Paw Preference in Cats

Reaching with his left paw indicates this kitten is likely a lefty.
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You're aware that people are left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous. In humans, 90 percent are righties. A study shows that Kitty is just like you, having a preferred paw. Since you can't ask Kitty which paw he writes with, how do you know which paw he prefers?

Paw Preference Test

So just how do you figure out if Kitty is a lefty or righty? Sarah Milsopp, a senior psychology lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, decided she would take a stab at it. She studied 42 kitties to figure out which paw they preferred. She would put a tuna treat in a tall jar. Then she would watch how her feline test subject would try to retrieve the treat. By watching how Kitty attempted to get to the tuna 100 times, using his left or right paw, she could figure out what paw he preferred.

Gender Matters

It turns out that sex of the cat was a good indicator of which paw he'd prefer. Female cats preferred their right paw, while males were typically left-pawed. In humans, of the 10 percent that are left-handed, a majority are men. It seems that left-handedness is linked to testosterone, a hormone that is much higher in males than females. Spayed or neutered animals don't display the same tendencies due to their hormone levels not being the same as unaltered pet.

Which Paw to Use?

Sometimes Kitty may compensate with the paw he doesn't prefer. If he's injured in his left paw, he may use his right paw instead to avoid pain. Kitty is going do whatever is easiest for him; If the treat Kitty wants is off to his right, he may reach with his right paw even if he prefers his left paw. If Kitty is just playing around or pouncing, he'll be likely to use both of his paws. About 10 percent of cats are ambidextrous, comfortable using either paw.

Testing Your Kitty

You can perform some tests at home to see which paw your Kitty prefers. Just like the Milsopp, you can use the tuna and jar test. Make sure that when you place the jar in front of him, it's directly in the center or he may be swayed to use whichever paw closer to the opening. You can also dangle a toy over his head and see which paw kitty reaches with. To get the most definitive answer, do the test 100 times, over a few days. If you try and do the test 100 times in one sitting, Kitty may be responding just to getting a tasty treat and using whichever paw worked last time. If it wasn't his favored paw, the results won't tell you if he's a lefty or righty.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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