Research Suggests Cats May Have Dominant Paw Based on Gender

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You’d think when you have four paws that all work together for main function, paw preference wouldn’t really be noticeable. But, just as in humans, in our feline friends, it has been found to be so, and turns out most female cats are ‘right pawed,’ while most males prefer their left.

Researchers from Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland were looking at the reasoning behind paw preference, with study co-author Dr. Deborah Wells saying that left-preferenced animals tend to use the right hemispheres of their brain when processing information. This typically presents with stronger fear responses, more aggressive outbursts and poorer dealing with stressful situations than when compared to animals who favor their right limbs and depend on the left hemisphere of the brain for processing.

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The research team looked at 44 cats in their owners’ homes and watched their initiated, spontaneous behavior. Twenty of the cats were female and the team used the information from owners who watched their cats to see what paw they used when taking first steps down stairs, as well as into/out of their litter boxes. The cats also were given tests to see if they favored paws when reaching for food, and the cats had fish food out of a tower. Researchers noted the dominant paws when doing this. Seventy-three percent of the cats had a paw preference when they reached for food, while 70% of the cats also had a preference for what paw led when going down stairs and 66% of the cats had paw preferences when it came to getting in and out of their litter boxes.

The researchers believe that overall, cats don’t necessarily have a paw preference in the way that humans prefer hands to do things with, cats do tend to have dominant paws, and their sex may play a role in that dominance. Building on previous research that has shown male cats to be more left-pawed and female cats to be more right-pawed, Dr. Wells says that there is certainly something that would show there is a difference in the brain structures and functions of male and female cats, but they just don’t know what it is yet.

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She believes this research could be important, though, in giving insight into how cats approach and deal with stress, based on their gender and paw dominance.