Hot Buttered Cats

As has been discussed previously, the most popular posts on this blog seem to be those about butter and cats. Not that this comes as any particular surprise, given the general popularity of cats artery-clogging. Clearly, then, the next step to a massive increase in readers is to combine the two. (“You got your cat on my butter!” “You got your butter in my cat!” “Two great tastes that taste great together.“)

WordPress tells me that this blog has 47 followers. Despite my comments last week about the uselessness of badges, there is something emotionally special about hitting round-numbers. I don’t expect this one post to jump the blog over 1,000 followers, or even 100, but I’d like to see it get past 50. If it does, I’ll share the badge with y’all. And if it does get past 1,000, I’ll certainly share the pony too.

Moving on. Cats and butter.

I’ve already dealt with the popular notion of using buttered toast and cats to create perpetual motion machines, so I’ll need to cover something a little different this time. Let’s talk about the idea that when you move, you should put butter on your cats’ paws to prevent them from wandering away and getting lost.

I’ve seen the idea put forth seriously in discussions of keeping cats safe when moving to a new home. I find it difficult to believe that there are people who believe this works, but then again, there are people who believe that prayer cures all illness, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Let’s break this down a bit.

There are several different explanations given for why buttering a cat’s paws will supposedly prevent it from straying:

  • Cleaning it off gives them something to do until they get used to the new house. Cleaning up the butter isn’t going to take more than a few minutes. I’ve been living in my current house for more than seven years, and I still find myself flipping the wrong light switch or fumbling for the door knob. Is five minutes really going to accustom a cat to the house? That seems unlikely. I’m willing to grant the possibility that cats are more adaptable than I am, but this just seems excessively optimistic. As a counter-example, I’ll note that when we moved in, Velcro spent the better part of two days hiding behind the toilet before he felt comfortable enough to explore the house. (No, I didn’t hide behind the toilet–maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be fumbling for the doorknob now.)
  • While cleaning it off, they pick up the scent of their new home so they can find their way back. Variations on this idea include bringing some of the outside dirt in and using the butter to stick it to the cat’s paws or applying the butter just before letting the cat out. Again, how much are they really going to pick up in the five minutes they spend grooming? And given some of the noxious substances they clean off of themselves, I’m convinced that cats have the ability to turn off their noses while grooming. OK, maybe not literally, but if you had to clean yourself with your tongue after using the toilet, wouldn’t you do your best to not smell what you were doing? More seriously, do you really think your next-door neighbor’s yard smells significantly different than your own, especially if you’ve just moved in and haven’t started spending hours spreading your scent around while gardening? Even more seriously still, if you want the cat to stick around, why are you letting it out in the first place? (I’m not even going to get into the statistics on the lifespan of indoor cats as opposed to indoor/outdoor or outdoor-only cats.)
  • It makes their paws too slippery for them to walk. This is just plain silly. Haven’t the people suggesting this ever heard of carpets? Leaving that aside, even if the cat is on a hardwood, tile, or linoleum floor, spreading the butter so thickly that they can’t walk is going to use a hell of a lot of butter, much of which is going to get spread over your floor, your furniture, and probably you when you make a futile attempt to keep the cat off the furniture. Even if it worked as intended, what would the value be in getting the cat all pissed off and over-excited? Isn’t the point to make them feel better about the new place?

The bottom line is that buttering a cat’s paws to keep it from straying is useless at best, and counter-productive at worst. The best way to keep them from straying is to keep them indoors. If you have to let them out, at least keep them indoors for several days to a few weeks after moving to get them thoroughly used to the new house, and then supervise their first trips outside using a harness and leash.

Oh, and there’s no reason not to give your cat a little butter now and then if they like it. Many people use it as a treat. We use it to encourage them to take pills, and Dad has used it to lubricate the passage of aluminum foil through the feline digestive system*. Note though, that unless there are medical considerations involved, the key word in the first sentence of this paragraph is “little”.

catbutter

* I’ll say it for you all: Blech! But Dad did assure me that everything came out right in the end.

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