Monday, August 3, 2009

Laser Toys Everywhere

We've been using laser pointers with our cats for many years. We first noticed our dear Mala (R.I.P.) running madly after the small circle of light that reflected off my watch face. But that only worked when there was direct sunlight in the vicinity. Then laser pointers appeared, and we recognized immediately that these pointers would make great cat entertainment! Those early laser pointers really sucked up the battery power, however, and they used unusual batteries (those small hearing-aid type batteries) that were not always very easy to find. But, nevertheless, our cats learned to recognize the sound of the laser pointer as it was being picked up (it had a key chain on it that jingled) - that's how much they loved to chase The Red Dot!

Recently several cat products have come on the market that purport to entertain cats with lasers while the humans get on with other business. This is a bit sad, because half the fun of the laser pointer is to get your cat flinging himself crazily around the house after The Red Dot, and laughing insanely at his silly antics. However, we're pretty sure that a few cases of tendonitis arose among cat owners who went a little bonkers with the laser pointers, and relief from that would be welcome. And sometimes, we have to admit, we just don't have as much time as we'd like to spend a lot of play time with the feline members of our families. So these automatic cat toys were definitely intriguing.

The first we found was the "Ba-Da-Beam Rotating Laser Cat Toy" made by Multipet Inernational Inc. Bit of a mouthful, that. But it looked interesting - it's shaped a bit like a NASA space capsule from the 60s, and it has a lid on top that lifts up to reveal a mirror and a laser. The mirror adjusts to two different positions so that one can direct The Red Dot at the floor or at a wall. Clever! It was $16.99 at PetSmart. Our cats are not as enamored of The Red Dot on the wall as they are of it on the floor, so we used the floor setting. However, the floor setting resulted in a Red Dot that moved languidly in a fairly small-diameter (2 to 3 inches) oval. It stopped every so often and sat for half a second, only to start its weary rotations again. The cats were fairly interested in it at first but seemed to quickly grow bored with it.

We fiddled with the lid/mirror, to see if we could entice it into any positions between "floor" and "wall". No luck. So we stacked a few things under one edge of the "capsule". This did result in some better laser action. The Red Dot actually moved in a larger oval, which interested the cats a bit more. And the Ba-Da-Beam has an automatic shut-off, so we could turn it on and let the cats play, and it would turn off after about 15 minutes. This is not described in the instructions - that makes it a Bonus Feature! The instructions do state that the Ba-Da-Beam may be held in the hand for a more "interactive" experience. We tried that, and Ivan perked up quiet a bit. He looked like he had suddenly acquired a palsy of some sort, his head bobbing in a manner reminiscient of an elderly Katherine Hepburn. Ivan was more interested in The Red Dot when the Ba-Da-Beam was held in the hand than when it was set on a table or on the floor. But that sort of defeats the purpose - it was the "automatic" nature of the toy that was most enticing. However, on the bright side, the Ba-Da-Beam comes with batteries included! That's a rarity.

We saw a review of the Bolt automatic laser toy in the ModernCat blog. We then kept seeing ads for it in our pet insurance e-mail newsletters (through Pet Product Advisor). However, if we ordered it through Pet Product Advisor, we had to pay shipping. So we checked at our neighborhood PetSmart to see if they carried the Bolt.

The first time we checked, they did not have the Bolt, but they did have the Ba-Da-Beam, and that's when we purchased that toy. We checked a couple more times, but no Bolt, until today, when we went into PetSmart to get some cat litter. Voila, there was the Bolt! It's hard to miss once you've seen what it looks like. It looks a bit like a bowling pin with a hole near the top where the mirror and laser are located. It was $19.99. Not including batteries (it takes 4 AAs).

The Bolt, made by FroliCat, is the laser toy perfected. It can be placed on any flat surface - a table, a counter, the floor - and turned on, and The Red Dot moves about semi-randomly. The movement is reminiscent of the movement of the Undercover Mouse toy. Its basic track is a circle (or oval, in the case of the Bolt) but it moves forward and backward along the circle in random motions, stopping and changing direction constantly. That kind of random movement drives cats crazy. Once we set it up and the cats got accustomed to it, even Boo was chasing it, and Boo is fairly difficult to motivate when it comes to chasing things. And, the best part about the Bolt is that the mirror is adjustable, so you can have The Red Dot moving in wide arcs across floors, walls, and even ceilings, or you can have it move in a fairly small arc, to keep it right in front of kitties who lose interest once The Object of Their Interest moves out of their line of vision. The Bolt also has a 15-minute automatic shut-off, so that the cats don't keel over from too much exertion. Truly, that is sometimes a concern with hyper Ivan!

So if we had to choose between the two laser toys discussed here, we would definitely choose the Bolt. For $3 more than the Ba-Da-Beam you get a much more adjustable toy that works well entertaining cats while you go off to clean the bathroom, but it also works as a hand held laser, allowing you to interact a bit more with your feline friends.

No comments: