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Are Cats and Dogs Right or Left Handed, Too?

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According to two studies, the answer is yes: Just like humans are usually right- or left-handed, cats and dogs are typically right pawed or left pawed.

The first study, performed by researchers at Turkey's Ataturk University in 1991, showed the majority of domestic cats are right pawed (50 percent), 10 percent are ambidextrous, and the remaining 40 percent favor their left paw. But dogs, according to a 2006 study by the University of Manchester, tend to be more evenly split—around 50 percent of dogs are left pawed and 50 percent are right pawed, with a statistically insignificant number being ambidextrous.

Determining if your cat or dog is left or right pawed or ambidextrous isn’t as simple as holding a toy just out of reach and seeing which paw they reach with. This is because their paw preference is often weakly expressed, unlike with humans. So in order to accurately determine your pet’s paw preference, you need to run tests several dozen times to see the trends. Just a few tests include: What paw does your dog most often shake with? If your dog or cat is playing on its back and you put your hand just out of their reach, which paw do they reach for your hand with? You can also try putting a treat or a toy under a piece of furniture to see which paw they usually reach for the treat or toy with. If your pet wants to come inside, which paw does it typically use to scratch at the door? 

In all these cases, record which paw is used and once you’ve done several dozen (at least) such tests, check to see if there is a clear dominant paw. If not, continue on until one emerges. If you’ve done 100 to 200 or so such tests and there is no noticeable paw preference, your animal is probably ambidextrous.

Why does it matter if your animal favors one paw over another? Stefanie Schwartz, a vet at the Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, California, told the Daily Mail that determining laterality—or what part of the brain is dominant over the other—could one day help breeders figure out which puppies are best suited to be military, service, or therapy dogs.

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

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Big Questions
Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
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CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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