“If toast always lands butter side down and a cat always lands on it’s feet. What happens when you put the toast on the cats back butter side down.”
This riddle or paradox was asked of me by my friend Sarah, who had heard it from a classmate in class the previous day. It had puzzled her just as much as it puzzled me. She suggested that it is a combination of two adages:
1. Cats always land on their feet.
2. Buttered toast always lands butter side down.
Putting these two together makes a paradox that is hard to wrap your head around. She attempted to reason her way around it for a day but came up with nothing for this tongue-in-cheek riddle.
I further explored this paradox and found that humorous scientists have actually conducted experiments to test this. In 2003, Kimberly Minor created the film Perpetual Motion, based on a student’s ideas on the toast and cat paradox. This film won a Student Academy Award that same year. There have also been comic book strips and even a website devoted to cats and buttered toast.
I believe this riddle continues to circulate based on its humor as well as somewhat thought provoking nature. It allows discussion within a group and provides entertainment for coming up with new ‘scientific’ theories on the topic.
Annotation: Minor, Kimberly. Perpetual Motion. Animated Short. 2003.
“The Buttered Cat Paradox”. <Butteredcat.com.> 2006-02-13.