Cats have humans everywhere wrapped around their tiny, furry paws. Now, however, National Geographic says which paw a cat chooses to use may not be as random as you might think.
Researchers from the Animal Behaviour Centre at Queen’s University Belfast in Belfast UK, have just published a new study that examines feline handedness and what it means for cat owners everywhere. Although this isn’t the first time this topic has been examined, it is the first experiment where cats were observed in their very own home doing regular, everyday activities.
Girogia Vallortigara, a neuroscientist at the University of Trento in Italy, explains, “There’s a lot of interest in [paw preference] as a biomarker for animal welfare”.
Basically, researchers took a group of 44 cats (22 males and 20 females) and watched them doing various things around their Northern Ireland homes. Mainly, they kept track of which front paw the kitties used when they walked down stairs, stepped over an object, or reached for food.
According to the scientists, almost 75% percent of housecats had a paw preference. Overall, females were much more likely to use their right paw, while male cats seem to prefer the left… And the implications are more important than you would assume. For example, previous work on paw preference in dogs showed that left-pawed dogs and ambidextrous canines exhibited much more fear and stress than their right-pawed peers.
“If this is the case,” National Geographic explains, “The information could help owners and animal shelters better understand and care for their animals.”
According to Dr. Deborah Wells, lead researcher on the project, tells Daily Mail UK paw preference can be an indicator of how vulnerable a cat is to stress.
“From a pet owner’s perspective, it may be useful to know if an animal is left or right limb dominant, as it may help them gauge how vulnerable that individual is to stressful situations.”
“For example,” she explains, “left-limbed animals … tend to show stronger fear responses, aggressive outbursts, and cope more poorly with stressful situations than animals that are right-limbed.”
National Geographic suggests this information may even be useful to shelters. Places could perform a handedness test on a cat, and if it is left-pawed, avoid situations that may make it more anxious.
If you want to know if your cat has a paw preference, you just need to observe them. Whenever your cat uses the litter box, walks up the stairs or grabs a toy, keep track of the paw they decide to use. After a while, you should be able to see a pattern emerging. If not though, don’t feel bad. Remember, about 25% of cats show no preference at all.
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Our researchers have discovered that female #cats are more likely to use their right paw than males, and this could be good news for their mental well-being: https://t.co/M1dL7BxFHm #LoveQUB🐱 pic.twitter.com/ZRF2no6Ux8
— Queen’s University Belfast 🎓 (@QUBelfast) January 22, 2018