Q & A: Inappropriate toy

Q: Why is a laser light toy bad for my pets?

A: Laser lights can cause significant distress to both dogs and cats, to the extent that some animals develop severe compulsive disorders.

They may stare at walls or floors, or chase reflections and shadows. In some animals, this behaviour reaches the point that normal functioning is inhibited, and their attention cannot be redirected.

Extensive behaviour modification and sometimes psychotropic medications are required to treat the behaviour. This is because dogs and cats are ‘chasing’ animals – they are stimulated by rapid movement to chase. And this is exactly why it seems like a fun game!

But the confusion and frustration that results from never being able to ‘catch’ the light is the big issue here. The chase is never satisfyingly fulfilled.

While it may seem that the animal is enjoying themselves, and initially this may be the case depending on the individual, they’re not.

In some cases, just being exposed to a laser light once is sufficient to cause an intense compulsive reaction, so it’s best to avoid ever using one to play with an animal. If you already do, throw it away! Throwing toys for dogs and teaser toys for cats are the best options for fulfilling the need to chase safely – and make sure they get to catch and keep the toy during the game to prevent frustration!

Katherine Brown, behaviourist


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