Is Your Cat Left-pawed or Right-pawed?

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Here at Meowingtons, we consider our cats our family. This is a sentiment that is widely shared. In fact, a majority of pet owners in the US, an overwhelming 95%, don't see their furry companions as just "pets" - they are considered bona fide family members.

If you're a cat owner, it stands to reason that you know your cat’s quirks: their favorite foods, favorite toys, even the different types of meows they use to communicate. But do you know if your cat is left-handed or right-handed?

Recent studies have shown that cats, like humans, display "lateral bias" - they prefer one paw over the other when performing tasks. 

Photo via: Reddit 

Researchers at the Animal Behaviour Centre at Queen's University in Belfast performed the recent study which revealed that 75 percent of the cats tested had an obvious paw preference.

Studies in the past have shown that cats, like humans, show lateral bias. But this new study revealed that sex might have something to do with it: male cats were significantly more likely to use their left paws while females preferred their right. While humans are overwhelmingly right-handed (a whopping 90%), cats don't seem to lean lefty or righty. 

The study focused on a group of 44 cats: 24 male, 20 female, all fixed, ranging from ages 1 to 17. And to minimize the stress, all the cats were tested in their own homes. Participants of the human variety were asked to observe and record how their cat used their paws in their daily routines.

These “spontaneous behaviors”, as researchers call them, included three different behaviors - which paw they used when first stepping into the litter box and going down the stairs, as well as which side their cats tended to flop on for frequent cat naps. Owners recorded these behaviors until they had been performed 50 times. 

The cats also participated in a "forced" experiment, meaning researchers didn't rely on the cats' spontaneous behaviors, where treats were placed in a special three-tiered container. 

After three months of experiments, researchers discovered that almost 75 percent of the cats had an obvious paw preference, with most of the girls favoring their right paw and most of the guys favoring their left.


Want to find out if your cat is a righty or a lefty?

Maru and Hana are here to help! Mostly Hana. But Maru gets it eventually. 


Okay. So we know now that cats do display a preference when it comes to “handedness.” But why is this important? According to study co-author, Deborah Wells, knowing an animal’s paw preference can actually help us humans learn a bit more about our cats:

"Beyond mere curiosity, there may be value to knowing the motor preference of one's pet. There is some suggestion that limb preference might be a useful indicator of vulnerability to stress. Ambilateral animals [with no preference for one side or the other], and those that are more inclined to left-limb dominance, for example, seem more flighty and susceptible to poor welfare than those who lean more heavily towards right limb use."


[h/t The Smithsonian]

1 comment

  • Julie

    My girl is a lefty. I first noticed when she started tapping me for treats. It’s also the one she uses to wake me up.

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