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I'm looking for some automatic cat toy for proper entertainment. I bumped into automatic laser toys and I'm a but surprised they exist since you're not supposed to hit the cat's eyes with the laser. If it's automatic this might very easily happen. Are the lasers of these toys way below 5 mW? And even then, is it safe enough if the laser somehow points directly at a cat's eyes?

I don't find much relevant information on Google and I don't want to rely on the information provided by the producers of such toys.

This question is very related: What level of output laser pointer is safe for a cat?

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A categorical answer doesn't really fit, as there are several different types of these toys and more may be created at any time.

Frolicat has two automatic laser toys, the BOLT and the DART. I could not find the power settings for these toys on their website, so I contacted Petsafe (the owner of Frolicat) and recieved the following response via email on Sept 5, 2014.

The FroliCat BOLT, Dart, and Dart Duo contain a Class II or IIIa laser, which is considered a low-power laser safe for animals & people when used in accordance with the instructions included with the product.

The email then cites definitions for different laser safety classes, which can be found on Wikipedia.

This tells us the FDA does not regard class II as an acute skin hazard (class IIIb and class IV may have skin damage potential), merely a viewing hazard, against which the product has an appropriate warning label. To the point whether there is any radiation from mere proximity to the unit, we can reassure you that per the FDA information above, the only radiation emitted is through the beam.

I found another similar toy on Amazon, the Ethical Contempo Bella Laser, and was able to zoom in on the packaging to see the warning label for a Class IIIa laser.

According to the Wikipedia article on laser safety,

Class II: The blink reflex of the human eye (aversion response) will prevent eye damage, unless the person deliberately stares into the beam for an extended period. Output power may be up to 1 mW.

Class IIIa: Lasers in this class are mostly dangerous in combination with optical instruments which change the beam diameter or power density, though even without optical instrument enhancement direct contact with the eye for over two minutes may cause serious damage to the retina. Output power does not exceed 5 mW. Beam power density may not exceed 2.5 mW/cm2 if the device is not labeled with a "caution" warning label, otherwise a "danger" warning label is required.

(The Bella Laser has the "danger" warning label, I'm unable to find a picture close enough of the Frolicat products to see the warning label).

From these definitions, we can see that laser toys can be harmful if a cat looks into the beam for a long period of time. These laser toys incorporate movement so that the likelihood of your cat staring into the beam for over two minutes is low. However, when I used to play with laser toys with my cats, one cat was smart enough to stop chasing the dot and would just stare at my hand. I do not know how he would react with a toy controlling the laser, or if the beam was pointed directly at him.

Personally, I do not use laser toys because I believe that structured play time is a bonding experience between me and my cats. I also believe that play should be structured around meal times to enforce the hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle that cats naturally fall into. While occassional hunts may fail, I believe a cat should not be constantly frustrated by hunting sessions that never give the cat the satisfaction of a "kill".

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All lasers for home use are very low energy, like a few milliwatts. A 100 watt lightbulb is more than a thousand times stronger. Red light is less damaging than white as well, as the photons are less energetic.

The automatic toys also move the light, and beam it downwards to make a direct hit to an eye even less likely.

I would think the psychological issue of stress without relief is a far more likely issue than the chance of eye damage.

Here is some research done by a Cat Breeder, Mythicbells

By law, lasers are classified and labeled by wavelength and maximum output power. There are four classes with sub-classes ranging from the harmless to the most harmful. The labeling system accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on laser products imported into the U.S. is based on accessible emission limits (AEL) that are defined for each laser class. This is usually a maximum power or energy that can be emitted in a specific wavelength range and exposure time. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to provide the correct classification of a laser, and to equip the laser with appropriate warning labels and safety measures as prescribed by the regulations.

The laser pointers sold as toys are among the weakest. The label on my handheld laser toy states that it is rated at 2 mw (milliwatts). The new automated laser toy states that it’s less than 5 mw. Laser toys and laser pointers are generally in the 1 – 5 mw range and are classified as Class IIa lasers. Class IIa lasers emit light in the visible wavelengths (0.4 to 0.7 mm), and are not intended for prolonged viewing.

They will not produce a hazard if viewed directly for periods not exceeding 1000 seconds (apprx. 16 minutes. I don’t have an attention span THAT long, let alone my cats). The exposure will not exceed MPE’s (max permissible exposure) if viewed for less than this amount of time. (Ref: http://www.asu.edu/radiationsafety/laser/appn_C.html)

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    comparing the power output of a regular lightbulb to a laser is misleading. A lightbulb puts out scattered light in multiple directions, while a laser outputs coherent (organized) light in a very focused point. – Zaralynda Sep 4 '14 at 19:05
  • Not that focused. Home use lasers are slightly scattered to avoid just the single point you are alluding to. – Oldcat Sep 4 '14 at 19:10
  • Power rating of a laser and a lightbulb cannot be directly compared like this because power rating is not equal to luminance, thus this comparsion is wrong. Actually a direct exposure to the light from 100mW (in other words, 0.1 W) rated visible light laser is enough to cause permanent eye damage, and the damage will be done so fast that even the blink reflex wouldn't kick in before it's done. And while it's true that lasers in power range of 1-5mW are recognized as safe in this context, lasers sometimes happen to be mislabeled, being in fact more powerful than declared. – lila Apr 21 at 20:12

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