Animal Behaviorists Find Cats Can Be Right or Left-Pawed

Kitten ReachingIf you own a cat, you’ve probably watched her use her paws to do all sorts of things. From grasping toys to knocking things off counters, cats have learned to use their paws in a variety of creative—and sometimes frustrating—ways. But did you know that most cats prefer to use one paw over the other? Much like humans, a recent study has revealed that cats tend to be either right or left-pawed.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, researchers at the Animal Behavior Centre at Queen’s University in Belfast conducted their study by analyzing data from 44 people who own mixed breed cats. The cat owners were asked to observe which paw their cats used when stepping into their litter boxes. They were also asked to record which side their cats slept on when lying down. The owners documented their cat doing each activity 50 times and reported back to the researchers.

In addition to using data collected by the cat owners, the researchers also conducted a “forced” experiment of their own. This involved putting treats in a container, observing cats as they attempted to retrieve them, and then recording which paws the cats used to reach for the treats.

After analyzing their data, the researchers found that most of the cats in the study appeared to show a “lateral bias” during their day-to-day activities. About 73 percent of the cats preferred one paw to the other when reaching for treats, and about 66 percent preferred one paw to the other when stepping into their litter boxes. This lateral bias didn’t seem to affect the way they slept, as only 25 percent of the cats appeared to prefer to lay on one specific side.

This study suggests that, like humans, cats have a “handedness,” or an innate preference toward one paw or the other. Now, the researchers are planning to conduct a follow-up study to determine what factors influence lateral bias in cats, and whether all cats exhibit this preference for one of their paws.