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Paw choice? Cats show right and left-hand preferences

  • 22 January 2018
  • Author: Miranda
  • Number of views: 3332
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Paw choice? Cats show right and left-hand preferences

Whether stalking down the stairs or tiptoeing into the litter box, cats have a preference for which paw they put forward, according to new research, with females favoring their right paw and males their left.

Scientists say that while such preferences are a matter of individual inclination, males generally prefer stepping out with their left foot, while females typically favor their right.

The team say understanding paw preference could offer insights into an animal’s vulnerability to stress.

“Left-limbed animals, which rely more heavily on their right hemisphere for processing information, tend to show stronger fear responses, aggressive outbursts, and cope more poorly with stressful situations than animals that are right-limbed and rely more heavily on their left hemisphere for processing,” said Dr Deborah Wells, co-author of the research from Queen’s University, Belfast, adding that the right hemisphere is more responsible for processing of negative emotions.

The study was conducted in owners’ homes and focused on spontaneous behavior. In total, the team analysed data from 44 cats, 20 of which were female, collected by owners tracking which paw their cat used for taking the first step down stairs and stepping into the litter box, and which side their feline preferred to recline on. Over the course of three months owners recorded 50 instances of each behavior.

The cats also took part in a food reaching test, where tasty morsels were placed inside a three-tiered tower and the cats tried fish them out. Each cat had 50 attempts at the task, and each time their paw preference was noted.

The results, published in the journal Animal Behavior, show that while cats overall have no paw preference – unlike humans, where about 90% of people are right-handed – individual cats do tend to have a dominant paw.

Overall, 73% of cats had a paw preference when reaching for food, 70% had a “best paw” to put forward when descending the stairs, and 66% had a paw preference for stepping into their litter tray. On the whole, the same paw was favored for each task. However, only 25% of cats had a preference for which side they lay on – with no link to the preferred paw for stepping.

As with previous research, the team found that male cats that showed a preference generally used their left paw, while females were generally right-pawed.

But while studies in dogs have suggested this might be down to hormones, the team say that is unlikely to be the full story, since all 44 cats were neutered.

“What is explaining this difference, we just don’t know,” said Wells. “There is something going on with differences between the brain structure and function, clearly, of male and female animals, but as to the specifics, we just don’t know yet.”

Photo source: pexels

source: The Guardian

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