Dr. Charles Towne’s Gift to Cats

By:  Erin Knibb


January 2015 saw the passing of a man whose invention has greatly impacted the lives of cats and their owners; called a visionary by some, physicist, technocrat, Nobel Prize winner Charles H. Townes’ inklings towards gadgetry have guaranteed that cats everywhere have a red dot to chase.  You see, Dr. Townes was the mastermind behind the development of the laser, and vis-à-vis, the laser pointer.

For obvious reasons, Towne’s invention is lauded worldwide for its multiple uses.  Laser pointers in the hands of generations of lazy humans are capable of driving cats of all ages into fits of frenzy with a mere flick of the wrist, all without owners having to leave their prone positions.  Cost-effective and readily available, the laser pointer just might be the perfect cat toy.

Used in multiple applications worldwide, what we now know as the laser began life modestly in a lab in California.  In 1958, when Townes and his colleagues patented their initial invention using microwaves, they called it a “maser” – it wasn’t until 1960 that the beam of light took on the name laser, being of course an amplification of wavelengths of infrared radiation.

Theoretically uncatchable as it is, the laser diode, or “red dot”, may teach lessons of unfulfillment, frustration, and thwarted energies to the cats that chase it but the results of these play sessions have multiple benefits for your living-room lions: physical health, the maintaining of good muscle tone and joint health being the most obvious. Cats also benefit greatly from the mental stimulation of the chase. Play sessions create bonding moments between cats and their humans that are priceless. Laser pointer playtime can also bring environmental enrichment as the red dot stimulates cats to investigate, hunt and problem-solve.

Laser pointers are also an excellent tool to use in distracting cats from unwanted or antisocial behaviours.  Destructive activities such as clawing at furniture, countertop surfing or inter-cat aggression can be managed by using a laser pointer to focus the cat’s attention away from negative acts and on to the more beneficial activity of pouncing on the red dot.

We may appreciate the applications of this wonderful technology more in our day to day human lives, but the benefits to our feline friends should not be underestimated.  These beams of light bring out the best in our pets.