Why do you put butter on a cat’s paws?
One popular tip for cat owners moving house is to put some butter on your cat’s paws before letting him go outside his new house for the first time. This tip is meant to prevent your cat from running away or getting lost. But why?
- As the cat licks the butter off his paws, he is surveying the environment and getting a good bearing on his new territory.
- Putting butter on his paws removes the smell of his previous home.
- He’s so busy licking the butter off his paws that he forgets about being stressed in his new environment.
- As he licks the butter off his paws, he becomes accustomed to the scent of the new environment.
- Some suggest the butter go on the bottom of his paws, so his little buttery footprints will help him find his way home.
Debunking these theories
1) As the cat licks the butter off his paws, he is surveying the environment and getting a bearing on his new territory.
If he’s licking the butter off, he’s not likely to be looking around at his environment.
2) The butter on his paws may remove the smell of his old home.
It may remove the smell of his old home from his paws, but the smell will remain on the rest of him.
3) He’s so busy licking the butter off his paws that he forgets about being stressed in his new environment.
Cats are extremely clean animals; he’s just as likely to be annoyed at having butter on his paws, which will make him worse.
4) As he licks the butter off his paws, he becomes accustomed to the scent of the new home.
That is possible, but leaving him to his own devices is also going to get him accustomed to the scent of his home and is less messy.
5) Some suggest the butter go on the bottom of his paws, so his little buttery footprints will help him find his way home.
A cat outside in an unfamiliar environment will dart off; he won’t necessarily follow the same path home.
Cats are creatures of habit, and they are territorial. Moving house IS stressful to them; there is no doubt about that. Putting butter on his paws is not going to help him; only time and patience can do that. Every time I have moved house or adopted an adult cat, they have hidden for several days before slowly but surely coming out and exploring their new environment. Confine the cat inside and give him time to adjust to his new home and surroundings. While he is indoors, he will be surveying his new environment through the windows. Do not rush this process.
Should you put butter on a cat’s paws when you move house?
No, it won’t harm your cat, but it’s not going to help.
In the interest of science, I tried this with my highly food-motivated cat. We put the butter on top of his front paw. He flicked most of it off onto the tiles, licked the remaining butter from his paw for 60 seconds, and then walked away.
Before you move
Make sure your cat has adequate identification; a microchip is the most effective way to identify a cat. Make sure his microchip details are up to date and call the cat’s veterinarian to update your records there too.
Put a collar on him with your phone number. I recommend a mobile number, as home numbers often change when you move house.
It is now possible to purchase collars with a tracking device such as the one pictured below so if your cat does escape early, or gets lost, you can locate him.
When you move
If possible, put your cat in a boarding cattery for a day or two. If this is not possible, empty one room and put your cat in there as the removalists do their job. Put a sign on the door saying there is a cat in the room and to keep it CLOSED. Better still, take your cat to a boarding cattery for a few days while you move and unpack.
Your cat should be the last thing that is moved. When you get to your new home, put him in a room with his food and water dishes and a bed. Keep the door closed.
How long should you keep a cat indoors when you move?
If you want to let your cat out, you will have to wait at least two weeks. I advise unpacking your home as quickly as possible so that your cat can become acquainted with the home. Keep him confined to a room for a few days as you do unpack. Slowly introduce him to more of the house; his body language will show his level of comfort. Some cats will hop out of their room, explore the house and be fine. Other cats will take some time to adjust.
As your cat gains access to more of the new house, he will become familiar with his environment.
Slowly introduce him to the outdoors. At first, carry him out and have a little wander around the garden. Do this a few times and then let him out while you stay close by. If you give it time, your cat should adjust to his new home without running away. Just to be on the safe side, do leave your number with the people living in your old home.
Feature image Marie Charouzova, Shutterstock