Left-handed Cats. Right-handed People

Left-handed cat

Up to 95 percent of people are right-handed, while 20 percent of cats are right-handed.

  • 38% of cats favour their left forepaw and
  • 42% of cats are ambidextrous – they don’t favour either paw.

In short, most cats are left-pawed while most humans are right-handed. Why? We don’t know.

I think this is an interesting difference. I clearly remember my late Binnie being left-pawed. Charlie only has a right-paw so I can’t tell.

As no one knows why cats are generally left-pawed and humans are right-handed, It is fun trying to figure out why.

Before I have a go at that, apparently, male dogs tend to be left-pawed while female dogs favour their right paws. OK, dogs are evenly split between left and right while cats tend to favour their left.

Because both cats and humans have two forearms it probably makes sense for nature to decide that one arm is used more than the other so that it becomes more coordinated through practice than if both arms were used equally. It could be argued that If one arm is more adept then in general the creature is more likely to survive.

That might explain favouring one side over the other, but why should cats be left-pawed and humans right-handed?

It is generally agreed that humans evolved in Africa. African is described as “the cradle of humankind”.

If the most dangerous animals to early African humans were the lion and leopard, both of which were generally left-pawed, might it be the case that humans were better able to fend off an attack by a left-pawed large wild cats using their right right. In doing so, it would be the strongest side meeting the strongest side. Over time humans evolved to be right-handed because it aided raw survival at a physical level.

If that huge guess is correct it still leaves the question, why are cats generally left-pawed? The probable answer is that for the top predator in Africa, the lion, either paw would have been equally effective. Nature simply chose one side at random. The difference in favouring one side was not huge as a high percentage of cats are ambidextrous.

So, nature chose at random that cats should be left-pawed or ambidextrous and humans evolved to deal with that by favoring the right side.

The source for the percentages comes from the book “Play it Again, Tom” by Augustus Brown and the theories come from me while writing this. They are wild theories. Do you have a better one?

Incidentally, the Japanese Beckoning Cat is left-pawed.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

29 thoughts on “Left-handed Cats. Right-handed People”

  1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Jozef has co-operated at last and he is RIGHT handed!
    No result from Walter yet, if cats know you want them to do something they make you wait until they are good and ready lol

  2. Michael, you are just too much fun for your own good!

    “Because both cats and humans have two forearms it probably makes sense for nature to decide that one arm is used more than the other so that it becomes more coordinated through practice than if both arms were used equally.”

    Leaving the poor dogs behind, this is what I want you to answer me: Are those of us human southpaws more sensitive, thus more ailurophilic?

    1. Are those of us human southpaws more sensitive, thus more ailurophilic?

      That is a big question, Caroline. I’ll have to research that to answer it. My personal experience of people who are left-handed is that they do have a certain appearance. Attractiveness goes with left-handedness 😉 Pleased?

      As for sensitivity. I have not noticed that left-handed people are more sensitive than right-handed people. If anything they seem to be more businesslike and ambitious.

      1. Michael, our lifespan is statistically shortened by seven percent over a right-hander’s. We sometimes fumble in life. [Do You?] Now, apply that to Cats? Tell me, I’m all ears. 😉 And worse yet, apply that to southpaws with right-pawed felines!

        Those of you who live over here in the Midwestern States, have you noticed that the Junebugs only survived three days? [sorry, this has been bugging me.]

  3. okay, this is the news article I read. Copied text below.

    It may not be obvious from the scratch marks cats dish out, but domestic felines favour one paw over the other. More often than not, females tend to be righties, while toms are lefties, say Deborah Wells and Sarah Millsopp, psychologists at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

    However, these preferences only manifest when cats perform particularly dexterous feats. That’s for the same reason we can open a door with either arm, yet struggle to write legibly with our non-dominant hand. “The more complex and challenging [the task], the more likely we’re going to see true handedness,” Wells says.

    She and Millsopp tasked 42 domestic cats to ferret out a bit of tuna in a jar too small for their heads. Among 21 females, all but one favoured the right paw across dozens of trials, while 20 out of 21 males preferentially used the left. One male proved ambidextrous.

    Not so for two simpler activities: pawing at a toy mouse suspended in the air or dragged on ground from a string. No matter their sex, all of the cats wielded their right and left paws about equally on these less demanding tasks.

    Hormone levels could explain sex differences in paw choice, Wells says. Previous research has linked prenatal testosterone exposure to left-handedness. While studies of two other domestic animals, dogs and horses, revealed similar sex biases.

  4. Hi Michael,

    I remember something like maybe a year ago about the handedness of cats. irrc it stated that there was a difference in handedness of cats by sex. Article was based on scientific study.

    I tried to figure out Tootsie’s handedness- ambi, I’d say.

    Also, “up to 95%” of humans are right handed. Heh. “Weasel words” if I ever heard them. That’s a phrase I learned in UK. Actually, being a lefty I’ve paid some attention… (but not too much) and I think that 95% is on the high end for guesstimates, irrc # of lefties is increasing in population, lefties are generally extremely creative and intuitive (grin). It may also depend on country as for % left or right. US used to enforce “right hand only” in schools- so natural lefties were turned into righties. I wonder if this still goes on in other countries now.

    1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

      Our late mother who was left handed was born in 1918 and when she went to school in the 1920s the teacher tied her left hand behind her back forcing her to use her right one.
      She was able to write beautifully with both hands all her life but still favoured her left one of course so I don’t think lefties can really be turned completely into righties.
      But like you Valley Girl she was very intuitive and creative 😉
      Here in the North East left handed people are called ‘cuddywhifters’

      1. I’m not sure if this is worth anything to you, but I was learning to use my right hand here in the states at the age of five (I used my left, when four and prior). My point is that we lefties/ambidextrous humans have most likely had too much feline prenatal testosterone exposure.

        And possibly, have spent some time working with lead paint? (I do remember ingesting paint chips from the baseboards in our 1890’s house, as a child.

        New article, Michael: Does your cat sneeze more often than he should?

        1. Circumvent me here; don’t post the last three.

          Shrimpster sneezes 2x as much when the air-conditioning is running. We’ve had really strange weather here in E. Nebraska these past two months, air on/off, heat on/off, windows open usually. Shrimpie does not like the air conditioning on. I’m thinking that it must be a mildew problem in the duct work. ideas?

    2. VG, I’m in the United States in the VA system as a veteran. The majority of us in treatment for abuse/addiction are left-handed. I have always pointed this out to staff, but being right-handed, for the most part, they do not listen.
      [Thanks for listening. mrowrrrr…]

    3. I think you are saying that there are more left-handed people than we think because a lot of them were trained into be right-handed. If you can train someone to be right-handed when they are left-handed does that say that the genetic predisposition is not very strong?

      1. Actually, what may–I don’t know–be predisposed with those left-janded humans is that they are very often (even today, because it is a righthanded world, human-wsie) forced still to exist in a right-handed world. bumping elbows and such. I think perhaps that is why we adapt, given our creative right-mindedness. We learn to become ambidextrous, thus possibly insuring that we live almost akin to our brothers in the righthanded world. of humans. Cats? Anything Goes! I love it. 😉

        For example, I was in elementary school when they first [in the us] taught teachers to honor those students who were left-handed. My techers then proceeded to force me to use my left hand with scissors. They forced me to turn my paper to the right. It was too late, and they did not show any sensitivity. It’s really funny. To this day, I write “upside-down” and cannot use lefthanded scissors! lol

  5. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    A great fun article and I asked Walter and Jozef to demonstrate with their red tickling stick which hand they use. What do you know, neither would co-operate lol
    I will post the results if they ever do!
    An interesting fact, it’s said that left handed people had a right handed twin in the womb in the very early stages, but the twin was reabsorbed.
    Our late mother was left handed and there are twins in our family, are there any in yours Marc?

  6. It never really occurred to me that “Big Cats’ as well as their smaller counterparts ,the common house cat could have a preference in using their paws, akin to us humans using our hands.”P.O.C” has always been portraying some unknown common facts about cats that most cat owners tend to ignore.I will now closely observe my two cats to understand if they are “LEFT HANDED” or “RIGHT HANDED”.

    1. I would like to hear from you on whether your cats are left handed. It can be quite tricky to test it because cats are also ambidextrous even if they favour their left paws. But if you put a cat tease (a feather on a stick) in front of your cats which paw do they use to try and grab it?

      1. Right. Shrimp, though, is blind in his left. Every time. His right. [guess that doesn’t a count for much, does it.] kidding. Ruth, Kattaddorra , [below] you have a good sense of humor!

        Marc, I blv that there exist more lefthanders than righthanded cat-adorers in our world, and certainly, those who are ambidextrous are included. We–sniff–tend to be more sensitive AND creative. 😉

  7. I’m left handed. Your theories are pretty wild. This is an interesting topic but I need some time to come up with some wild theories of my own. So – I’ll be back 🙂

    1. Definitively wild and dreamt up on the run so to speak but no one has come up with any ideas and I would have thought there was some science on this. Maybe I have just missed it.

      I’ll see if I can come up with a better idea overnight. Unlikely.

      1. Michael I am finally back with my cats after a week away – very happy to be with them again. It’s wonderful coming home to them. I love this topic and see you have gone into it further in another article. I’ve not thought of a theory about it and I have not worked out if my cats are lefties or righties but I will see if I can get an idea of that somehow.

        1. I am pleased you are back with your family. You may have difficulty getting solid evidence that you cats favour one paw or the other because there is a lot of ambidextrous behavior in cats. I remember my Binnie being positively left-handed but I sense that cut and dried answers are hard to come by. That said, I would be interested in reading about your observations or seeing a video if you can get one.

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