Your cat, which has been lazily looking out the window all day, notices the bright red dot zigzagging across the floor. Her eyes track the dot, and her ears prick forward.
Suddenly she pounces, chasing the elusive light as it runs across the floor, up the wall, to the door. She sprints, jumps, hits the wall, and knocks down objects in the process. She is dying to get her paws on that restless dot.
This fruitless chase, and the great lengths your cat will go to capture the dot, is sure to keep you amused, it’s actually hard to tell who’s having more fun—you or the cat. But it also begs the question: Why do cats chase lasers?
For many of us, the sight of cats pointlessly racing to catch a dot of light may look funny and downright stupid. This makes videos of such sessions quite popular on the Internet, with more than 140,000 videos uploaded on YouTube alone and more than two million views to boast of.
For cats, however, it’s actually no laughing matter.
So, for your cat, it’s not so much as being too dumb to distinguish between a restless red dot and a live mouse. It’s actually a preprogrammed, natural response in her brain to ensure that she will survive. That’s where all the energy, alertness, and determination to capture the red dot come from.
It’s interesting to note that this response is present not only in cats or dogs, but in humans as well. Psychology expert Ira Hyman in Psychology Today noted that several studies have been conducted in which dots and shapes were made to move like animals do. Their life-like movements caused the human subjects to believe that these lighted patterns had a life of their own.
So go on, have fun playing with your cat and a laser pointer. Gayle Hickman of Pets Adviser recommends giving your cat a reward she can actually hold on to or chew on after chasing laser dots so as not to frustrate your pet. And remember not to point the laser directly onto your cat’s eyes.
You might even learn a thing or two from your cat.