LASERS, GUYS: the BOLT laser toy for cats
It's about time we gave some love to our feline pals. We're reviewing the BOLT laser toy from Frolicat, which is owned by PetSafe. Occasionally you'll see them marketed under one name or the other, but it's the same product. As usual, Downstay is not compensated for this review.
Here's how it works. Imagine a bowling pin. Inside the bowling pin, there is a lazer pointed straight up, mounted on a rotating disc. In the head of the bowling pin there's an adjustable mirror upon which the laser beam is directed. You adjust the mirror so the beam points downward on to the floor. Basically, the spot of light travels somewhat unpredictably around in an oval pattern which you can adjust by tilting the mirror. It takes 4 AA batteries.
We love pet tech here at Downstay, so we thought the BOLT was cool. We loaned the BOLT to some test kitties, and their human immediately was concerned that the laser would blind the cats by shooting into their eyes.
OK, so fair enough. It very unlikely that a cat is going to sit there and just stare into the laser beam until she burns a hole in her retinas, but we decided to get some details so we can all sleep happily at night. We looked it up, and the BOLT has a class IIIa laser with a 5mW max power output. Using the power of the internet, we learned that this level of laser power can damage the retina if you shoot the beam directly into your eye for two minutes or more. So don't let your cat do that, and everything should be fine.
Cats who love to chase will use the BOLT, others will ignore it or enjoy knocking it over. It automatically turns off after 16 minutes so your kitty friend doesn't get bored before the end.
However, as other bloggers have noted, there is a dark side to the BOLT, and indeed any laser-based cat toy. And WARNING: we recommend against using a laser light toy with a dog. We'll explain why in a minute.
The issue we see for cats with the laser light toy is that it's really hard to tell if they're having fun or if they're stressed and frustrated. Enthusiasm can look a lot like obsession, especially if you can't talk. Even if you can talk, there's "OMG I'm so obsessed with Orange is the New Black" and then there's "OMG I'm so obsessed with making sure all of my pencils are the same length"-- one of these is fun to do and the other one feels like your own personal hell.
Be careful, and watch your pussycat closely to make sure she relaxes quickly after a short bout and doesn't show any unusual behavior. It could be anything--from sudden aggression to peeing outside the litterbox to snapping at invisible flies. If you see a change, give the game a rest for a couple of weeks and see if the behavior starts to decline or stop (if not you should also consider looking for physical causes with your veterinarian). If you then play again and the behavior returns, that means the BOLT is not appropriate for your cat and needs to go away forever.
A note on laser pointers and dogs. The note above about fun versus soul-crushing types of obsession also applies to dogs. Often--more so with dogs than with cats--the obsession with the laser pointer seems to often generalize to chasing/lunging for any moving lights. Such as a 4-year old holding a flashlight. The reflection of the sun off of the screen of your cellphone. Headlights of oncoming cars.
Of course, there are always the exceptional dogs who have a rollicking good time with the laser pointer and then are totally cool and chill at all other times and never have an issue. If you're willing to take the risk, we're not going to judge you. Just know that you might create a problem you will eventually need to address.
The BOLT. Neat. Lasers. Monitor your cat closely for signs of stress. Otherwise, have fun.
Do you have any experience with the BOLT or a similar laser toy? Tell us in the comments!