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Posted on 12-18-2017

Is Your Pet a “Rightie” or a “Leftie?”

Right or Left

Dogs and cats enthrall us with their behavior. We love to watch them play and interact with us and each other. Some of their behavior traits are largely species-oriented; think dog tail-wagging or cat pouncing. And some behaviors, like “smiling” in dogs, even seem to mimic human behaviors. So here’s a question to ponder: can dogs and cats be right- or left-“handed”, like humans?

According to multiple studies, the answer seems to be yes!  While I don’t want to bore you with a lot of study references or statistics, the numbers are interesting. One study showed that about 50% of pet cats are right-pawed, 40% are left-pawed, and 10% are ambidextrous, meaning they use both paws with equal skill and frequency. Another study found that dogs tend to be more evenly split than cats, with 50% being left-pawed and 50% right-pawed. And how do humans compare? About 90% of us are right-handed, 10% left-handed and less than 1% ambidextrous. 

So how do you know if your pet is a “rightie” or a “leftie?”

Try performing the following “tests” to see which side your pet tends toward:

  • Place a treat under the couch just beyond nose reach. Which paw does your pet use to retrieve it?
  • Watch your pet knock on or try to pull open a door.  Which paw is used?
  • Teach your dog to “shake” or “give you five.” Which paw does your pet prefer?
  • Dangle a toy above your cat’s head. Which paw does she use to bat the toy?  
  • Give your dog a treat-filled Kong or a dental chew stick. Which paw does he use to hold it? 
  • Turn a bowl upside down and place a treat under it. Which paw does your pet use to move the bowl?

While being left-dominated does not seem to present the challenge for pets that it can for humans, knowing whether a pet is right-or left-pawed might be significant for training purposes. And, honestly, it’s just kind of cool to know. It might mean that you and your pet have one more thing in common!   

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