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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Received: 24 July 2019 / Revised: 21 August 2019 / Accepted: 27 August 2019 / Published: 3 September 2019
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.