Right Paw or Left Paw?

Animal behaviorists in the UK have answered the burning question all cat owners want to know. Is my cat right pawed or left pawed?

We were up at night wondering about this, too.

The Answer Is…

cat reaching with paw preferenceThe results were actually rather interesting. For simple tasks, like reaching for a toy on the ground or a toy overhead, cats had no paw preference.

When the task was more complex, say retrieving a piece of food from a small jar, then researchers noticed a paw preference based on the biological sex of the cat. Females almost exclusively used their right paw and males their left to retrieve the food.

This paw preference develops around 1 year of age and seems to stick as the cat grows older.


Why Have a Paw Preference?cat paws

Handedness, or paw preference in this case, may indicate how the brain is organized or wired.

Scientists are ultimately trying to understand what biological purpose it might serve to have such a preference linked to the sex of the animal.

Was there an evolutionary purpose for this? What benefit does it (or did it) have for the species?

We bet there is a long line of cat volunteers wanting to bat at string and grab tuna bits from a jar for extra credit.


  • Wells, D.L. & Millsopp, S. (2009). Lateralized behaviour in the domestic cat Felis silvestris catus. Animal Behavior, 78(2), 537–541.
  • Wells, D. L. & Millsopp, S. (2012). The ontogenesis of lateralized behavior in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris catus. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 126(1), 23-30.