Female cats are more likely to be right-handed, male cats are usually southpaws, study finds

How do you tell whether your cat is left-or right-handed? You could present your pet with a watch and see which wrist he or she slips it on, but it’s an unreliable metric. Cats may not be the furry little simpletons we sometimes believe them to be, but at the very least they are extremely contrary.

Female cats are more likely to be right-handed, male cats are usually southpaws, study finds

Researchers from Queen’s University, Belfast, have some insights into the matter having analysed how 44 cats behave within their owner’s homes. Keeping an eye on which foot they lead with, which paw they reach for treats with and which side they favour reclining on, the researchers believe that while female cats tend to be ‘right-handed’, male cats are southpaws.

Why does it matter? The researchers believe that understanding feline paw preference could give greater insight into how the animals manage 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,” Dr Deborah Wells, co-author of the research, told The Guardian.males_cats_are_usually_southpaws_researchers_find_-_2

While around 90% of humans are right-handed, cats as a species seem to have no overall trend – but individual cats seem to. Owners studying their pets’ behaviour found that after 50 instances of each test, 73% of cats showed a paw preference when reaching for food, 70% used the same paw first when descending stairs, and 66% favoured a paw for entering the litter tray. Which side they prefer to lie on, however, showed little correlation, with just 25% showing any kind of preference either way.

Why would there be a gender divide for paw preference? In short, the researchers don’t know. Past studies in dogs have suggested it may be related to hormones, but given every cat in the study had been neutered this theory falls a touch flat. “There is something going on with differences between the brain structure and function, clearly, of male and female animals,” said Wells. “But as to the specifics, we just don’t know yet.”

The research has been published in Animal Behaviour.

Images: dyyanae and Zepfanman used under Creative Commons

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