Cookies on VetMed Resource

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.

 

Continuing to use www.cabi.org  means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Booking is now open for 'Animal Welfare and Tourism' (the 7th Annual CABI RVC Symposium); 13th June, South Bank University, London.

News Article

Paw preference studied in cats


Study finds female cats are more likely to use their right paw than male cats.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast explored paw preference in pet cats. Dr Louise McDowell, Dr Deborah Wells and Professor Peter Hepper from the School of Psychology at Queen’s, found that while there was no overall population preference like the human preference for right handedness, there was a gender preference. The findings have been published in Animal Behaviour.

Until now, studies on limb preference of animals have focused solely on forced experimental challenges. However, in the Queen’s study, the cats - 24 male and 20 female and all neutered - were studied in their own homes so that information could be gathered as they went about their everyday tasks.

The cat owners collected “spontaneous” data on whether the cats used their left or right paws when they stepped down the stairs or over objects and whether they slept on the left or right side of their body. A “forced” test was also carried out where the cats had to reach for food inside a three-tier feeding tower.

The majority of cats showed a paw preference when reaching for food (73%), stepping down (70%) and stepping over (66%) and their preference for right and left was consistent for the majority of the tasks, both spontaneous and forced. In all cases, male cats showed a significant preference for using their left paw, while females were more inclined to use their right paw. However, when sleeping the cats did not appear to have a side preference.

Dr Deborah Wells says that while there is further research needed to investigate why there is a gender preference, it could be down to hormones. She comments: "The findings point more and more strongly to underlying differences in the neural architecture of male and female animals.”

“Beyond mere curiosity, there may be value to knowing the motor preference of one's pet. There is some suggestion that limb preference might be a useful indicator of vulnerability to stress. Ambilateral animals with no preference for one side or the other, and those that are more inclined to left-limb dominance, for example, seem more flighty and susceptible to poor welfare than those who lean more heavily towards right limb use,” she said.

Read article: Lateralization of spontaneous behaviours in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris by Louise J. McDowell, Deborah L. Wells and Peter G. Hepper, published in Animal Behaviour (2018) vol. 135, pp. 37-43

Article details

  • Date
  • 23 January 2018
  • Source
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals