Nav: Home

Researchers discover that female cats are more likely to be right-handed

January 22, 2018

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have found that female cats are much more likely to use their right paw than males.

Dr Louise McDowell, Dr Deborah Wells and Professor Peter Hepper from the School of Psychology at Queen's, recruited 44 cats for the study and found that while there was no overall population preference like the human preference for right handedness, there was a gender preference. The findings have been published in Animal Behaviour.

Until now, studies on limb preference of animals have focused solely on forced experimental challenges. However, in the Queen's study, the cats - 24 male and 20 female and all neutered - were studied in their own homes so that information could be gathered as they went about their everyday tasks.

The cat owners collected "spontaneous" data on whether the cats used their left or right paws when they stepped down the stairs or over objects and whether they slept on the left or right side of their body. A "forced" test was also carried out where the cats had to reach for food inside a three-tier feeding tower.

The majority of cats showed a paw preference when reaching for food (73%), stepping down (70%) and stepping over (66%) and their preference for right and left was consistent for the majority of the tasks, both spontaneous and forced. In all cases, male cats showed a significant preference for using their left paw, while females were more inclined to use their right paw. However, when sleeping the cats did not appear to have a side preference.

Dr Deborah Wells says that while there is further research needed to investigate why there is a gender preference, it could be down to hormones. She comments: "The findings point more and more strongly to underlying differences in the neural architecture of male and female animals."

The Queen's University researcher also explains that the findings could help cat owners to understand how their pet deals with stress. "Beyond mere curiosity, there may be value to knowing the motor preference of one's pet. There is some suggestion that limb preference might be a useful indicator of vulnerability to stress. Ambilateral animals with no preference for one side or the other, and those that are more inclined to left-limb dominance, for example, seem more flighty and susceptible to poor welfare than those who lean more heavily towards right limb use," says Dr Wells.

She adds: "We have just discovered that left-limbed dogs, for example, are more pessimistic in their outlook than right-limbed dogs. From a pet owner's perspective, it might be useful to know if an animal is left or right limb dominant, as it may help them gauge how vulnerable that individual is to stressful situations."
-end-


Queen's University Belfast

Related Cats Articles:

Cats are securely bonded to their people, too
Cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent. But a study of the way domestic cats respond to their caregivers suggests that their socio-cognitive abilities and the depth of their human attachments have been underestimated.
Rare antelopes and black cats
Numerous large mammals have been documented with video traps on Mount Kilimanjaro by a research group of Würzburg University.
Diabetes can be detected in gut of cats
Diabetes patients show reduced gut bacterial diversity, and now researchers from the University of Copenhagen have learned that the same is true of cats.
Hello, kitty: Cats recognize their own names, according to new Japanese research
Pet cats can recognize their own names if their names are used regularly by their owners, according to new results by a team of researchers in Japan.
Emerging significance of gammaherpesvirus and morbillivirus infections in cats
Emerging infectious diseases comprise a substantial fraction of important human infections, with potentially devastating global health and economic impacts.
More Cats News and Cats Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...