Every once in awhile, something new comes out about our furry felines that takes us by surprise. Recently, it’s been the discovery that cats are laterally biased, meaning they favor one paw over the other. The preference varies from feline to feline — just like humans are born left or right-handed, and because it’s a relatively new discovery, there’s still much to learn. Here’s what we know so far…

According to a new study by Animal Behaviour, 44 felines (24 male, 20 female) — young and old and of varying breeds — were tested in a low-stress study conducted in their homes. Owners were asked to observe and keep track of their cat’s behavior when it came to their paws, including how they stepped over things, went down stairs, and reached for food. The results? Male cats favored their left paw, whereas female cats were more likely to use their right.

The gender difference is interesting – and means more research may be needed before we can fully understand why this difference exists. So far, Deborah Wells from the Animal Behaviour Centre has a few fascinating ideas. Limb preference might be an indicator of how well an animal handles stress, she speculates, so a cat that is left “pawed” might show stronger fear responses or aggression. Does that mean male cats are more likely to be aggressive? Not exactly. “Further work is needed to investigate this,” says Wells, “But the strong sex effects reported here, and elsewhere…point more and more strongly to underlying differences in the neural architecture of male and female animals.”

There is still much to learn about this new discovery. Cats join other animals – horses, dogs, apes and whales to name a few — that show lateral bias. We look forward to hearing more about this and are constantly reminded that there is so much still to learn about our beloved four-legged friends!