Monday, March 10, 2014

Laser toys are a fun way to interact with cats, as long as they are used correctly

Play is a vital part of a cat's life, as it provides an outlet for mental stimulation, to burn off energy and to satisfy their hunting instincts.

Cats are easily amused. Quite often, they can be found using the most simple of things to play with, whether it be an inkpen, a crumpled wad of paper, a wine cork or an empty cardboard box.

There are plenty of toys on the market that are geared toward felines that can keep them happy, whether it be a teaser wand, a catnip toy, tiny furry toy mice, crinkle balls, (the list never ends), it's easy to mix things up a bit to provide variety.

Interacting with our cats is important, and ditto for ensuring that they get enough exercise each day. Play is a great way to achieve both things, and depending on your cat's play preferences, you can hone in on how you can both get the most out of that time together.

One popular toy — the laser light  — is a go-to for plenty of reasons: Cats love to chase that famous red dot endlessly, they get the stimulation that they need and yes, it can make it easy on us humans.

By and large, I think that laser toys are fine to use, though I have seen some cats get a little too stimulated and redirect their enthusiasm in a way that is unwanted. (Ditto for dogs – in fact I see that canines get too worked up and for that reason, I find laser toys inappropriate for them.)

There is a right way to use a laser toy with your cat, however, and by following a couple of simple rules, you can keep things fun, productive and keep your cat interested in this mode of play.

Simply moving the light across the floor enthusiastically to have your feline friend chase it and abruptly turn it off is terribly unsatisfying to them, and really, only offers part of the allure of the game.

It's good to remember that the light on these toys mimics prey — which is why cats like to chase them. When a feline is after prey, they have a reasonable expectation that at some point of them stalking, chasing and pouncing on the light, that they'll actually "catch" what they're after.

In order to facilitate this, choose an end point (like a bit of dry food or treats, or a toy like a furry mouse) and as you begin winding down a play session, hover over the end point and there, your cat will get the 'prize' that they've worked for. By doing that, you'll ensure that they'll want to participate in future play sessions with the laser, and that they'll get the physical and mental exercise that they need to be happy.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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