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Is your cat left- or right-handed?

Motor lateralisation is one of the stages of neurological development that starts at birth. During this stage, the cerebral hemispheres begin to specialise for use, with one half of the body gaining preference over the other. This development defines whether an individual will be right-handed or left-handed throughout his or her life. In children, this development has been studied and documented for several decades. In recent years, a number of studies have been carried out to try to determine if cats and dogs also develop this preference, and whether there’s such a thing as right-handed or left-handed animals. 

There’s been more scientific documentation in dogs, but evidence shows that cats are also known to experience this phenomenon. We can find out if a cat is right-handed, left-handed, or even ambidextrous (using both hands with equal preference and precision) by doing this home experiment. You must offer your cat very appealing and moist food in a container that forces it to stick its paw in to take the food (such as a narrow cylinder, for example). Do this test several times, in different places around the house, at different times of the day, and if possible, during different seasons of the year to minimise the impact of environmental factors.

After a minimum of ten to twenty experiments, we can know with a high degree of certainty which paw is dominant. You can complement this test by observing which paw your cat prefers when it’s playing with small objects, such as light balls or toy mice. The published data estimate that approximately 42% of cats are ambidextrous, 20% are right-handed, and 38% are left-handed.


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