Kittens and cats love to play, but much of their behavior is about stalking and killing prey. For those owners who have found playing a game with them can be dangerous when their claws and fangs are involved, moving a laser around the room for them to chase can be a fun way to interact without scratches or bite marks. A feline will chase a laser, they will pounce from hiding, and they may even try to eat it. It can be a bad game for them, and there is a good reason for it.
When a cat sees a laser point on moving around, the color means nothing to them. They have many more rods in their eyes than cones, and they are observing the movement instead of the color. Their brains believe it is a small animal, and they are hardwired to chase because it is trying to run or hide from them. Food is their main thought, and that is why they begin to chase and pounce.
It is all fun and games until the cat becomes frustrated, and that is where the game can become a behavioral issue. Even cats that do not need to hunt for their food will recognize prey, but they can become frustrated when they are constantly denied the opportunity to kill and eat. The cat is unaware the laser is just a projection of light, and they do not realize they will never be able to eat it. Their predatory cycle has begun, and their lack of ability can turn into anger when the game goes on too long.
A frustrated cat can exhibit behavior that may shock their humans, and they can be quite destructive or aggressive. When they realize they will never catch that laser, they could turn to other prey. Their human is right there, and biting or scratching when they pounce on a hand or foot could be just one of the more mild aggressive outcomes. Furniture could also suffer as the feline takes their aggression out as destruction with their claws raking table and chair legs.
Humans generally do not like to lose at any game or competition they enter, and they need to realize cats have the same feeling. Their failure to capture, kill and eat the laser prey can be alleviated with a treat. It will allow them to feel they have won, and it can diminish or dissolve their frustration. That will stop them from exhibiting bad behavior.
One more way to help cats get past their frustration when it comes to chasing a laser is to provide them with other toys, and they should be suitable ones for the age and abilities of the cat. Being able to feel they are superior to even a small stuffed animal will keep them ready for the next game they can win.
While using a laser can be a fun way to entertain cats and humans, there is one important safety factor that should be addressed. Even a small laser can be dangerous when it shines into the eyes of cats or people, so it should never be pointed directly at any person or cat.