Are Laser Pointer Toys Safe for Pets?

There’s nothing like the bright red dot of a laser pointer racing across the floor or wall to get a cat’s attention. Many dogs also are fascinated  with and will chase laser pointer toys. Even fish often follow the red dot, at least until they get bored or something startles them. Some birds and small pets also show interest. But are laser pointer toys safe for your pets? Stories of retinal damage due to looking directly into a laser abound on the web and in “My cousin told me that her grandmother’s college roommate’s aunt’s dog’s sire was blinded by a laser pointer,” form.

The Real Risks of Using Laser Pointer Toys

A Pacific University College of Optometry study found that the alleged dangers of laser pointer toys have been largely exaggerated. For a human to sustain retinal damage, the study claims, the person would have to willingly look at the laser pointer beam for at least ten seconds. If that doesn’t sound like a long time, try holding your hand under scalding hot water for ten seconds! Most people would look away from a laser pointer long before staring at it for ten seconds.

However, this study tested the effects of laser pointers on humans, not on pets. Cats might well stare at the laser pointer for a few seconds. Also, there remains some possibility that eye damage occurs in pets at lower levels of exposure. Therefore, many pet owners continue to avoid laser pointer toys despite data indicating that they are relatively safe.

Safer Laser Toy Use

If you do choose to use laser pointer toys with your pets, a few basic precautions are in order:

  • Never let children play with laser pointer toys. Kids of a certain age may willingly stare into the laser beam for extended periods of time, or shine it intentionally into the eyes of a pet.
  • Avoid ever shining the beam directly at a pet’s face. Point the toy at the ground, not at your pet.
  • If your pet becomes obsessed with the toy, stop using it to play with your pet.
  • To avoid obsessions before they start, have the laser pointer appear and disappear at the same spot– for example the toe of your shoe. Most pets are able to grasp the idea that the laser pointer comes from a particular spot and then goes back there when it leaves. This prevents the continual searching for the red dot that some pets practice habitually after playing with a laser toy.
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13 Responses to “Are Laser Pointer Toys Safe for Pets?”

  1. jelenawoehr says:

    @nullandvoideaccount PetLvr [Blog] \\ Are Laser Pointer Toys Safe for Pets? cli.gs/zT32ds

  2. Fun Dogs says:

    Top 4 Tips For Safer Laser Toy Usage: bit.ly/qMEa3 -good advice for using laser pointers with your pets

  3. DogWireGifts says:

    RT @FunDogs: Top 4 Tips For Safer Laser Toy Usage: bit.ly/qMEa3 -good advice for using laser pointers with your pets

  4. Very interesting article about the laser pointers on its way and tips on how to use it in a proper order to humans.

  5. tyle says:

    DON’T buy high power laser pointers, like this kind of laser pointer: www.laser-pointers.net

  6. MP says:

    After one day of laser toy play, my dog became obsessed and searched aimlessly for the beam for 3 days, he wouldn’t respond at some points even for treats or until hooked to the leash for a walk. I definitely would not recommend the use of laser toys for pets.

  7. Thanks for sharing that MP!

  8. andrew says:

    For more laser pointers can be found in www.techlasers.com, you can also see their safety and proper uses of the green laser pointer suited in to your pet’s safetytiness.

  9. Andrew .. besides linking to your product store .. can you link to the section that shows the safety and proper uses of green laser pointers as indicated?

    Thanks / HART

  10. blackmagicdude says:

    I think it is ok as long as your laser pointer is not too powerful. I used to play with my cat with my lazerer.com green laser pointer

  11. melly says:

    do NOT use a green laser pointer! They are too powerful and really are damaging to animals’ eyes. Some people are going around the internet trying to get you to hurt your pet with these things.

  12. Patrick says:

    PEOPLE PEOPLE. THIS IS A COMPLEX ISSUE. DON’T BLIND YOUR PET.

    Use this link. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety

    READ IT CAREFULLY and READ THE LABELS ON YOUR LASERS.

    This person Jelena Woehr is a friggin idiot. Jelena, why don’t you take one of these new 200mw lasers (which is considered weak these days) and shine in in your eye for 10 seconds. The truth is, YOU WILL BE PERMANENTLY BLIND AFTER 2 SECONDS. Your boiling water analogy is perfect. On your eyes, a 1mw (miliwatt) laser is like water at 110 degrees. A 5mw laser is like water at 130degrees. a 20mw laser is like water at 150 degrees (OUCH). Today’s standard laser pointers are between 100mw and 200mw. That is the equivalent of steam (not water) at 400 degrees. 1 second is all it takes for permanent damage. And even a reflected or very quick shine in the eyes will likely leave a permanent blind spot for “spot” to chase after for the rest of his life. If anyone does very serious research, they will find that most likely, any dog who is “obsessed”, always chasing a laser spot that isn’t there, is most likely chasing a spot that is now burned into their retina. They will chase it and chase it and chase it, until they finally realize that they cannot ever catch it, and will lay down and live with their new permanent friend “Spot” I honestly think this is what happened to MP’s poor dog. We just need to ask the dog.

    Oh that’s right.

    Pets can’t talk, otherwise, you would probably be hearing about all the new blind animals that are around thanks to idiots with lasers.

    People, read the labels. They are on every laser. They are broken down into classes.

    I love lasers. My cats are CRAZY for lasers. But I only use a 1milliwatt tiny laser pointer for my pets.

  13. Patrick says:

    sorry. I was a little hard on Jelena, but to site some weak study, without discussing laser power and effects of different colors. And reading about MP’s pet, knowing that she unknowingly most likely has left her dog with a permanent spot in its vision, really tweaked me.

    A good rule of thumb…. Test it on your own eye for 10 seconds BEFORE playing with the pet. If your not willing to do that, you probably should stick to playing fetch with dogs and using string with cats.

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