Is Your Cat Right or Left Pawed?
Veterinarian Reviewed on May 6, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Like most American kids, Michael, had to enter a science project into his school’s science fair. And, just like most American kids, Michael was having a hard time trying to decide what project he wanted to do.
His mother decided to help Michael out by doing some online research of her own. Luckily, she came across a website that allows children to answer a questionnaire about their interests and hobbies. Once all the questions are answered, the website then gives the children suggestions for their science projects based on their responses.
After finishing the questionnaire, Michael decided upon the perfect science project: to attempt to discover whether cats are right or left pawed!
Basic science tells us that, as humans, we have certain left or right hand preferences because our brains have both a left and a right hemisphere that is specialized. This simply means that each hemisphere or side of our brain is in control over our specific bodily functions, like talking or being right or left handed.
But Cats do not ever carry out very complex tasks that are mentally challenging; at least not on the same level as humans do. Rather, cats prefer to use their paws whenever they are interacting with anything in their environment. Which paw they choose to actually use in a particular instance, was once thought to be dependent on the cat’s individual environment rather than individual preference for one paw over the other.
Since Michael did not live too far away from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and, being that he loves cats, conducting his experiment at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just seemed the logical choice.
Just like any other scientific experiment, extreme caution should be taken to manage the parameters of such testing. All the facts and figures need to be made on an unbiased basis and should reflect on the most dedicated and enthusiastic participants. Given all of this, Michael knew that using cats to be his guinea pigs was going to be quite challenging, to say the least!
Michael set up creating a set of three different tests for the cats at the Sanctuary. His first test was to simply dangle a toy in front of a participating cat and then to count how many times the cat would use his or her left or right to swing at the toy.
Michael’s next test utilized a few yummy treats that were positioned inside of a very skinny glass jar. Again, Michael had to record how many times a participating cat would use his or her left and right paw to reach into the glass to get the treats out.
Michael’s third test involved holding a spoonful of wet cat food just out of reach of the cats’ mouths. He would then take note of which paw the participating cats would predominantly use to swat at the spoon to get the wet food.
In spite of how meticulous Michaels was regarding his little experiment he tended to forget that cat’s love to just be cats! Quite a few of the cats at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary refused to participate and actually gave Michael a cold shoulder!
Although there were a substantial amounts of cats that simply wanted to participate in Michael’s three tests over, and over, and over again. There was also at least one or two cat’s per room that actually attempted to interfere with Michael’s science project by attempting to steal and get away with the treats outright!
However, both Michael and his mother remained steadfast and were able to evaluate the cats’ performances and collect enough information for Michael to earn a top grade on his science project.
After evaluating almost 39 participating cats, Michael was able to determine that 59 per cent of the cats were left pawed whilst 26 per cent were right pawed. A mere 15 per cent of these cats were actually ambidextrous.
Try using Michael’s testing techniques above with your own cats to see if they prefer their right paw over their left paw!
Photo Credit: RBerteig
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan