A verse answering a common question about cats, and people
By William Softky
So why do cats like laser dots?
Perhaps it’s that the moving spots
remind of mice once sought fought caught,
yet quicker, brighter, now worth thought
that predatory instincts wrought.
Thus predators perseverate.
But prey as well may think it great
to skip the step of “hide and wait”
for chasing dots in figure-eights.
So why do ducklings, crabs and fish
chase lasers like their dying wish?
All eyes, like ours, evolved to track
bright contours moving forth and back,
test-patterns almost optimized
to tune and calibrate one’s eyes.
Of course eyes look…that what eyes do!
At cues of newness, difference, hue.
Eyes have to pick which points to use;
of course they choose attractive clues.
Imagine if those cats could pay
to tease their eyes with dots all day.
No mice for them! Nor rest, nor play,
just “entertainment” in its way;
I’ll bet they couldn’t turn away.
The former predator a slave
to ancient instincts Nature gave.
The ideal training or calibration signal-pattern for any high-resolution imaging and tracking system, such as an animal’s visual system, is a high-amplitude point source (“delta function”) in all signal dimensions, not only the (x,y,z) dimensions of physical space, but in time via sudden changes, in hue, in texture, etc. A strong appetite for such over-coherent patterns is beneficial if they are rare in the environment, but as with appetites for sugar and dopaminergic chemicals, can result in deep dependencies if available without limit. (Sensory Metrics of Neuromechanical Trust, 10.1162/neco_a_00988 )