The Real Reason Why Cats Love Playing With Lasers

Every cat owner knows the struggle of figuring out the perfect toy for their furry feline, which oftentimes results in an overwhelming collection of feather teasers, catnip balls, tassels, and every other toy you can think of. But when it comes down to it, there's one thing that cats will drop everything to play with — a laser pointer.

One of the easiest things to buy and for a fraction of the price of other cat toys, a laser pointer can keep your companion occupied for hours on end. And, according to Hill's Pet Nutrition, this toy is the perfect opportunity to get your cat — especially if it's an indoor cat — moving and when used appropriately, it can serve as a great cardio activity.

But laser pointers can also be unsafe if not used properly. For example, you need to be wary of not shining the light near your cat's eyes as it can lead to permanent eye damage (via Cat Health). You should also be aware of your surroundings, and make sure that you play with your cat in an open space when using a laser pointer so they don't injure themselves.

This is because a laser pointer can trigger a natural instinct within cats which can prevent them from paying attention to their surroundings.

You should let your cat catch the light of a laser pointer

The instinct in question is the prey drive, which is why cats adore toys like feather teasers and tassels. When a small object is perceived to be moving, a cat instinctively believes it's a small creature like a bug. "The laser simulates the movement of prey so it attracts the cat's attention, and gets the cat to chase and pounce on it," animal behaviour specialist Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil told How Stuff Works.

Laser pointers can satisfy the predatory urge for cats, especially those who live indoors. And when using a pointer, you should always let your cat perceive that they've caught it to help them build confidence, according to Pet MD. This is especially the case if you own a more sedentary cat, as they may lose interest quicker if they don't receive the satisfaction of catching their perceived prey. Pet MD also recommends that once they've "caught" it, to slowly move the light away from your cat as though their prey is escaping for even more play time.