It is believed that only about 13 percent of the world’s human population is left-handed. (They are often called “southpaws”.) Genetics are believed to be primarily responsible for this trait because left-handedness can definitely “run in the family”. In fact, a gene that researchers believe is responsible for left-handedness has now been isolated.
Here’s another interesting fact – left-handed people are much more likely to be creative. Most left-handers are visual thinkers who excel in creative fields like art and music. They are also more likely to excel in ball sports and at tasks that involve three-dimensional thinking and hand-eye coordination.
But does “handedness” apply to pets, too? Can cats be “left-pawed” or “right-pawed”?
The answer is “YES”!
Animals have a preferred side, meaning your cat may be “right-pawed” or “left-pawed”. If he is a male, studies show that he is most likely “left-pawed”. If your cat is a female, she is most likely to be “right-pawed”.
Studies have tried to determine common characteristics of cats and dogs based on “pawedness”. A study at the University of New England determined that ambidextrous pets (with no bias for either the left or right paw) were at higher risk for behavior problems, separation anxiety and noise phobia (they are frightened by things like thunder and fireworks).
Discovery News reported a study on paw use that was done on 42 domestic cats (21 male and 21 female). It found that in simpler tasks, a definite paw preference might not emerge – but in more complex tasks, a strong paw preference exists in cats based on sex.
Most female cats and dogs prefer to use the right front paw while male cats and dogs prefer to use their left front paw. But in tests of pets that had been neutered, “pawedness” could not be determined by gender (the neutered animals showed no preference to one paw over the other).
Animal behaviorists at the University of Sydney (Australia) found that male dogs are more likely to be left-pawed than female dogs, but they found no predisposition to left-pawedness among different breeds. Their study also concluded that dogs with no distinct paw preference could never be trained to the same level as those with a specific paw preference. Also, left-pawed dogs are much favored as police dogs and guide dogs – but left-pawed dogs have a greater risk for some diseases.
Is your cat a “righty” or a “lefty”? Here is an easy test that can help you find out. You must do the test many times watching for a “repeat” pattern. Clinical trials perform each test about 100 times, but a sample of 10 to 20 tests should provide a fair indication.
- Take the tube from a roll of paper towels and tape both ends into place on the floor.
- Place a treat in front of the tube where your cat can easily get to it.
- After your cat eats the treat, put another treat inside the tube where your cat will have to “reach in” to get it. See which paw your cat uses to get the treat.