Caring For Your Cat’s Paws

A mani-pedi is probably not at the top of your cat’s list of fun times, but regular grooming helps him more than he realizes.

An outdoor cat needs toughened paw pads, and sharp claws to climb, attack and feed himself, plus the full use of scent glands between his toes to leave a trail that he can follow back home. 

But your indoor cat is a softie. During regular grooming, Mr. Lap-of-Luxury needs his feet cleaned. His nails should be comfortably trimmed so he won’t become embarrassingly anchored to a comforter or sofa cushion. Should you trim his furry feet? What about dry, cracked paw pads?

The ASPCA, veterinarians, home caretakers and Beverly Hills groomers have some interesting suggestions about paw care: 

A scratching post is a must-have. It needs to be tall and sturdy enough to allow your cat to get a full-length stretch while scratching. That’s his stress therapy and his emery board. The best kind bolts to the wall for unwavering support. Scratching helps to remove the old outer layer of claws and provides a safe place for their primal need to claw something. 

Inspect your cat’s paws often, and use pet wet wipes to clean his feet of trapped litter, dust, cleaning chemicals and sweat. Yes, cats sweat through their feet! Hold the wipe for a few moments to warm it up for a soothing foot cleanse, to remind him what it felt like to have his mom groom him as a kitten.

Trim his claws by bringing him into a quiet room after a big meal, when he’s sleepy. You could also offer a very special treat during this time as a reward. A gently bubbling water fountain or a quietly rotating fan helps to create a calm environment. Position him in your lap or beside you so you can have good control of him. 

Gently rub one paw at a time to desensitize it, and press on the pad underneath to extend the claw just a little bit – enough to clip the sharp end, but not the quick (that pink area that contains blood vessels and nerves). Small scissor-type clippers are less intrusive and more maneuverable than standard clippers. 

Take your time. If you do accidentally clip the quick, use a styptic pen to help stop the bleeding quickly. 

Pressing on the pad too much can push the claw out too far, and that hurts. So be gentle. Clip only a couple of claws a day, if that’s all he will allow. Just be consistent, so he’ll become accustomed to the routine.

His paw pads are like individually padded, durable sneakers with shock absorbers that help your cat  keep his balance in astounding situations. He has tiny glands between the toes that leave pheromones everywhere he goes. When you see your cat walking with his toes spread wide like a tiger, he’s deliberately leaving a scent trail, probably staking out his kingdom within the house. 

The fur between his toe pads provides extra insulation and protection. But if you have a long-haired cat, his shaggy feet will slide around on smooth surfaces. There are two thoughts on trimming this. One is that the fur should be trimmed back with small blunt edged scissors for better traction. The other is that the excess fur is another natural sensory tool that should not be tampered with. 

The final spa treatment is a balm for his toe pads. Although you may be tempted to roll on a convenient tube of popular lip balm, stop. These have chemicals he shouldn’t ingest. Use coconut oil or a balm made especially for cats, to keep the pads from becoming dried out and cracked. This is the best time to look for any injuries or abnormalities. If anything is cut or swollen, your vet should have a look at it. 

Chances are your cat will only let you work on one paw a day. But, when done in a pleasant, unhurried manner, both of you can enjoy this very special, relaxing spa time. 

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.