While cats are fastidious in their grooming routine, they’re not flawless. Felines attract dirt over the course of the day, and their paws are no exception to the rule. Urine and poop become trapped in their paws after trips to the litter tray. Any time outside is also time spent in the dirt and mud.
Washing paws can sometimes be tricky, as felines loathe being touched on the paw pads. This means that you should do all you can to help her to avoid mucky environments. The litter tray is unavoidable though, so work with your cat to keep her paws clean. It’s safer for you, and more hygienic for your pet.
- 1 How Clean are Cat’s Paws?
- 2 How Do Cat’s Paws Get Dirty?
- 3 How Do I Clean My Cat’s Paws?
- 4 How to Stop a Cat’s Paws Getting Dirty
- 5 What Risks are Associated with Cats with Dirty Paws?
- 6 How Often Should I Clean My Cat’s Paws?
How Clean are Cat’s Paws?
Cats go to great lengths to be clean animals. She’ll spend significant periods of each day grooming and bathing herself. Surely, this means that their paws are spotless?
The truth is, there is no way of knowing for sure. It’s a fair assumption that felines maintain paw hygiene. After all, they lick their paws regularly. They also use their paws to spread saliva throughout their body.
All the same, think about where your cat goes during the day. They wander outside, potentially stepping in muck and mess. They are in and out of a litter tray, which may be soiled. They also use their paws to hunt vermin.
To be on the safe side, it’s advisable to aid your pet in its paw-cleaning regime.
How Do Cat’s Paws Get Dirty?
There are ways that cat paws can become dirty. Any of the following may stick to your pet’s paws:
- Poop and Urine. Your cat will be in and out of its litter box all day. Naturally, some of the contents will stick. This is especially likely with cats, as they bury their waste.
- Mud and Soil. If your cat wanders outside, she’ll walk through mud during the wet season. This may set and cling to their paws. Cats also love to dig at flowerbeds and potted plants.
- Fur, Feathers, and Blood. Cats are born hunters. Their paws and claws will be sunk into prey animals. They may also fight a rival feline in the neighborhood.
- Chemicals. Your cat may walk in household chemicals in the home. Alternatively, she may tread in materials outside and bring them home.
- Tree Bark and Sap. Cats need to scratch solid surfaces to keep their claws neat and trim. If she’s scratching at trees, she may bring remnants home with her.
How Do I Clean My Cat’s Paws?
Cleaning a cat’s paw is sometimes easier said than done. You’ll need to gain access to them. Most felines will freak out when humans attempt to touch their feet.
This isn’t because cats are ticklish. It’s a matter of self-preservation: claws are a feline’s first line of defense against predators. If you’re restraining your cat’s paws, she can’t protect herself.
Your cat will eventually learn to accept paw handling. It’s a case of exposure therapy. You’ll need to be patient, and prepare yourself for scratches during training. You could use a command word, but your cat may ignore it.
Once you have access to your cat’s paws, use a soft and damp washcloth. Douse this in warm water and add cat-friendly shampoo. Never use human soap as this will harm your cat’s skin.
Don’t wrap your cat’s entire paw in cloth. This will make her feel nervous. Instead, work through the paw using the cloth. You may also wish to use a Q-Tip to clean out any trapped foreign objects. If they’re very hard to remove, you should use tweezers.
Dry your cat’s paws off. Never leave them to dry naturally as this increases the risk of fungal infection. A towel dry will suffice. The use of a hairdryer is usually excessive.
Cleaning a Cat’s Paws After a Litter Box Visit
Their litter box is arguably the biggest source of germs and bacteria that your cat will encounter. She’ll wander in and out of the tray throughout the day. In doing so, she’ll tread in the soiled litter. Cats also like to dig in order to hide their waste.
Obviously, you should change your cat’s litter regularly. Sift through it and scoop out anything solid. A litter mat will also help. Place this beside your cat’s litter tray, and she has a doormat. She will wipe her feet when she leaves the tray to remove traces of feces.
Wiping isn’t enough. You’ll still need to clean up her paws. Give them a wipe down with a cloth, to be on the safe side. This will prevent her from walking feces and litter throughout your home.
Cleaning a Cat’s Paws After Hunting
If your cat has left you a gift on the kitchen floor, you should look at its paws. She’ll likely need to be cleaned, for everybody’s safety.
Cats hunt and kill with their teeth, but claws are a pivotal part of the process. A cat will sink her claws into prey to immobilize them. She’ll also bat small animals around with her paws.
Of course, the prey may fight back. This means that your cat may be bitten on the paw. She may also get blood or fur trapped under their claws. If she licks and sucks on this, it could cause health issues.
To be on the safe side, clean your pet’s paws whenever she hunts and kills prey. It will minimize the risk of disease spreading.
How to Clean a Cat’s Nail Sheath
Nails are arguably the most crucial part of a cats paw when it comes to cleaning. Foreign objects can easily get trapped in a cat’s claw sheath. This will be painful.
Hold your cat’s paw in your hand, and check for any build-up around the nail sheath. You can remove this with a damp cloth, or a wet wipe. You’ll have to be gentle here though, as this part of feline anatomy is delicate.
Once you have cleaned up any gunk, encourage your cat to scratch her nails. This is an essential part of the cleaning process. Rub some catnip on its scratching post. This should encourage her.
How to Stop a Cat’s Paws Getting Dirty
If you’re keen to keep your cat’s paws clean, rather than washing them, consider the following.
- Keep Your Cat Indoors. If your pet doesn’t roam outside, you’ll minimize its exposure to external dirt and foreign objects.
- Maintain a Clean Home. Regularly disinfect kitchen countertops and polish furniture. Wash and clean carpets or hard floors. Launder your bedding regularly.
- Change Your Cat’s Litter. Remove soiled litter and your pet can’t walk through it.
- Purchase a Litter Mat. Coach your cat into wiping her feet after doing its business. This will remove the worst of any remnants of poop and urine from her paws.
- Provide a Scratching Post. Your cat will also look to file its claws through scratching. A post in the home is a safe, sanitary location for her to do so.
Even if you maintain a spotless home, you’ll still need to clean your cat’s paws periodically. The less dirt she encounters, the easier she’ll find her own cleaning regime.
What Risks are Associated with Cats with Dirty Paws?
The biggest risk of dirty feline paws is toxoplasmosis. As PetMD explains, this is a parasitic disease found in feline feces. If ingested, it can make humans and cats sick. Blindness is the worst symptom.
Now, you may be wondering why on earth anybody would eat cat poop. The truth is, it’s possible to do so without realizing.
If your cat has fecal matter trapped in its paws, she’ll leave a trail. This could result in remnants making their way into a kitchen countertop.
Outdoor cats may also make themselves unwell if they lick dirty paws. The mud could contain a range of fungi. Alternatively, your cat may have wandered through a building site. She’ll step in a variety of unsafe materials in such locations.
There is always the risk of fungus growing on cat paws. This is unpleasant for your cat, as she’ll become uncomfortable. Fungal infections are fairly common and easily resolved.
How to Recognize Cat Paw Fungus
A fungal infection on your cat’s paws is referred to as onychomycosis. Your pet will encounter a range of fungi each day, and sometimes it’ll cause infection. Symptoms and warning signs that your cat has a fungal infection include:
- Constant licking and biting of paws
- Limping and visible discomfort while walking
- Swelling around the paws
- Crusty discoloration around the paw pads
You may also notice a foul smell coming from your cat’s paws. This is likely a yeast infection, the most common form of fungal issue. While yeast infections are more common in dogs, they can affect cats.
How to Treat Cat Paw Fungus
Thankfully, paw fungus is easily treatable without harming your cat. Most treatments are topical. This could be a cream, ointment, or shampoo.
Some fungal infections can be stubborn, though. If over-the-counter remedies do not help, see a vet. A vet will be able to prescribe a stronger treatment.
If your cat seems prone to constant fungal infection, look into the possible cause. She may have low immunity, which merits investigation. Alternatively, she may be living in, or visiting locations with, unsanitary conditions.
How Often Should I Clean My Cat’s Paws?
This depends on your cat. You’ll have to consider several things:
- Does your cat allow you to clean her paws, or does she resist? Trying to handle feline paws without permission rarely ends without painful scratches.
- How dirty are your cat’s paws? If she’s not going outside, there’s less urgency to the cleaning.
- How furry if your cat? Shorthaired breeds will clean themselves far more effectively. Longhaired cats need more help, as objects will get stuck in the fur.
- Does your cat show any sign of discomfort on its paws? If the paw pads are cracking or bleeding, they need more attention.
If it’s an option, there is no harm in cleaning your cat’s paws once a day. This is especially advisable after a long wander outdoors. As far as cats are concerned, there is no such thing as being too clean.
If your cat is reluctant to accept paw cleaning, don’t write it off. Allow her to conduct her own bathing on a day-to-day basis. Step in yourself at least once a week, though.
Cleaning your cat’s paws is an essential part of feline maintenance. While cats typically take care of their own hygiene, they do need a helping hand occasionally. Gain your cat’s trust, and ensure she lets you handle her paws.