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New development in animal health: Scientists say they could be right or left “handed”

Posted on: May 5th, 2010 by

A puppy raises his paw.
Perhaps you’ve noticed Fido tends to favor one paw over the other, or maybe Pumpkin seems more apt to bat at her catnip mouse with her left paw instead of her right. Are you just imagining it? Or could your kitty be a bona fide south paw?

According to Times Online, scientists have discovered that animals, including cats, dogs, parrots and fish are technically right or left “handed” just like humans. Until recently, these animals were thought to be ambidextrous, but according to these studies, paw, eye or foot proficiency has evolved to help the animals fend, hunt for food, and find a mate.

Professor of Psychology at University College London Chris McManus told the news provider that this recent discovery is something that always had scientists’ curiosity piqued.

“We now know that it pays to specialize, whether for the footballer, the whale or the worm,” McManus told the news source.

Times Online reported that female cats tend to favor their right paws, while males favor their left—the same is respectively true in dogs.

Additionally, the source reported that fish tend to have a dominant eye that helps detect predators and that right-eyed fish often circle clockwise while left-eyed fish swim counter-clockwise.

“It enables mammals and animals to act quicker and more instinctively, to know exactly what they’re going to do,” McManus told the news provider. “The whole thing is a competition, there’s a tremendous tactical battle going on the whole time.”

McManus told Times Online that the preference of right over left is nothing short of a strategic, inherent means of self preservation.

“Everybody is trying to exploit the weaknesses in the other,” he told the provider. “Anything that gives you a tactical advantage, such as preponderance to one side, helps.”

Times Online reported that it’s relatively simple to test whether a pet is right or left “handed.” For cats, owners can dangle a string in front of the feline and note which paw it uses to swipe at it. Owners can also put a treat in a jar and observe which paw an animal uses to attempt the retrieve the treat.

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