Gus is right-pawed

Reader Taskin, staff of Gus, took a tip from Simon’s Cat Logic—those episodes of Simon’s Cat in which Nicky Trevorrow of Cats Protection gives cat-tending advice.

One of her suggestions for cats who were housebound and possibly bored was to give them some stimulation by making them search for their food. She suggested building a series of cardboard tubes in which treats were sequestered, making the cat snatch them out with its paw.

Taskin built the device below, which I call the Tower o’ Treats. I asked her to watch Gus retrieve at least 100 treats and record which paw was used to nab the bit of kibble.

The data are below. “Combo” means that both paws were used in the order given, so that “RLR” means that he tried his right paw, then the left, and then pulled out the treat with a final right-pawed grab. In the statistical analysis, I omit the two cases in which the treat fell out of the tubes.

In the picture above, Gus is retrieving a treat with his right paw.

Here are the data:

Right paw only:  96
Left paw only:    3
Combinations ending with right paw: 3
Combinations ending with left paw:   2

Using only the single-paw grabs (96 vs. 3), we expect, if paws were used randomly, that half the time each paw would be used: 49.5 times for the right and 49.5 times for the left (we can ignore the fact that “half instances” can’t be seen). Using a chi-square analysis under the expectation of equality, with one degree of freedom, we get:

χ² = 87.36; p = 0.00000000000000000000905

If we do the same thing but add the few “last paw used” observations to the “single grab” data, so that “RL” counts as “left” and “LRLRR” counts as “right” (I take the last paw as dispawsitive), we get a similar chi-square statistic:

χ² = 84.96; p = 0.0000000000000000000304 

(Thanks to Greg for calculating these probabilities.)

In both cases, the probability of a deviation from equality as large as we see with Gus is less than one trillionth of one-percent, which is considered a highly significant deviation from equality.

CONCLUSION: Gus is right-pawed. 

Try this with your cat! You won’t need 100 observations, but fifty would be good.

I calculated this by hand, so forgive any errors. Statistics really aren’t needed for data this skewed, but I calculated them anyway.

 

16 Comments

  1. Blue
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Curiously lovely experimetation !
    I myself ‘ve long wondered on this
    specifically within Felidae, that is,
    domesticus.

    Cuz without an experiment, every single
    kitty cat who has ever owned me ?
    ALL of them seemed to reach for stuffs,
    whatever that was, with overall and
    whelmingly, … … her left paw.
    Not always but … … nearly always.

  2. Posted April 22, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    That harness looks crooked. It could be influencing the cat’s freedom to move its front legs.

    In fact, what’s the harness for anyway?

    • Taskin
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Gus goes outside on a leash as there is a city bylaw here against allowing cats to roam. He frequently demands a snack when he comes in and I just hadn’t removed the harness yet. He is not bothered by the harness as far as I can tell. 🙂

      • Posted April 22, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Okay, I was only raising a possible point of doubt about the scientific integrity of the experiment, not in any way suggesting that your cat isn’t well-treated.

        • Posted April 22, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          As I understand it, most of the time Gus isn’t wearing a harness when he’s nabbing treats.

          • Taskin
            Posted April 22, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

            Correct, most of the time he’s not wearing the harness. Nothing much interferes with his desire to eat. 🙂

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        I got an email from someone signing himself Gus “LRLRR combo” Pinkschnoz. He claims that the experiment needs to be rerun in “difrunt places” using roast chicken skin [crackly] & also with salmon – “a hunert of each shudz do it”

        Perhaps Gus isn’t a fan of doorways [draught?] so points himself to the L & thus uses R

        Or the light from a window comes from the L & Gus uses R to not overshadow the prize

        • Taskin
          Posted April 22, 2018 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Ha! That sounds like him. Chicken and salmon are two of his very favourite things. Gus would be very happy to have the experiment run at any time and in any location. He’s really not fussy.
          I did set it up in different locations and I also tried to change the direction he was approaching from in case that affected the paw he led with but he went very convincingly with his right paw no matter what I changed.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I think our Emma is right pawed because she often hooks food out of the bowl with the right paw. The other cat Bumper, I am not sure, as he prefers the teeth more. Don’t know whether left toothed or right toothed but he can get you either way.

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Northpaw.

    Glen Davidosn

  5. Ed Hessler
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for publishing this.

    Is this the first from the WEIT e-Journal?

  6. W.T. Effingham
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    My daughter’s cat, Bagheera, prefers to keep her dominant appendage secret by using rapid ninja-type motions of all four paws, her tail, and her teeth in order to confuse any prey, opponents, or “captors”.

  7. Michael Hart
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I tried an analogous study of my d*g and her compass orientation while pooping (see http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/10/1/80). I used my iPhone compass to measure her orientation to magnetic north. There was a weak tendency for her to poop to the south (with head aligned more or less toward north). But it was not a significant association. I probably should have kept separate notes about orientation during daylight versus darkness. Also at the time we had a habitual walk route that included pooping (by the d*g…) along the side of a busy neighbourhood road where car noise might have been distracting. I guess this is a more difficulty measure to analyze because orientation is a continuous variable whereas left- versus right-paw use is discrete.

  8. Christopher
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    That’s a neat idea but i’m not sure it’s workable for me, a single guy in the house alone. If i am to collect that many cardboard rolls, i’m going to need to start pooping a lot more.

    • Posted April 23, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Just put each roll on a dispenser within reach of your cat and it might obligingly unroll all of the paper into a pile on the floor. Then you’ll have the empty cardboard tube and you’ll still be able to use the paper.

      Just make sure the rolls face the right way.

  9. Posted April 23, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Ah, science!

    My sister’s cat is seemingly ambidextrous.

    But he is missing an eye and likely part of the brain proper, so maybe that affects his “pawedness”


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