Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Keep Your Cat, c. 1470

Cat Churning Butter, 14th c.
Yale, Beinecke MS 404, f. 148r

"If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house."

The Distaff Gospels

This trick will certainly prevent your cat from running away. It's less clear whether the cat will stick around because of adoration or poor traction.


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  2. If you can rub a feral cat's nose and 4 legs with butter for 3 days in a row you are a better man than I!

    1. ok, no prob., wonder if bacon drippings might have been a good substitute, though.

  3. I've heard this as an old wives' tale, no idea it went back so far!

  4. But think how soft your cat's paw pads would be!

  5. Unless it's a feral cat. Then it's how bloody your arms and face will be.

    1. yup. but if you meddle in the ways of ferals, bloody limbs are commonplace, and often a small price to pay for stunning devotion when they accept ya. 3/4 of my life with em and i still know which convert gave me which scar. #smallprice

  6. It'll be so busy painstakingly licking all the butter from its limbs that it will have sufficient time to reflect that a warm place with a roof and dairy products around is probably better than the alternative.

  7. I heard this as a kid and did it with cats so they wouldn't run away when we moved. They never ran away.

  8. mmmm...butter cat....

  9. my mom does this! well, a variation. she puts butter on their feet and makes the cats walk around the table leg three times. obviously it's some kinda witchcraft but it always works. she's pretty sure what's happening is when they lick the butter off they taste whatever you floor tastes like and imprint the smell or however you'd say that.

  10. If you drop a buttered cat, will it land butter side up or butter side down?

    1. if you butter their feet, then both the laws of buttered toast and dropped cats will be preserved.

  11. Poor cat will be too busy cleaning it off! But then again, some cats like butter...

  12. It's much better than cruel finnish way I read about, they would chop a tiny tip of the cat's would think that its counter-productive!
    But also, finns believed that a cat jumping on a boy's lap would make the boy a good horseman, a man who was adored by cats was seen as a good omen. It was a bad omen for women but women were instructed not to be cruel for cats or rats would devour their faces. There was a story that a maid who was very cruelto cats died and was laid out in a chamber to be farewelled by the family and friends, they were shocked to see her face devoured by rats.

    Cats were also used as poor man's hunting dogs. Man would train a cat to go before him to forest to scare birds before they were shot.