Can cats work out the source of the laser pointer dot?

Can cats work out the source of the laser pointer dot? Some can and some can’t, would seem to the answer. The smart ginger tabby-and-white Maine Coon below did work it out and he is described as smart by his caregiver. He looks smart too. He is one of those Maine Coons that look like a wise old man. My research tells me that other cats have also worked this out but it did not stop them enjoying the hunt.

A smart Maine Coon. He is not described as a Maine Coon by his owner but his appearance is classic for this breed
A smart Maine Coon. He is not described as a Maine Coon by his owner but his appearance is classic for this breed. Image:
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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The owner says this about her intelligent looking and genuinely intelligent cat companion:

As I was playing with him with the laser pointer about a week ago, he happily chased the red dot over the floor as always. But when he sat down to look at me, he suddenly looked over to my hand where I held the pointer, then back to the red dot and my hand again. His enthusiasm for chasing the moving red dot was suddenly gone. As if he understood that it was I who made the dot move and that wasn’t as interesting for him as a red dot that’s kind of “magically” moving on its own. – All About Cats

Why should the discovery put him off chasing it? His hunting instincts made him chase that irresistible moving light dot. Most cats love laser pointers. But when he discovered that it was not real, he realised that it was not a prey animal which switched off his instinct to chase it! This seems farfetched and too intelligent for a domestic cat to me even though I dreamt up the reason.

The real reason for losing interest might not be linked to the discovery that it is controlled by his owner. He might simply have become bored with it which is the weakness of laser pointers: they can’t be caught and killed.

The best cat toys are those that can be caught and destroyed by a domestic cat i.e. shredded. The worst toys are probably hard plastic which can’t be ‘killed’. They’ll be interesting for a while but they have a limited ‘interest lifespan’.

RELATED: Do big cats play with laser pointers?

Can laser pointers harm cats?

Although I am sure that there are very few instances of laser pointers harming cats, it can happen. It might happen indirectly if a cat becomes obsessed with chasing the light dot (and they can) and runs into something.

And if, inadvertently, the laser pointer is directed at the eyes of a cat it could potentially cause eye damage. For that to happen the laser would have to go directly into the eye and impinge upon the retina. It has always been said that it is important to avoid shining a laser pointer directly into a cat’s eyes or any other animal and indeed a person’s.

In order to avoid boredom for the cat (sorry but I can’t help with the boredom endured by the cat’s owner) it’s probably better to combine laser playtime with home-made toys which can be physically captured and destroyed.

In fact, this method of play may extend the life of the laser pointer in terms of a cat being stimulated by it.

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1 thought on “Can cats work out the source of the laser pointer dot?”

  1. I’ve had several figure out I was the source of the red dot. Since my cats can go outside sometimes on a warm summer evening I take a beer and the pointer outside and let the cats chase it till they fall down. It’s a great way to exhaust them, they sleep all night. I can even have cat races as up to 10 will chase it at the same time. While I can’t herd cats the pointer can. For even more fun try using 2 pointers at once. Outside they have more room to run and they get fresh air.


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