Lateral Bias and Temperament in the Domestic Cat (Felis silvestris)

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Abstract

Research points to a relationship between lateralization and emotional functioning in humans and many species of animal. The present study explored the association between paw preferences and emotional functioning, specifically temperament, in a species thus far overlooked in this area, the domestic cat. Thirty left-pawed, 30 right-pawed, and 30 ambilateral pet cats were recruited following an assessment of their paw preferences using a food-reaching challenge. The animals’ temperament was subsequently assessed using the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP). Cats’ owners also completed a purpose-designed cat temperament (CAT) scale. Analysis revealed a significant relationship between lateral bias and FTP and CAT scale scores. Ambilateral cats had lower positive (FTP+) scores, and were perceived as less affectionate, obedient, friendly, and more aggressive, than left or right-pawed animals. Left and right pawed cats differed significantly on 1 trait on the CAT scale, namely playfulness. The strength of the cats’ paw preferences was related to the animals’ FTP and CAT scores. Cats with a greater strength of paw preference had higher FTP + scores than those with a weaker strength of paw preference. Animals with stronger paw preferences were perceived as more confident, affectionate, active, and friendly than those with weaker paw preferences. Results suggest that motor laterality in the cat is strongly related to temperament and that the presence or absence of lateralization has greater implications for the expression of emotion in this species than the direction of the lateralized bias.

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