When your cat plays with his catnip mouse, or snatches a morsel from your plate, which paw does he prefer using? Researchers at the Animal Behavior Centre at Queen’s University in Belfast recently conducted a study with 44 mixed-breed cats – 20 females and 24 males – to determine whether they favored their right or left paws.
Through observation, the researchers discovered that approximately 73% of the feline subjects showed a paw preference or “lateral bias” when reaching for food; 70% showed a paw preference when taking the first step down stairs; and 66% when stepping into a litter box. The study findings were published in Animal Behavior this past January.
Feline lateral bias, to the authors’ surprise, appeared to correspond to the cats’ gender. Female cats often favored their right paws, while males favored their left. Study co-author Deborah Wells says that these findings may help us understand a cat’s vulnerability to stress by revealing which side of the brain he/she relies on. “Left-limbed animals rely more heavily on the right hemisphere of their brains, and tend to display stronger fear responses and aggression than right-limbed animals,” she explains.
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