Buttering the cat’s paws

All the grown-up women I knew when a child in London in the 1960s would unwrap half-pound packets of butter, put the butter in the butter dish, and then fold the paper packets in half lengthways and put them, with others already so collected, somewhere dedicated for the purpose in their fridge.

These were then taken out as needed to grease cake tins and bread pans when baking and provided a degree of non-stickness that is today more commonly achieved by a combination of Teflon and/or Pam (an invidious spray if it hasn’t gotten to you from America yet)

My father’s mother used these butter papers for this purpose, but she also used them to butter the cat’s paws.

I can’t say exactly how often she would do this, but we went for Sunday tea every fortnight and every second or third visit, after the washing up had been done and the little kitchen in her council house in Greenford was perfectly spick-and-span, she’d get a serious look on her serious face and ask of those who were sat in front of the telly to watch the football highlights “Have you seen our Minnie?

Her rationale was that the cat, deeply offended at having its paws forcibly greased, would then lick said paws and wash away at the rest of her fur, as cats will, and by transferring the butter to her coat, the lustrously healthy sheen that Minnie always displayed would be continued and ensured.

If you put “Butter the cat’s paws” into the search engines  it returns mention that buttering the cat’s paws when moving into a new house will ensure that said pet will not run away. This superstition is new to me.

Unfortunately my dear Nanny is long since gone and thus I cannot ask her. Minnie is also no longer with us, but in memory she always did have the most wonderful coat.


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