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Open AccessArticle

Laterality as a Tool for Assessing Breed Differences in Emotional Reactivity in the Domestic Cat, Felis silvestris catus

Animal Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK
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Animals 2019, 9(9), 647; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090647
Received: 24 July 2019 / Revised: 21 August 2019 / Accepted: 27 August 2019 / Published: 3 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Cat breeds differ enormously in their emotional reactivity, a factor that can impact upon the success of the pet-owner relationship, with indirect consequences for animal welfare. Traditional methods of assessing emotional reactivity in cats have focused largely on questionnaire-based assessments of breed-specific behavioural profiles. We explored whether paw preferences, which have been linked to emotional reactivity in animals, are related to cat breed. The paw preferences of 4 commonly owned cat breeds were tested on a food-reaching challenge. Cats’ paw preferences differed between the breeds. Bengal cats were more likely to show a left-sided paw preference than other breeds, whilst Persians showed the weakest paw preferences, veering more heavily towards ambilaterality. Results confirmed our earlier work in showing a strong tendency for left paw use in male cats and right paw use in females. We propose that paw preference measurement could provide a useful method for assessing emotional reactivity in domestic cats, adding to our currently limited artillery of tools for determining breed-specific profiles. Such information would be of benefit to individuals considering the acquisition of a new cat, and, in the longer term may help to foster more successful cat-owner relationships, leading to indirect benefits to feline welfare.
Cat breeds differ enormously in their behavioural disposition, a factor that can impact on the pet-owner relationship, with indirect consequences for animal welfare. This study examined whether lateral bias, in the form of paw preference, can be used as a tool for assessing breed differences in emotional reactivity in the cat. The paw preferences of 4 commonly owned breeds were tested using a food-reaching challenge. Cats were more likely to be paw-preferent than ambilateral. Maine Coons, Ragdolls and Bengals were more likely to be paw-preferent than ambilateral, although only the Bengals showed a consistent preference for using one paw (left) over the other. The strength of the cats’ paw use was related to cat breed, with Persians being more weakly lateralised. Direction of paw use was unrelated to feline breed, but strongly sex-related, with male cats showing a left paw preference and females displaying a right-sided bias. We propose that paw preference measurement could provide a useful method for assessing emotional reactivity in domestic cats. Such information would be of benefit to individuals considering the acquisition of a new cat, and, in the longer term, may help to foster more successful cat-owner relationships, leading to indirect benefits to feline welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; breed; cats; feline; laterality; motor bias; paw preferences animal welfare; breed; cats; feline; laterality; motor bias; paw preferences
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Wells, D.L.; McDowell, L.J. Laterality as a Tool for Assessing Breed Differences in Emotional Reactivity in the Domestic Cat, Felis silvestris catus. Animals 2019, 9, 647.

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