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Dear Molly - Laser Light Play

I would like to know more about laser light play. I have read a couple of articles about them and how to use them properly. One article, however, does say that despite many owners knowing what they should do to fulfill the “kill” component of play they still do not do it. Plus, I am seeing more of this automated laser toy being promoted and purchased. More than anything I would like to know your thoughts on the use of laser light play, to spread the word on how to make proper use of it, and get some ideas on how to encourage client compliance. Thank you for being so informative and educational. Currently, I am learning about how to address feline behaviour concerns on our behaviour helpline as a volunteer with The Calgary Humane Society in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Dear Laser Light,

Thank you for tuning into Cat Talk Radio, and for doing such great volunteer work at the Calgary Humane Society!

I do not recommend laser lights for cats. The purpose of interactively playing with our cat is to simulate the predatory hunting sequence. This is important because in the wild, cats will spend six hours a day hunting. When we keep them indoors, and without the ability to perform those actions, cats store up a lot of excess energy. Pent-up energy leads to stress; stress leads to depression and behavior issues.

One of the biggest benefits of prey play is the serotonin boost that happens in a cat’s brain when he delivers the kill bite. Laser light play does not provide that opportunity. Some experts recommend giving the cat a treat during laser light play, but I do not feel that is enough. And the automatic laser light toys are even worse because there is no one there to give a treat. Serotonin deficiencies have been found as a common factor in cats who are acting aggressively, so everything we can do to increase it, benefits your cat.

Some people have asked me if exercise is a good benefit of laser light play, but cats don’t need an excess of exercise. They would get the same amount of exercise engaging in wand prey play. Cats need a minimum of two, 10-minute prey play sessions a day – with a wand toy. Because cats get bored of toys over time, I recommend people purchase several different types of wand toys (sisal mice, feathers, feathers+ crinkle paper, ribbons, etc.) I also recommend that wand toys be put up away, out of the cat’s reach, so they are novel and unique when brought out.

As far as client compliance, I find that when people understand why things work the way they do, they are more willing to act differently. However, people are generally lazy and will take the path of least resistance – or no path at all until there is a behavior issue. Bottom line: education is key, which is why the job you are doing at the Humane Society is so important.


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