Paws for one moment and think about which hand you use to pick up a piece of toast or write down a quick note. About 90 percent of people are “righties” -- they show a preference for using their right sides for everything from teeth brushing to throwing a football.
But what about our fur babies? Have you noticed that your cat reaches for snacks or steps into a litterbox using one side of the body more than the other? In the same we humans tend to favor either our left or right hand, new research has found that cats can be “lefties” or “righties,” especially when it comes to important tasks like reaching for food!
It was traditionally believed that only humans showed a bias toward their left or right sides. But over time, scientists came to realize that this trait is widespread, and may actually be universal. Right- and left-side preferences have already been found in amphibians, rodents, primates, whales, and now even in our feline friends, according to a study by The Animal Behaviour Center (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347217303640).
For three months, 44 families recorded which side their cat preferred to use every time they lay down, stepped into their litter boxes or headed down a flight of stairs. The food-reaching test was the most fun, especially for the cats. Researchers loaded 10 treats into a food maze like this one: https://www.catit.com/shop/senses-2-food-tree/ and then watched to see which paw the cat used to attempt to remove each treat.
After paw-ing through all this data, scientists announced that our furry friends do in fact have left or right paw preference:
- When reaching for snacks, nearly 73 percent of cats used just one of their paws, and only 27 percent used their left and right paws equally. While nearly three-fourths of cats had a paw preference, cats were about equally as likely to be “lefties” and “righties.”
Cats also favored one of their paws when stepping onto or over an object. Seventy percent of the time, our fur babies showed a paw preference on the stairs test (34 percent of the cats used their left paw while 16 percent favored their right sides). Similarly, 36 percent chose their left paw to step into the litter box while nearly 30 percent were “righties.
- It may come as no surprise to pet parents that cats did not show a preference for which side they chose for lying down — they were too tired to put much thought into it!
The reasons why humans and other animals including cats prefer one hand or paw over another remains a mystery. But cats add yet another layer of complexity to this puzzle: the study found that male cats tended to prefer their left paw while females are more inclined to use the right side. For now, these question will need to be added to our long list of cat-related questions, which only add to the wonder we feel for these amazing, enigmatic animals!
TRY THIS AT HOME: Is Your Cat Left- or Right-Pawed?
Set up a fun game to test which paw you cat tends to use more often. Put a few treats in a small box or use a cat maze (researchers used a Catit Senses Food Maze https://www.catit.com/shop/senses-2-food-tree/ with the top layer removed). Now sit back and record what you see: Does your cat favor one paw over the other? Add your results to our comments section!
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