it with playtime with a wand toy, fake mice or jingle balls. After all, I can be almost as lazy when my cat and I play with a wand toy as a laser pointer!