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Your cat’s paws are as important to them as your hands and feet are to you. As a cat parent, it's important to help your cat maintain healthy paws. This quick guide to cat paw care will help you keep your furry friend’s paw pads healthy and clean.
Why Care for Cat Paw Pads?
Think for a moment about how cats use their paws. They walk across a variety of surfaces in your house, including dirty surfaces such as the litter box. If they're allowed outside, they may walk across rough and rocky ground, step on thorns and other sharp items, and tread across hot or cold surfaces, depending on the weather. Cats allowed outdoors in the winter are also susceptible to walking through harsh salts and other de-icing agents that can be harmful to paws.
At some point in the day, your cat will take it upon themselves to clean their own paws by licking them, possibly ingesting any harmful substances their little paws may have picked up in the process. Regular cat paw care that includes inspections and cleaning will not only help keep your cat’s paws clean and safe for licking, but also allow you to manage dry and cracked paws, cuts and other injuries before they can become infected.
Cat Paw Care Guide
While inspecting your cat's paws on a regular basis will be good for ensuring you keep them healthy, you can also look for signs that something may be going on with the paws. If you notice your cat is limping or not putting pressure on a certain paw, they might have something stuck in it or could have injured their paw in some manner. Keep in mind that cats are good at hiding their pain, so you may have to pay close attention. Additionally, when a cat is injured they might be less receptive to you inspecting them, so do your best to keep them comfortable and calm while you inspect them.
If your cat isn't used to having their paws handled, you may need to get them accustomed to the idea. It can be helpful to get into the habit of massaging your cat’s paws when you hold or pet them, from an early age onwards. This will not only help them become accustomed to having their paws touched and handled, but will also help you detect any debris that might be caught between the toes and paw pads.
Once your cat tolerates you handling their paws, make it a point to examine them daily, especially after they return from an outdoor journey. Look for scratches, sores, and foreign objects. If you find something embedded in your cat’s paw, try using a pair of tweezers to gently remove it. If it’s deeply embedded, call your veterinarian.
Either before or after your inspection, use a soft cloth to wipe all those tiny cat paw pads, as well as around the pads and between the toes. This will clear their toes of dirt, litter dust and any chemicals or foreign objects.
Use a pair of nail scissors or clippers to trim your cat’s claws. The PDSA recommends using a set of scissors or clippers specifically designed for cat claws, as human nail clippers can cause your cat’s nails to split.
Be sure to trim just the tips, taking care to avoid the quick (the part of the nail containing sensitive nerves and veins). If you do accidentally cut into the quick, use some styptic powder to stop the bleeding. If you don't have any styptic powder on hand, it may be a good idea to buy some at your local pet supply store just in case you need it.
Treating Dry Cat Paw Pads
If your cat’s paw pads become dry, irritated or cracked, contact your vet; they may recommend that you try moisturising them with olive, coconut or another food-quality oil that will be safe for them to lick. You may want to confine them to a bathroom while the oil absorbs to keep them from tracking it through the house. If they need something more heavy-duty, ask your vet to recommend a good paw moisturiser for cats. Avoid lotions made for humans or other animals, which may be harmful if ingested.
Of course, one of the best things you can do for your cat's paws is to keep them indoors, where they’ll be less likely to become injured or encounter extremely hot or cold surfaces or dangerous chemicals. Dry winter air can dry out your cat’s paws, so consider using a humidifier during cold months. A scratching post can also help keep their nails in good condition, not to mention keeping your carpet and furniture safe from the urge to claw.
With everything involved in caring for cats, it's easy to overlook proper cat paw care. Making a daily habit of checking and cleaning their paws will make it easy to keep them in good shape.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet Nutrition, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA