Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Laser pointers aren’t necessarily bad for cats, but they can cause behavioral problems and health issues.

Mar 25, 2024By Monika Dimitrovska
are laser pointers bad for cats

Cats enjoy chasing after laser pointer projections because they’re natural predators. In other words, they have a high prey drive, hence why they chase red dots. But are laser pointers bad for cats? The short answer is no if used properly.

However, the long answer is more nuanced because they can hurt your feline in various ways, which we’ll discuss below, so let’s dive right in!

Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

cat observing
Image credit: Julian Hochgesang from Unsplash

Most cats like chasing red dots as much as they like their catnip, and if you have a cat, you’re probably aware of this. That’s why owners choose laser pointers as the primary source of entertainment for their indoor cats.

Laser pointers can prevent boredom in cats, especially indoor-only felines. They also help them sharpen their hunting skills and stay in shape. So, if your cat shows signs of obesity, we suggest incorporating laser pointers into their playtime. However, remember that you shouldn’t abuse the use of laser pointers. Overuse can cause abnormal repetitive behaviors and harm your furry friend. As you know, lasers emit a strong beam of light, which can hurt your cat’s eyes if pointed directly at them by accident.

The United States Food and Drug Administration explains that the eye can focus a laser beam to a super small, intense spot on the retina, resulting in a burn or blind spot. Therefore, we suggest purchasing a laser pointer with a low-power output from a local pet store, like the ones usually found in toys for kids.

cat paws christmas lights
Image credit: Thalia Ruiz from Unsplash

As for the behavioral problems, remember that playing with laser pointers too often can result in frustration, aggression, over-grooming, and other signs of feline anxiety.

Note: A change in grooming habits is also one of the signs of disease in cats, so if you notice this change in behavior, schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible.

As we already mentioned, cats love to hunt and bring “gifts” to their owners. It’s one of many strange cat behaviors we try to decode. Even the most affectionate cat breeds demonstrate this behavior at times.

However, when there’s no reward at the end, like in the case of chasing red dots, they can end up frustrated. You can prevent this by pointing the laser at a physical object that your cat can “catch.” We also suggest giving them their favorite toy or a treat when playtime is over.

Finally, read your cat’s body language for signs of tiredness and take a break if needed. Indoor cats need daily exercise, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Playing with your cat a few times a day for 15 minutes per session is enough.

Is it OK for Your Cat to Play With a Laser?

cat playing
Image credit: MonikaDesigns from Pixabay

It’s okay to play with your cat with a laser as long as you’re doing it right. Here’s a list of helpful tips:

  • If your cat is sedentary or doesn’t like chasing anything because they’re a senior cat, start slow.
  • Never point the laser directly in your feline’s eyes or at a spot high up on the wall. You can either hurt their eyes or make them jump higher than they should.
  • Let your furry friend “catch” the red dot occasionally or point it to a physical item they can obtain. This can help increase your cat’s confidence over time.
  • Different cat breeds have different levels of prey drive. Some will chase the red dot at a high pace for a few minutes, while others need more encouragement. If your feline ignores the red dot or loses interest quickly, use the laser pointer with catnip for motivation because cats love catnip!

Can Laser Pointers Give Cats Anxiety?

cat laying cat bed
Image credit: photosforyou from Pixabay

Cats can’t “catch” the red dot, so they can’t satisfy their predatory appetite (yes, they’re ferocious predators), resulting in dissatisfaction, aggression toward you or another pet.

We’re not saying don’t use a laser pointer at all. Just use the right kind properly.

What is an Alternative to a Laser Pointer for Cats?

two kittens playing together
Image credit: Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

Cats don’t have nine lives, and they certainly don’t have another set of eyes lying around waiting to be used. Therefore, if you want to play safe, literally, replace the laser pointer with less dangerous ideas like interactive toys, feather wands, and balls.

Interactive Toys

Select toys that imitate prey movements for interactive play. For instance, battery-operated toys with independent movement can entice your cat to engage in chasing and pouncing activities.

If you have a young cat that hasn’t calmed down yet (kittens calm down at 6-12 months of age), interactive toys can help keep them amused.

Feather Wands

Encourage your cat’s hunting instincts with feather wands or fishing pole toys featuring feathers at the end. Move the feather in different directions, enabling your cat to stalk and capture it.

Ping Pong Balls or Cat Balls

Captivate your cat’s interest with lightweight balls that produce noise. Roll them on the floor or toss them for your cat to pursue and play with.

If your cat doesn’t show interest in these toys, try walking them outside. There aren’t dog parks for cats, but you can still walk your feline on a leash around the neighborhood.


cat staring
Image credit: Elvira Visser from Unsplash

Laser pointers can help these solitary pets stay in shape, physically and mentally. They can also help cats become more confident in their hunting skills. However, we shouldn’t use them too often, and we should definitely use the right kind in the right manner.

If you don’t want to risk it, ditch the laser pointer and keep your feline active in less dangerous ways. Owning a cat has benefits for your health as well, so make sure you return the favor by taking good care of your furry friend.

Monika Dimitrovska
By Monika Dimitrovska

Monika is a pet enthusiast and seasoned copywriter with a tech degree. She loves writing, but her heart belongs to her two mixed dogs, Buba and Bono, a mother-son duo. Bono’s siblings found loving homes, sparking Monika’s advocacy for neutering and deepening her curiosity about animal care.

But Monika’s pet family doesn’t end there. She also has two cockatiels and two rescue cats, proving her home is a haven for creatures big and small.