Cats often play using both paws, so it takes careful observation to see which paw your pet really prefers for crucial tasks like foraging for food. While male and female cats tend toward different dominant paws, researchers aren't sure why.
Cats do have a paw preference, just like humans. Researchers have conducted several studies regarding cat paw preferences and report different numbers of right- and left-pawed cats. Some studies suggest up to 39 percent of cats prefer their right paw and and 28.3 percent prefer the left. Two studies report up to 51.5 percent of cats prefer their right paw and 40.4 percent are left-pawed. While researchers don't agree on the right vs. left paw split, they do on the dominant paw issue.
A 2009 Queen's University study revealed that gender and paw preference in cats go hand in hand, so to speak. Male cats tend to prefer using their left front paw, while female cats tend to use the right front paw. Some cats ambidextrous and have no paw preference.
While cats do have a dominant paw, there are many tasks cats will perform with either paw. The 2009 study suggested that cats use a dominant paw for difficult tasks, like getting a tasty morsel out of the bottom of a narrow-mouthed jar. Cats use either paw in play behavior such as pouncing or swatting.
Test Your Pet
Curious about which paw your cat prefers? Conduct your own test. Place a tasty morsel just out of your cat's reach and see which paw your cat uses to reach for it. Test which paw your cat uses to swat a toy. Or place something sticky on your cat's nose and see which paw is used to swat it away. Repeat the task 100 times to get a clear idea of your pet's paw preference.
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