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Chase the Dot: The Ultimate Cat Sport

Pet stores sell lots of interactive cat toys you can use to amuse your cat: feathers on springs, battery-operated mice, and so on. We sell a few toys of our own, too—the Kong Swizzle Bird Cat Toy, the Kitty Lure Caster, and the Cat Dancer. One of the best toys in the world for most cats, however, is the laser pointer, which you can get from any office supply store.

Most cats will chase the sharp little red dot of light that the pointer makes right from the moment they see it. You can send the cat in any direction, at any speed. You can use the dot as a target to train other behavior, or you can use a bit of dot play as a reward for a good training session, as dog owners sometimes use ball play to reward good work.


Two words of caution. First, while modern laser pointers are not supposed to be harmful to the eyes, you shouldn't shine it at your cat's face—or anyone else's—but always a foot or so ahead of the cat. And don't let young children play with the pointer, for the same reason.

Here's the second warning: I haven't heard of a cat falling for this, but some dogs become so addicted to the laser dot that they can think of nothing else. An otherwise normal Rottweiler, for example, may take to stalking through the house hour after hour, panting, glassy-eyed, swinging his heard, scanning the floor, looking for The Dot. Perhaps the dog's owner can ignore this, but sooner or later a roommate or spouse says, "I can't stand this loony dog another minute. Will you please make him stop?" The owner whips out the laser and gives the dog a game of chase-the-dot until it's so exhausted it has to sleep for a while. This placates the complainer, but also guarantees that the dog will search even longer and harder the next time.

Clicker trainer and teacher Sherri Lippman introduced me to the solution for this particular problem: always start and end the dot from the same place. Sherri uses the toe of her shoe. The dot first appears there, and, when the game is over, goes back to disappear at the same spot. This will help your cat understand that the dot has gone for now—the worst that can happen is that for a time she may stare longingly at the toe of your shoe.

Although a simple verbal cue, used consistently, would also serve to begin and end this game, I like using a visual cue as well. When playing with my cat, Mimi, who loves the dot, I put my hand in front of her and seemingly spill the dot out of my hand to start the game; then when I want to end it, I slide the dot onto my hand again, close my fist as I turn the pointer off, and "take the dot away."


Learn about target training and other fun things to do with your cat in Getting Started
Clicker Training for Cats
, by Karen Pryor, or try our Clicker Fun Cards for Cats.

About the author
User picture

Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

littledoginabigworld's picture

Almost addicted to lasers...

I had a laser pointer with my cat and I found she did spend days after each session 'waiting for the dot' so we stopped. I found it again months later and just the sound of turning it on brought her rushing in from the other room. Maybe that should have been my first clue to start clicker training :) I know someone who uses a laser pointer on his night walk with the dog in the park. The dog runs around while he stands still!

Nick Hof's picture

Australian shepherd puppy

I have a client in one of my classes who played with a laser pointer with their Aussie puppy and had the "addiction" occur. They had played with it over three days and the dog was looking for it constantly for three weeks after (and still occassionally now, a couple of weeks later).

Would it be a good idea to have them practice this method of starting/stopping at a specific point with the pointer to stop the searching behaviour or would this potentially exacerbate the problem by re-introducing the pointer?

I would love to hear from someone so I can help this couple and their dog :)


Nick Hof

Laurie Luck's picture

Australian shepherd puppy

Hi Nick,

Great question about the laser and the Aussie puppy. I do think that having a specific cue for the laser game helps the dog predict when the dog will appear. Without this cue, the dog (as your client found out) may incessantly search for the missing laser. A specific starting and ending cue should work well for this case.

Laurie Luck
Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at


Laser Pointer for Advanced Target Training

Hi there,

I am considering using the laser pointer to work on advanced target training. Specific manueavers for

agility for example. My dog is very handler focused and I want her to focus more on the ground in

front of her and drive into tunnels, weave poles etc - Has anyone used the laser as a target in sports

like agility? For now, I will be doing trial and error. I will report back any progress. Also, thanks for the tip

about when and how to "bring out" and "put away" the laser pointer. I like the idea of it "coming out of"

my hand - much like any other training tools, treats, food does.



Laser Pointer Addiction in Cats

I have had clients tell me about their cats becoming obsessed with the laser pointer as you describe for dogs. Your idea of having the spot appear and disappear, like any other toy going into a drawer or closet, is excellent. I've always thought that this laser dot addiction is the animal version of video game addiction...

Kate Schubert, DVM
Cats Exclusive Veterinary Center
Seattle, Washington

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