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Is Your Cat a Southpaw?

You're probably pretty familiar with which is your dominant hand. But have you ever noticed if your cat is right- or left-pawed?

An interesting new study at Queen's University in Belfast has uncovered some feline preferences. The study was conducted in each of the 44 cat's own homes to minimize the animals' stress. Owners reported information based on their cats' spontaneous behaviors during their everyday lives such as: 

  • Does your cat prefer to rest or sleep on the right or left side of their body?
  • Does your cat use their right or left paw first as they step down an indoor set of stairs?
  • How about when they step into their litter tray?

During a "forced" test (as opposed to the "spontaneous" test), the cats had to reach for food in a 3-tier feeding tower where food is accessed through the holes. The research discovered that female cats were significantly more likely to use their right paws, and males their left.

There is some correlation between your pet's limb preference and its vulnerability to stress. Animals with no preferred side and left-limb dominance tend to be more flighty and more pessimistic than the right-limb dominant animals. According to the study's co-author, Deborah Wells, this knowledge may be useful for pet owner's to gauge how vulnerable that individual is to stressful situations, e.g. captive housing, trips to the vet, fireworks, etc.

Ms. Wells elaborates (via correspondence to Barbara King) on the scientific connection of limb preference to your pet's brain. "Left-limbed animals, which tend to be right-hemisphere dominant, show stronger fear responses than right-limbed animals, which tend to be left-hemisphere dominant. Left-sided biases of aggression, reactivity to fear-inducing stimuli and vigilance behavior have also been noted in numerous species. Animals that are ambilateral tend to show poorer processing between the two hemispheres, which, in turn, can augment stress reactions."

So, basically, once you unveil which limb preference your pet has, you can understand more about which part of the brain it's depending on and therefore its vulnerability to stress.

Which lateral bias do you think your pet has based on his/her personality you know and love?