Categories: Cat Anatomy

Are Female Cats Left or Right Pawed?

Female domestic cats tend to prefer using their right paw when engaged in specific spontaneous behaviours.

A recent study (Lateralization of spontaneous behaviours in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris by Louise J.McDowell, Deborah L.Wells, Peter G.Hepper) answers the question: “Are female cats left or right pawed?”

Are female cats left or right pawed? ANS: Right pawed tendency.

There is a “sex split” on left and right handedness in domestic cats. Females were inclined to use the right paw while “males showed a significant preference for using their left paw”. The circumstances under which this bias was demonstrated were: food reaching, stepping down and stepping over.

The study provided “first evidence that certain spontaneous behaviours, notably those involving limb use, are lateralised in the domestic cat”. In other words domestic cats do show a preference for left or right paw use with respect to specific spontaneous behaviours that involved the use of forelimbs.

For reaching for food, on 73% of occasions domestic cats preferred one paw over another. When stepping down the preference was demonstrated on 70% of occasions and for step over, 66% of the time. Overall when taking all cats into account there was no preference for left or right handedness.

You can read the full report by clicking on this link.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • P.S. My elderly tortie just reached out & batted at me with her left paw. I suspect cats are ambidextrous (ambipawed?)

  • In the midst of all sorts of grim news (deadly fire, raids on rescuers, etc.) along comes this tidbit of information which I find absolutely delightful and amusing. Suspect the sample isn't large enough, but who cares? Needed this relief!

    • Marianna you are right that the sample size was fairly small. I try hard to avoid bad cat news but nearly all cat news is bad news. In fact most news of any kind is bad -- sad.

  • I was curious at a point and learned that male cats at least were left pawed. Looking back (at photos) I saw that. But one of my females also used her left paw which threw me off. (Male=black, female=ginger). So I suspected that the way you asked the question that it would turn out weird. Interesting!

    • The tendency is for females to be right pawed. I have not learned why this is though. I asked the question in the title because I checked Google search results and there were few responses to that particular question on cat left and right handedness.

      Good photos by the way. You have captured their behavior nicely.

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