A popular cat myth that doesn't seem to want to die is that when you move house, put butter on your cat's paws. There are several theories as to why this method works.
1) As the cat licks the butter off his paws, he is surveying the environment and getting a good bearing on his new territory.
2) Putting butter on his paws removes the smell of his "old home".
3) He's so busy licking the butter off his paws that he forgets about being stressed in his new environment.
4) As he licks the butter off his paws, he became accustomed to the scent of the new home.
None of these ring true. All it is going to do is upset your cat and leave greasy paw prints all over your home. Let's look at the logic behind these "theories".
1) The cat surveys his environment regardless of having butter on his paws. 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 from his paws, but the smell would still remain on the rest of him.
3) He's just as likely to be stressed and annoyed at you putting butter on his paws, which will make him worse.
4) 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.
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 really is not going to help him, only time and patience can do that.
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.
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.
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 to 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.