Image Dallas Reeves, Flickr
Why do you put butter on a cat's paws?
Many well meaning people tell cat owners that when they move house they should put some butter on the top of your cat's paws before letting him go outside for the first time. This tip is meant to prevent your cat from running away.
The reasoning behind this suggestion has several possibilities, which include:
- 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 home.
- Some suggest the butter go on the bottom of his paws, so his little buttery footprints will help him find his way home.
Should you put butter on a cat's paws when you move house?
No, you should not put butter on your cat's paws when you move house it won't harm your cat, but it's not going to help.
In the interests of science, I just tried this with my highly food-motivated cat. He flicked most of it off onto the tiles, licked the remaining butter from his paw for 60 seconds, and then walked away.
Let's look at the logic behind these theories:
1) As the cat licks the butter off his paws, he is surveying the environment and getting a good 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 hold home from his paws, but the smell would still 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 fastidiously 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. A cat should be kept indoors and given time to adjust to his new home and surroundings. While he is indoors, he will be surveying his new environment through the window. This is a process that should not be rushed.
Before you move
Make sure your cat has adequate identification. Most cats are microchipped. Make sure his microchip details are up to date. Call his vet and update your records.
Put a collar on him with your phone number. I recommend a mobile number, as home numbers often change when you move house.
When you move
If possible, put your cat in a boarding cattery for a day or two. If this is not possible, empty out 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. If he is stressed (and that is very likely), buy a Feliway plug in. This contains synthetic pheromones which help to calm a stressed cat.
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 absolutely fine. Other cats will take some time to adjust. They will crouch down low and hide in a corner, cupboard etc. I advise that you keep timid, scared cats confined for longer.
As your cat is given access to more of your house, he will become familiar with his environment by looking outdoors.
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.