Laser vs Feather the Great Cat Toy Debate

If you’ve ever picked up a laser pointer and pointed it at the floor in front of a cat you’ll know they go ballistic. Laser pointers are undoubtedly the best way to get your cat to go running across the entire house, end to end multiple times. They would literally only stop when they are completely out of breath and physically exhausted. What’s more you get to do this while standing or sitting in the same place.

A feather on the other hand is a very natural toy for a cat to play with. They encounter birds in the wild, hunt them and eat them for food. The feather you’d think would make an ideal cat toy however when you place a feather on the floor in front of your cat they hardly ever fully engage with it – unlike a laser pointer where they immediately go ballistic.

There are good reasons why there is such a vast difference in play technique between a feather and a laser – and it’s not the light or the feather. Cats are predators which mean they are primed to enjoy chasing prey. The feather or the laser in this context is little more than an object. When it moves it piques your cats curiosity and because of that movement they enjoy a good old fashioned chase.

Feather toys can have some form of movement. They can placed on the end of a stick or a string or even a ball which will enhance the amount of movement they have. The more natural the movement the more likely your cat is to enjoy playing with their feather.

The laser pointer is the obvious winner in terms of play engagement. You get vast movements in a natural chaotic environment (as opposed to a string or stick that is uniform) and can be controlled eloquently by a human or robotic operator. However there is one caveat that is commonly brought up about laser pointers.

Virtual prey that can’t be caught! Cats natural instincts as a predator is to catch and eventually eat their prey. In the wild any energy expenditure should hopefully result in a meal. While food is readily available for your kitty their natural instincts don’t know this. So, if your kitty chases a laser pointer it triggers a positive reaction in their brain. If they’re never able to catch the laser pointer it triggers a negative reaction because they don’t want to chase (or expend energy) that will not result in success. There is fortunately an easy way to ensure your cat always enjoys a laser pointer. Simply give them a physical object to catch as soon as you are done. They will enjoy the chase of the laser pointer and feel like they have been successful and all the effort was worth it.

Back to the feather vs laser pointer debate – both have obvious advantages (a feather is a naturally occurring physical object and a laser pointer provides erratic natural movement). Which should you use for your cat? The answer is actually very simple – each cat is unique and so is their play technique. Firstly understand your cats’ personality. Are they very active (chase their prey) or do they prefer ambush tactics and sit and wait until the perfect opportunity. Secondly match the types of natural traits your cat prefers to the types of toys you engage them with. A laser pointer or feather are both excellent toys.

Now if you really can’t decide our online store stock a range of feather and laser toys combined.

Enjoy playing with your kitty – send us pics :).

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