Cats Can be Right- or Left-Pawed, Researchers Find

Fagjun | Published 2018-01-27 16:16

Domestic cats have been found to favor either their right or their left paws, though researchers still aren’t sure why this is.

What's your cat's dominant paw?

What's your cat's dominant paw?


Studies suggest that approximately 70 to 95 percent of the world’s population is right-handed, while other studies suggest that 10 percent of the population is left-handed. Whatever the exact statistic is, what’s certain is that there are far fewer left-handed people than there are right-handed. However, humans aren’t the only animals that favor one side over the other. Cats have also been found to favor either their right or left paw.


Interestingly, it seems that there’s a correlation between a cat’s handedness and its sex. According to a new study, male cats tended to favor their left paw, while females tended to favor their right. However, that’s not all there is to a cat’s handedness, since it may also give some insight into its distinct psychology and personality.

Paw Dominance

Which paw does your cat use to step onto the stairs?

Which paw does your cat use to step onto the stairs?


A total of 44 domestic cats participated in the study, which was conducted in the owners’ homes. 20 of the cats were female, and the rest were male. The owners collected “spontaneous” data on certain things about their cats, like which paw they used to step onto the stairs and step over objects, or which side of their body they slept on. “Forced” data, meanwhile, was collected as the cats reached for food stashed inside a three-tier feeding tower.


The results showed that 70 percent of cats showed paw dominance when stepping onto the stairs, 66 percent when stepping over objects, and 73 percent when reaching for food. Male cats exhibited a strong preference for their left paw in all cases, while the females preferred their right paw. There didn’t appear to be a preference for which side to sleep on. The cats also didn’t appear to have paw preference exactly, though they did have a tendency to have a dominant paw.


It’s also possible that paw dominance may indicate a cat’s individual personality. "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," says Deborah Wells, one of the researchers. Interestingly, this may also be true for humans.

Driving Force

Your cat's playfulness may have some correlation with its dominant paw.

Your cat's playfulness may have some correlation with its dominant paw.


Right-pawed cats were found to be more playful toward their owners than other cats. A 2016 study by the same researchers, however, found that cats that didn’t have a dominant paw tended to be less affectionate and more aggressive.


So what’s the driving force behind handedness in cats? Scientists aren’t actually sure yet. Dogs exhibit handedness as well, and researchers have found that hormones may have something to do with canine handedness. However, this may not be the case for cats, since all the feline participants in the study were neutered.


What’s clear, though, is that there’s a reason why a cat is right- or left-pawed. There’s too little randomness for us to say that feline handedness is just what it is or just happens. There may be some difference in the brain structure and function between male and female cats, though more work is necessary to find out for sure.

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