I honestly prefer tactile cat toys, the toys that cats can bite, hold, kick, carry and toss around. Such toys give our pampered indoor pets a chance to be wild, and to do the things that Nature designed them to do. But when we adopted Tink in 2015, she did not respond at all to tactile toys: the only toy that got her attention was the laser pointer. Tink has crossed eyes and seems to have a visual impairment, so I needed to adapt my thinking to work for her. I started experimenting with laser pointers, and I got frustrated with the cheap ones that don't work well, so I started to search for better options. Here are some of my favorites.
The Engaser USB Rechargeable Laser Pointer
This clever laser pointer is made by ModMong. It fits perfectly into my hand, is thin, lightweight, and easy to hold. Actually, it's nice to hold. There is a sensual pleasantness to the gentle, elongated, hourglass shape. I've found everything about this laser pointer to be easy to use, even for long periods of time. If you have any problems with your hands, such as arthritis, this lightweight laser pointer might work for you. The retail price is about $14, so it's not a huge investment. The thing easily recharges by plugging it into a USB port, and mine actually arrived all charged and ready to go.
I think the Engaser is a pretty new product and it may not be widely available. I got mine at a Mud Bay store in Bellevue, Washington. You can also order it at http://www.engaser.com/
Sunlite Tactical Flashlight 51003-SU
This is a small, solid, water resistant flashlight with 4 different lighting modes. It's actually a very practical, heavy and durable flashlight, something useful to have around the house, with the added bonus that your cat will love the laser pointer feature.
One of the things I love about the Sunlight is that the button switches the light on, and it stays on, no matter what mode you've selected. This means when the laser light is on, it stays on. This creates a level of flexibility I've never seen in a laser pointer cat toy before. One of the things we did with it is hang the light, creating a very entertaining cat toy, shown in the video below.
The switch also makes a distinctive clicking noise, and Tink quickly learned to associate this noise with the red dot. She will now come running when she hears me click the switch. I like this flashlight so much that I quickly bought a second one. I paid about $12 on Amazon, and I've seen it at a lower price since then.
Tips and Tricks With Laser Pointers
Sounds: Your pet can learn to associate a sound with the red dot. We aren't the only ones to report that the cat comes running when she hears the click! Look for a laser pointer that "clicks" when you turn it on, or one that is on a noisy keychain. Cats will learn to associate the "click" or the rattle of the chain with their play time.
Batteries: Does the laser pointer use common rechargable batteries? The Sunlight uses 3- AAA batteries, so you can use rechargeables, and the Engaser™ recharges simply with a USB plug.
Adding a Tactile Dimension to Play: Some cats know that the red dot isn't really there, and they won't chase it. Some cats get frustrated that they never get to have the tactile satisfaction of grabbing, touching and biting their prey when they chase the dot. How do I deal with this? I add a tactile or auditory dimension when I play. Here are some suggestions:
- Lay a sheet of packing paper on the floor, it can be smooth or crumpled, and run the laser over this. Many cats enjoy the racket that the paper will make. Also try:
- Sheets of plastic
- Sheets of bubble wrap
- Flattened cardboard box
- Laser inside a cardboard box
- Use your scratching post! The post can be vertical, or you can lay it on its side.
- This technique can also be used to help a cat get used to a new scratching post
- Aim for specific things that will move when touched. We had fun aiming for the vertical blinds.
Do you have any tips for using a laser pointer with cats or other animals? We'd love to see your ideas!