Anything Left-Handed > Research > Paws for thought: Cats found to be left or right handed

Paws for thought: Cats found to be left or right handed

Scientists who played with 42 pet cats for weeks on end conclude that, like humans, moggies are left or right “handed” reports John Bingham in the Telegraph this week.

And just as men are more likely to be left-handed, so are toms. Female felines favour their right paw when tackling complex tasks whereas Toms prefer the left.

Although previous studies attribute “handedness” to other animals, such as chimps and horses, the cat paw preference surprised experts.

Researcher Deborah Wells said: “Results suggest two distinct populations of paw preference,that cluster strongly around the animal’s sex.”

Psychologists from Queen’s University Belfast set the cats three tasks. The first involved retrieving a piece of tuna from a jar too small for their heads.

In the others, the pets pawed at a suspended toy mouse.

In the trickier jar test, there was a clear line between the sexes, the journal Animal Behaviour reports.

All 21 males favoured the left paw for the task, while 20 out of the 21 females used the right.

The researchers likened the pattern to the way in which humans would use either hand for a simple task such as opening a door but one or the other for writing.

“The more complex and challenging (the task), the more likely we’re going to see true handedness,” Dr Wells was quoted in New Scientist as saying.

Read John Bingham’s full article in the Telegraph

Related article by Peter Wedderburn:   Tom Cats:   not stupid, just left handed

While those articles are no longer available to view, there is a similar article in national geographic

& one in the Guardian as well

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20 comments on “Paws for thought: Cats found to be left or right handed
  1. Catwoman=^..^= says:

    I have a female cat and I’m pretty sure that she’s left handed. I noticed this a couple of years ago. The way I see it; If you have two hands (paws) it would only seem logical that, no matter who you are, it’s more than likely that you are going to favor one over the other.
    The article only comfirms what I’ve always known. Thanks for the read!
    Catwoman=^..^= & Mija (my furangel)

  2. Rachel says:

    I know studies have been done on many animals, even fish and water mammals, possibly even birds and left or right pawedness, handedness or whatever as well as ambidexterity in certain individuals has been found in all species studied. I know our dogs and cats all show either left paw or right paw use (we have nine cats and 3 dogs).

  3. Sally Roberts says:

    Miss Kitty is left handed. She sticks her left paw up the auto-feeder to pull food out of the reservoir…when the feeder turns on, she’s already scooped out her portion….And so she starts all over again. She also opens the screen door with her left paw….until we tightened the tension. Do you suppose those folks doing the study were all right handed, female cat owners….? We haven’t figured out our female Boston Terrier yet. We’ll start to observe which paw she uses to flip her empty dish over to indicate that it is time for dinner. And horses have preferred leads….

    The things we study to create affinity…..

  4. Joan says:

    My 13 yr. old female kitty swatted my new puppy in his right eye with her left paw. She always taps my right cheek with her left paw to get petted or to get my attention, never the right. My daughter is lefthanded and was born on August 13th–pleased me no end. Lefties in my family are almost half the population. Most of the important tools in my house are lefties-scissors, wine opener, tape measures, etc. Thanks to lefty dad.

  5. Jenni Miniaci says:

    Hello, I too am here to crush, or at least argue, the study of whether toms being lefties and females being righties, I am a left handed female with a left pawed female cat. I first noticed this 6 years ago when Stinker jumped on the bathroom sink and swatted at running water with her left paw. But, I also have two right handed children, one girl and one son. Lefties rule though! The articles are very interesting and fun to read. Hey, are the people getting paid to do the research lefties? I qualify for that.

  6. Helen Fleming says:

    My cat is a beautiful Tortoisshell, she is a ‘lefty’! Just like me! So it’s not true about Tom cat’s are all left pawed, and Female’s are all Right pawed. (just to put the record straight.

  7. Sandi says:

    And why won’t cats be right or left pawed??–my cat is left pawed, just like her human mom! 🙂

  8. kate says:

    Having had cats most of my life I’ve always known that cats could be left or right pawed. Like humans they can, when needed learn to use their other paw. I had an odd eyed white persian who used to open the cupboard where the cat food was stored with her right paw. In danger of having a house full of very over weight cats, I moved the food to a cupboard requiring the left paw to be used. It took her a few days, but she did learn to open that cupboard too. I also have a tom cat who is missing his left paw and copes very well.

  9. Belinda Johnson says:

    I found this article really interesting as I’m a big fan of our feline friends. I’m going to experiment with Rosie, my 15 year old rescue cat now I’ve rad this! I am a volunteer “cat cuddler” at the Cats Protection NCAC, so I’ll also be observing the kitties who are awaiting new homes and seeing if those statistics are true!


  10. Gloria says:

    Our cat Xena was born with a deformed left paw. It looks like its broken in two places, and lays almost limp.

    But when she wants to smack the other cats, she does not use her good right paw…she swings her limp left paw at them and smacks them good.

    Along with my son and myself…I believe she belongs to the ranks of the lefties…gooo xena!

  11. Sophie says:

    After a fight with another cat last year my female cat was found to be left-handed. The vet was able to work out from her injuries what paw she had been using to defend herself. In relation to the article this makes my cat quite unique.

    Left is best!!!

  12. Jane says:

    I noticed quite some time ago that my male feline is “left-pawed.” He always uses it to cover his used litter in his box, and when I drop a treat on the floor for him, he stops it cold with the left paw; he doesn’t want it getting away from him. It’s very interesting.

  13. Leo Sigman says:

    Bingham’s article said “…tuna out of a small jar – all 21 females used their right paw.
    But 20 of the 21 tom cats used their left while one of the males appeared to be ambidextrous.” I wonder who got it correct?

  14. Maureen says:

    Not to digress from cats…but, in my family (4 grandparents, 2 parents and 12 siblings…one person is lefthanded..ME! What are the statistics, if anyone knows, about large families and handedness? Thanks and I enjoy all your articles!

    From Keith: I did an article about the statistics of left-handedness and chances of having a left-handed child and you can see it here – What is the chance of having a left-handed child

  15. Angie says:

    I had noticed that my Tom cat always used his left paw to open the cat flap but thought it was just him (for some reason he doesn’t like to use his head like other cats). I shall study him further to see if he uses his left paw to do other things.

  16. Samantha says:

    I tried the paw thing with my cat – she is female – and yes, left pawed!

  17. Ree Gibson says:

    I just find it weird that men are more likely to be left-handed. In my family there are three left-handed women, myself included, and my dad, two brothers, one sister, one brother-in-law, a neice and a nephew are all right-handed! Obviously whoever deals in the stastics forgot to ask us about left-handedness! As for animals having a preference, well that just makes sense to me; all brains are made up of a left and right side, and one of them has to take the lead, surely.

  18. Karen says:

    I raise, train and show Saint Bernards, have for years – many are left pawed. In fact I have a client whose dog is left pawed and shows better for me than anyone else….I’m not at all surprised that cats are also left pawed. I suspect many animals are, but people don’t always notice it!

  19. Claudio says:

    Hi! – I like the article!. I never realize that cats could be left or right handed.
    I always had pekingese dogs and they used to be right handed, but a few of them were left ones, I notice that when they want to chase something from bag of doggy food or simply when they play with other animals.

    Thank you!


  20. Patricia Merriman says:

    Hi – I found it really interesting that a study has been made as to whether cats may be right handed or left handed. But have there been any studies relating to dogs? We previously had two springer spaniels who were half sisters. One was right handed and the other left handed. One could open a right opening door but not a left opening one and vice versa. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced similar experiences with their dogs.

    Thank you to the left handed club for all your very useful information, goodies and articles.