by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Is your cat left-pawed or right-pawed? Does the pawedness have any bearing on personality or behaviour?
All cats have to hunt for their food. Kittens are taught by Momcat or use instinct and trial-and-error to create their own hunting method. Therefore one would imagine that most cats would exhibit the same tactics and behaviour.
Various researchers have studied the pawedness of cats and have shown that male cats are typically left-pawed while females are right-pawed. A small percentage of cats are truly ambidextrous. Interestingly, the difference is not so apparent in cats that were sterilised, so is there a possible link to hormones?
The hemispheres of a cat’s brain are similar to ours, so left-pawed cats are more right-brain aligned; intuitive thinkers, creative, flexible planners, and passionate emotionally, more moved by the sound of our words than the understanding of their content. Right-pawed cats are left-brain aligned, capable of logical constructs and actual thinking about the meanings of the words we say to them. Ambidextrous cats have access to both sets of qualities.
Like us, cats can use either paw for common tasks, like catching a toy. Also, if the toy or action comes from one side they will tend to use the closest paw, or the one not supporting them, depending on the position they are in and the amount of space available.
To establish which paw is the dominant one a new and more complex task is required. The typical experiment is a small amount of wet food in a container that is too small for the head and short enough for the paw to reach the food. The experiment has to be conducted a number of times and the most-often-used paw is likely the dominant one. However, cats like to experiment so the best option is to change the experiment and monitor again. Take the inner cardboard from a roll of toilet paper and cut a window large enough for the cat to easily get a paw through. Fold the ends and seal the tube. Place a tasty treat inside the tube and watch which paw is used to fish it out.
Both genders are intelligent and capable of completing complex tasks – if they feel like it! Linking the behaviour associated with pawedness to gender one could imagine that the males are all artists, the females all engineers and the ambidextrous ones run the community!
Enjoy your cats, whatever their pawedness and personality!