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rightie or leftie: petplan pet insurance discusses dominant paws in pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


Have you ever wondered “Is my pet right-pawed or left-pawed?” (Or did you even know your pets had a paw preference?).

Ninety percent of humans are right handed, but our animal friends are much more likely to have their left paw be their dominant paw. A 2006 study suggests that for dogs, it’s an even split between lefties and righties. A different study revealed that 50 percent of cats are “right-pawed,” 40 percent are “left-pawed,” and the remaining 10 percent are ambidextrous! Furthermore, male cats tend to be lefties, and female cats tend to favor their right paws.

While there certainly is no real advantage to figuring out which paw is dominant in your pet, it may satisfy your curiosity. However, in working dogs, like military and service dogs, knowing if they’re right- or left-pawed may help their trainers turn them in to better working dogs. There are also a couple of studies that suggest that dogs with certain paw preferences may be more reactive to loud sounds, such as gunfire or fireworks.

  • Put a tasty morsel just out of reach (under the couch is a good place) and see which paw your pet uses to fetch it.
  • Give your dog her favorite toy, and note which paw she uses to “hold it” while chewing it.
  • Dangle an enticing toy just out of reach of your cat and see which paw he uses to reach for it.  Make it a good one, though, because research shows that cats are likely to use either paw if they’re just playing around, but when they’re serious about an item, they’ll reach for it with their dominant paw.
  • If your dog or cat knows how to “shake,” take note of which paw they offer. Similarly, take note of which paw they use to scratch on the door when telling you that they need to go out.

Finding out your pet’s paw preference takes time, though. In order to get a good sample size, you’ll need to do these tests 100 times! Still, though, it offers a good break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and provides some good one-on-one bonding time (even if your pet may look at you like you’re crazy when you hide a treat under the couch). 

Still not convinced you want to put the time into figuring it out? Then might I suggest that you delegate – this makes a perfect first science project for budding child scientists!


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Pippa ElliottGuest Blogger of Petplan
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