How to care for your cat’s paws

Cat paws are more than just footwear for felines.

What does your cat need her paws for and how can you help her care for them?

Does she glide on her velvet paws? Your cute kitty can do other things with them, too. And you’ll notice this when your favorite sofa has been “touched up”. Paws and claws are a cat’s most important tools. Without claws your cat can’t catch prey. He needs them to catch and hold prey, but also to climb and jump. A cat with blunt claws cannot defend itself and would be at a disadvantage against other cats in fights for territory. It also distributes its own scent marks through its paws.

Anatomy of a cat’s paw

How is a cat’s paw structured, and what is the correct word for it? Is it really a foot? Paws are the hands and feet of a cat. For larger members of the cat family, we usually speak of feet or paws; for smaller cats, paws. The anatomy of the front and hind paws is very similar to that of many other mammals. So the large paws of a lion in the Serengeti function just like those of a living room lion at home. They are perfectly designed and adapted to feline life.



Do cats have toes?

And if so, how many? At first glance, you don’t see the toes of cats. It looks like the paw is a very round body part, doesn’t it? But a cat’s paw has toes. And most of them are very flexible. On the front paws there are five, and on the hind paws there are four. One of the toes, the thumb so to speak, is hardly noticeable because it is located lower than the ball of the sole and in most cats it is not as developed and flexible as the other toes.

Front legs.

The front paws are the hands of the cat. In terms of skeleton, they are even quite similar to human hands, only the shape is slightly different. Their anatomical structure provides optimal use. Cats may not be able to do everything we can do with their front paws. Instead, they move like a ballerina on tiptoe. These tiptoes can approach their prey quietly and smoothly.

The hind legs.

Some cats stand upright to observe their surroundings. They sit upright, serene on their hind legs and, with their spine erect, maintain a leisurely gaze. In addition, they can easily jump up to two meters from a standing position. To do this, they first “fold” their hind legs and then “unfold” them again. This generates a lot of energy, which allows cats to catapult themselves upwards or far away.


The skeleton of a cat’s paw is an anatomical marvel composed of a multitude of individual bones. The joints of the paws are held together by very flexible individual root bones. The metatarsals or metacarpals form the front or hind paw, the cat’s hands and feet, so to speak. And the toe bones finish off the cat’s paw with claws. Cat bones are like springy bamboo: very light, but incredibly strong.

The pads.

How many pads does a cat have? On the front paws, cats have four toe pads, one sole pad, one thumb pad, and one carpal pad. The hind feet have only four toe pads and one pad for the sole of the foot. The pads are the color of the cat’s coat. When it has a piebald coat, the pads are also a mixture of colors. These soles have a velvety appearance, but reliably protect the cat from heat and cold. They also provide the kitty with the necessary grip and cushioning on all surfaces.

The claws of a cat.

Each toe has a sharp cat claw made of horn. These can extend or retract as needed. Claws play a very important role in a cat’s life, because without them it would not be able to hold on and everything would slip out of its paws. Even jumping and balancing without a secure grip would be dangerous. Prey could easily escape and, when attacked by enemies, it would be defenseless. Without claws there are no dreaded slashes or safe retreats to tall trees.

The function of the cat’s paw.

The cat’s paw is like a cat’s eye and is perfectly attuned to these wandering hunters: lightning-fast reactions, spatial vision – even in low light! In the dark and when tracking moving objects, cats clearly have the upper hand. It may be pitch dark, but cats know exactly where their prey is. Through the receptors in their pads, they can clearly perceive even the slightest vibrations and movements.



For climbing, running and jumping.

When awake, a cat is fully engaged in its world: running, on the move, exploring the new. Paws carry cats through their territory. All cats want to exercise their basic instincts: stalking, catching prey, climbing and jumping. A cat moves smoothly, with a slightly springy gait. From a standing position, it can jump and land gently on its paws, over and over again.

For grooming.

Kittens are very clean and spend many hours a day grooming themselves. Cats use their paws to clean themselves. First, the cat moistens its paw with its tongue and then, little by little, rubs it all over the parts of the body that need to be washed. Cats always start with the head: first around the mouth, then over the eyes and up to the ears. Next, they go over the shoulders, back and belly to the hind legs.

Temperature control.

A cat’s paws also help regulate temperature. Humans sweat through sweat glands all over our bodies that lower our body temperature. When it is very hot, sweat cools us because it evaporates. Cats have only a few isolated sweat glands, located between the pads and toes, which are mainly used to secrete odors. Since cats do not have many sweat glands, they cool themselves by licking their fur.

Injured paw.

If your cat has injured a paw, you should take it to a veterinarian, who can treat the injured paw properly. If the wound is bleeding, you should apply a prophylactic bandage before transporting it. First clean the wound with water, then dry it gently and place a piece of sterile gauze over the wound before bandaging the paw carefully. You should not remove foreign bodies deep in the wound yourself, it is better to have a professional do it.

Swollen paw.

What to do if your cat has a swollen paw? There can be many reasons for a swollen paw – where is the swelling? Which part of the cat’s paw is most affected? Observe how your cat moves: does it put weight on the paw or does it limp? Is the overall swelling mild or severe? Are all the claws still there? At the veterinarian, your observations can provide important clues to your cat’s diagnosis and treatment.

Swollen paw.

Outdoor cats occasionally come home with small paw sores. A shortcut through thorny bushes…and there’s the scratch! Cats lick the scratch well, but sometimes it is not enough. Bacteria sneak in. What to do if a cat’s paw is inflamed? To prevent the inflammation from spreading further, the veterinarian should clean and disinfect the paw. Medication helps to fight the inflammation internally.

Broken paw.

How do you know if your cat has a broken paw? Cats are not wimps, they hurt a lot! They can take a certain amount of pain before you realize it. But if it’s evident that your cat is in a lot of pain and avoids you touching or moving the paw, then it could be broken. If your cat’s paw looks strange, take her to the vet immediately.

Caring for a cat’s paw.

How do you care for your cat’s paws – is it necessary, do they not do it themselves, and how should it be done? Of course, you can let nature take its course, because a healthy cat will take care of its paws on its own. It is an integral part of the daily grooming routine. However, there are some situations where your involvement can help ensure that your cat’s paws are well-groomed and stay that way.

When to brush your cat’s paws.

Indoor cats live in a safe environment, but outdoor cats that roam forests and meadows can bring home things you don’t want within your four walls. Like parasites and dirt. Especially when kitty sits on your bed or couch… When your cat comes home dirty, a “paw care session” is a good idea.

Claw care.

A kitten that has plenty of opportunity to wear out its claws does not need constant grooming. Even indoor cats often get rid of the dead sheaths around their claws by themselves. They simply use their teeth. However, older cats, cats that are not as agile as they used to be or cats that tend to have overgrown claws need brushing. You should help your cat to take care of its nails. Here’s how to do it.

Dry paws.

Cats’ paws have pads that normally protect them reliably from heat and cold. But in winter, the paws of outdoor cats can be more stressed. The use of salt on roads and trails can cause problems for the pads. It dries out the skin and causes the pads to crack. You can prevent this by caring for your cat’s dry pads this time of year with special cat paw ointments that effectively protect their pads and keep them soft.

Calluses on the paws.

Can paws get calluses? Yes. Just like hands or feet, a cat can develop calluses on its paws. If the skin on the pads of a cat’s paws is very dry and cracked, or if it has suffered an injury to the pads, small skin horns may form more intensely in these areas. These horns on the paw pads are not dangerous to the cat, but they may bother or hinder it. If so, they should be trimmed by a veterinarian.

Why does my cat paw at me?

Moments of madness: sometimes there is no stopping your kitty! When cats are full of joie de vivre and playfulness, they go all out. They pounce as if stung by a bee. Or they roll ecstatically on the floor, only to run off the next moment and climb the walls. “Why don’t you play with me?” When your cat wants you to play, he usually touches you. He may touch your sleeve, your pants, or any other part of your body.

Sign of affection

Cats have their own language. They don’t use words like us, but use their body and certain sounds to communicate with you and their environment.When your furry friend blinks at you, then closes his eyes briefly only to open them again in slow motion, he feels completely at ease with you.Does your cat stroke you with his chin or head? You should be flattered: it’s a sign of affection. You are a favored person.

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