We know that humans are either righties or lefties, but what about our four-legged friends? Can cats and dogs favor a certain side?
So far, evidence suggests that it just may be so. In two studies conducted in 1991 and 2006, results showed that cats and dogs can definitely have a dominate side; instead of right- or left-handed, though, they are right- or left-pawed.
The first study, which took place in Turkey at Ataturk University, revealed a majority of cats tend to favor their right paws, with 50 percent being classifiably right-pawed, 10 percent showing no favoritism, and 40 percent being left-pawed. In 2006, dogs got their own experiment at the University of Manchester, which showed that dogs are split pretty much down the middle, with 50 percent each favoring the left or right paw.
How can you conduct your own experiment at home to see if Fido or Paws is right- or left-pawed? It’s a little more complicated than just holding out a toy to see which paw your pet reaches with. Dogs and cats show fairly weak preference when compared to humans. You’ll need to conduct a few tests, each one a few dozen times. If you’re ready for the challenge, here are some tests that can show your pet’s paw preference: ask your dog to shake and see which paw he offers more often; when your pet is on his back, reach to them with your hand and see which paw he reaches out with; put a treat under a piece of furniture and watch which paw she uses most to try and get it; observe your cat or dog’s behavior when she wants to be let out or in, and note which paw she scratches with most often.
Keep a log of each instance – once you have compiled a lot of data (you’ll want multiple dozens of test results), you can see if there seems to be a clear winner. If nothing seems obvious at first, just run more tests. Once you’ve run 100 or more tests with no obvious preference, you can safely assume your dog or cat is ambidextrous.
Does this even matter, though? Maybe not to you, but to breeders and people who use service dogs, including police canines, therapy dogs, and military dogs, knowing which paw preference a dog has can tell a lot about that dog’s suitability for certain tasks.