My cat Yoda loves to chase a laser pointer light but recently I heard it might not be good for them. I think he's getting exercise from it and I'm careful not to shine it in his eyes. What do you recommend?
Dear Laser Play,
The laser pointer has been a favorite toy of cat owners for decades - probably because it's inexpensive and easy for people to do (it doesn't require a great deal of energy on the owner's part.) I agree, that laser play can help to exercise your cat, but Prey Play also gets your cat moving. I don't recommend using laser light as the only method of play. The problem with the laser light is that it can't simulate the full hunt-catch-kill sequence your cat needs. Yes, the laser fulfills the stare, stalk, pounce, and (maybe) catch components of hunting, but the cat doesn't ever get a kill bite. The kill bite is very important because it is what gives the cat satisfaction at the end of a hunt. The biting releases a boost of serotonin - a neurotransmitter - in the cat's brain which helps to regulate mood, sleep-wake cycle, level of arousal, and sensitivity to pain/stimuli. A deficit of serotonin may manifest as hyperactivity, aggression, hypersensitivity, restless sleep and other behavior issues. Laser play can lead to "shadow chasing" which is a form of repetitive compulsive behavior. If you insist on using a laser pointer, be sure to deliver a treat to you cat as he "catches" the light point and limit this type of play to once a week, while doing Prey Play at least once a day. Below is more information on how to do Prey Play: