Does your pet favor the right or left paw? Tests can tell

Veterinarian Stefanie Schwartz of the Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, Calif., developed a method of testing pets to determine whether they are right- or left-paw dominant. It is a series of dexterity tests that can determine which paw is dominant. A previous study suggested that 50% of cats are right-paw dominant, 40% left-pawed, and 10% ambidextrous, while another study showed dogs were equally right- and left-pawed. The Daily Mail (London) (8/28)


Is your pet right or left-handed? The DIY test that uses cheese, sofas and  the backdoor to find out… but you have to do it 100 times

Ever wondered which paw your pet would clutch  a pen with, should it develop opposable thumbs?

Quite possibly not. But if you have, this  could be just the thing you’ve been waiting for.

Dr. Stefanie Schwartz of the Veterinary  Neurology Center in Tustin, Calififornia, claims to  have developed a test to figure out whether a dog or cat is right or  left-handed.

Paw preference won’t make a dog or cat walk,  talk or wink like a human. You won’t even get a high-five or a fist pump out of  it. But vets and owners reckons the  curiosity factor will have pet owners clamoring to find out if theirs is a  leftie or a rightie.

Results are in: Veterinarian Christina Thompson performs  a right-handed-left-handed test with a Chihuahua dog

Researchers are studying things like right  brain-left brain connections, genetics and sexual orientation that may one day  change the way dogs and cats are bred, raised, trained and used, said  Schwartz.

Some horses have to be ambidextrous, said Dr.  Sharon Crowell-Davis, a behavior and anatomy professor in the College of  Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia.

In U.S. racing, horses only have to lean left  because all races are run  counterclockwise on tracks, but in some competitions  and in some other  countries, horses have to race and canter both ways.

‘They have to be able to circle right and  left. If not, they can trip,’  Crowell-Davis said. ‘You have to work to get them  to take the lead they  prefer less.’

 Leftie: A cat lifts his left leg during a  right-handed-left-handed test

She has never seen an advertisement promoting  right or left-pawed dogs or  cats. ‘The only time you see it used in advertising  is with horses. If a horse if being offered for sale, because of issues on the  lead, it may  say ‘Works well on both leads’ to emphasize the horse has had  training.’

For dogs and  cats their well-being doesn’t  depend on preference.

A 1991 study at Ataturk University in Turkey  showed 50 per cent of cats were right-pawed, 40 per cent were left-pawed and 10  per cent were ambidextrous. That study might be out-of-date, Schwartz said, but  it does provide percentages.

A 2006 study from the University of  Manchester in England showed dogs were split half-and-half.

About 90 per cent of humans are right-handed  and 10 per cent are left-handed.

Here kitty kitty: Dangle a toy in front of a cat and see  which paw it uses to bat it

Laterality — the textbook term meaning one  side of the brain is dominant over the other — may someday help breeders predict  which puppies will make the best military, service and therapy dogs, Schwartz  said, and that could be lifesaving.

But for now, if you care enought, Schwartz  has a series of tests that she says will determine the paw preference of your  pet, when performed 100 times.

She suggests filling  a toy with something delicious and  putting it in the center of the dog’s visual  field. Which paw does it use to touch the toy first? Which paw does the dog use  to hold the toy?

Coy: When a cat really wants something, tests show it  uses its dominant paw, but when it’s just fooling around, it may use either or  both

Or you could put  something sticky on a dog or cat’s nose and take note of which paw it uses to  remove it? Place a treat or a piece of  cheese under a sofa, just beyond a dog or cat’s reach, she says. Which paw does  it use to try and get it out?

Other indicators include which paw a dog  offers to shake when asked or knock the backdoor with when it wants to be let  in. Similarly for cats you can track which paw it uses to bat a dangled toy or  to reach a treat lurking under a bowl.

 Who’s a good boy? Ask a dog to shake hands and see which  paw it raises

Schwartz said there are a few things that  might alter test results, including that if a dog has arthritis or an injury in a shoulder or  leg, it could use the other to compensate.

When a cat really wants something, she said,  tests show it uses its dominant paw, but when it’s just fooling around it may  use either or both.

And it is also possible that handedness in  dogs, and maybe cats, will change over time as the animal’s motivation  changes.

Robin A.F. Olson, founder and president of  rescue organisation Kitten Associates Inc, said her cats are always reaching for  toys or treats with one paw or another.

‘I try not to be judgmental of my cats’  abilities or lack thereof. We will never worry about the anti-paw.’

It appears that Nora, an internationally  acclaimed 8-year-old piano-playing tabby from Philadelphia, owned by piano  teacher Betsy Alexander and her artist-photographer husband, Burnell Yow, is  right-pawed.

Yow studied her videos and ‘determined that  she appears to lead with her right paw, then follow with her left,’ Alexander  said.

But she has her ambidextrous, headstrong  moments.

‘She uses both paws to reach for specific  notes, even black notes … and she uses her head to roll a series of multiple  notes.’

Burning question or a waste of  time? How to find out if your pet is a leftie or rightie

If you teach a dog to shake, which paw does  it offer you first and most often?

Fill a toy with something delicious and put  it in the center of the dog’s visual field. Which paw does it use to touch the  toy first? Which paw does the dog use to hold the toy?

Put something sticky on a dog or cat’s nose.  Which paw does the animal use to remove it?

Place a treat or a piece of cheese under a  sofa, just beyond a dog or cat’s reach. Which paw does it use to try and get it  out?

Dangle a toy over a cat’s head. Which paw  does it lift to bat it?

Put a treat under a bowl. Which paw does the  cat or dog use to move it?

When a dog wants in the backdoor, which paw  does it ‘knock’ with?

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