Paw Pads: Your Cat’s Built-In Shoes

While a cat’s paw pads are tough and resilient to protect the feet from rough terrain, the paw pads are actually quite sensitive. The cushiony foot pads help your cat balance, walk silently, and also provide tactile feedback about the environment. If you examine your cat’s paw, you will see that the foot has a large plantar pad, the small digital pads on each toe, and the small non weight-bearing pad at the wrist which is known as the pisiform. Paw pads come in a variety of different colors: black, brown, gray, pink, as well as spotted and speckled toe designs.

Cats have scent glands located between the paw pads, which is one of the reasons behind scratching behavior: to deposit scent. Cats also sweat through their paw pads although this is not an efficient cooling mechanism. You may notice your cat has sweaty paws when anxious or frightened, such as at the vet’s office.

To keep your cat’s feet healthy, be sure to check the pads and between the toes regularly for swellings, cuts, abrasions, foreign objects, or other injuries or changes. To prevent injury, try not to allow your cat to play on rough, icy or hot surfaces. Keep your cat’s nails trimmed so they are less likely to snag and get torn. Indoor cats have much less chance of injury to the paw pads than cats allowed to roam outdoors, so this is one more reason to keep your cat safely confined inside. If your cat is limping, grooming the feet excessively a trip to the vet is in order.

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