Some facts about domestic cat lateralisation and whether they are left-pawed or right-pawed

This is an article about cat lateralisation and whether they are left-pawed or right-pawed. ‘Lateralisation’ means favouring a limb. I also discuss dogs for comparison. In fact, an article in The Times prompted me to write about domestic cat lateralisation. It favours both cats and dogs to have a lateralisation brain as it avoids competition between the two hemispheres of the brain. If a cat is left-pawed it is the right side of the brain which controls the paw.

Domestic cats tend to be left-pawed
Domestic cats tend to be left-pawed. Photo: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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Cats

My research indicates that, based on studies, domestic cats tend to be left-pawed. My personal observations bear this out. In fact, they are 3 to 4 times more likely to be left-pawed than humans are left-handed. A study titled: Laterality in Cats: Paw Preference and Performance in a Visuomotor Activity tells me that cats tend to be left-pawed. There were 44 domestic cat in the study. They analysed paw preference and paw performance. In summary, they found that 17 cat were left-pawed and six were right-pawed of those that had a strong preference to use one paw over another.

The study also found that when a cat had a preference to use one paw over another there were advantages because the reaction time using the preferred paw was shorter than using the non-preferred paw. Further, there was a shorter movement time and they were more accurate when they use the preferred paw over the non-preferred paw.

They said that the cats had a “functional advantage of being lateralisation”. What that means is that when they had preferred paw, functionally they were at an advantage over cats that used either the left or right equally.

It is speculated that the reason for cats tending to be left-pawed is because the right hemisphere of the brain controls the processing of fear under strange circumstances. This is an act of survival. So the right part of the brain processes the survival instinct which I’m going to guess means that it is well developed which is why there is a tendency to be left-pawed. That’s my interpretation.

A study by scientists at Queen’s University, Belfast, found that female cats were more likely to be right-pawed than males.

Humans

About 90% of humans are right-handed. This is the same across all cultures. Men are more likely to be left-handed than women.

Dogs

Lateralisation is also present in dogs. An analysis of nearly 18,000 dogs in Britain found that almost three quarters of them preferred to use one paw over another. Just under 60% preferred to use their right paw over their left. The study was carried out at Lincoln University. As for cats and humans, a preference in the use of a paw is more functional which is advantageous to the animal for obvious reasons.

For the study, the dog’s owners placed a food treat inside a cardboard or plastic tube. They observed how their dogs retrieved it. They did this three times. They observed whether their dogs used the left or right paw or whether it was difficult to tell. About 58% preferred their right forepaw. The study is published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Between genders, as mentioned, 61% of females were more likely to be right-pawed compared to 56% in males. They thought that hormones may be playing a part in lateralisation. The study did not monitor which dogs were neutered or not neutered but earlier research has found that female dogs are more likely than male dogs to be neutered.

When measured by dog breed, they found that Dobermans, Rottweilers and greyhounds had the highest proportion of right-pawed dogs. Rough collies, Rhodensian ridgebacks and lhasa apsos had the lowest.

Emotional state

It is also suggested that left-pawed dogs were more pessimistic than right-pawed dogs as they took longer to approach a bowl of food when it was placed in an ambiguous position compared to those who favoured their right.

Age-related

Older pets are more likely to be right-pawed than younger ones. It is believed that as an animal gets older they learn which paw is more efficient to use although they aren’t sure why this change takes place.

Dog intelligence

It is believed that dogs have the language skills of a two-year-old child. Further facts: dogs’ nose prints are like our fingerprints. Dogs can smell human emotions. A dog’s sense of smell is about 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Puppies are born deaf but their hearing becomes four times as strong as a human’s.

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