Testing for Paw Preference

It’s pretty well split between left and right—and ambidextrous

Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado recently posted a fun blog at WhatYourCatWants.com about “pawedness” in cats. Researchers in Turkey studied 41 cats (ages 6 months to 14 years; 22 males and 19 females) that were given two tests to track paw preference and problem-solving skills. For each test, four plastic cups were attached to a wooden block. In the first test, the cups were upside down with wet food inside. The cat had to tip the cup over to get the reward. In the second test, the cups were right side up but had flip tops that had to be opened.

Out of the 41 cats, three refused to work at all (no surprise there!), 10 were right-paw dominant, 12 were left-paw, and 16 were ambidextrous.

The cats were consistent in their “pawedness,” using the same paw for both tasks. Their first paw-touch fit with their dominant side. So, if the first paw used was the left, that was consistent throughout. A few cats were also willing to try to open the flip tops using their mouths or heads. Cats with a strong paw preference were faster (no matter which paw they preferred) than cats who were ambidextrous.