How to Care for Cat Paw Pads

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Your kitty'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 all of the cat paw pads in your fur family healthy and clean.

Why Care for Cat Paw Pads?

Cat paw with blurred sleeping cat in background
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 on a leash, 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 deicing agents that can be harmful to paws.

At some point in the day, your kitty will take it upon themselves to clean their own paws by licking them, in the process ingesting any harmful substances their little feet may have picked up. Regular cat paw care that includes inspections and cleaning will not only help keep your kitty'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

Getting Started

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 kitty's paws when you hold or pet them. 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.

Paw Inspection

Once your cat tolerates you handling their paws, make it a point to examine them daily, especially after they return from an outdoor jaunt. Look for scratches, sores, and foreign objects, says the Animal Care Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. If you find something embedded in  your cat’s paw, if possible, use a pair of tweezers to gently remove it or call your veterinarian if it's embedded deeply.

Paw Cleaning

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 clean their toes of dirt, litter dust and any chemicals or foreign objects.


Nail Trimming

Gray cat lies on a checkered plaid and licks paws.

Use a pair of nail scissors made especially for cats to trim cat claws. 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, keep 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 kitty's paw pads become dry, irritated or cracked, contact your vet; they recommend that you try moisturizing 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 her from tracking it through the house. If they need  something more heavy-duty, ask your vet to recommend a good paw moisturizer for cats. Avoidotions made for humans, which may be harmful if ingested.

Additional Considerations

Of course, one of the best things you can do for your kitty'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 kitty'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.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

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, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.