how to clean a cat's paws
Cat Health and Wellness

How to Keep Your Cat’s Paws Clean

Cats are fastidious groomers, but there are times when they need your assistance. Every day, your cat uses its litter box, kills vermin/prey, and walks on filthy surfaces. So, making sure your cat’s paws are clean will help to prevent painful injuries and bacterial infections.

Wiping your cat’s paws daily with a wet cloth will keep them clean. Check between the toes and around the paw pads for stuck litter, dirt, garden waste, and stones. If your cat isn’t used to being handled, you may have to wrap it in a towel before you start the cleaning process.

Substances stuck to your cat’s paws may end up in its mouth during grooming. This includes used litter and cleaning chemicals. Outdoor cats’ can get stones, dirt, and debris trapped between their paws/claws.

How to Wash a Cat’s Feet

If your cat walks through a muddy puddle or gets cat litter stuck between the paws/claws after using its tray, paw cleaning is essential. If your cat has been declawed recently, it’s even more important.

Cleaning a cat’s paws once a day is the best way to keep sharp objects, chemicals, germs, and bacteria from hurting or injuring your pet.

Keep in mind that cleaning a cat’s paws can be a grueling challenge, especially if it is not used to being handled. A cat’s claws are its first line of defense against predators. Touching or restraining your cat’s feet can cause it to become defensive, or even aggressive.

It helps to wait until your cat is in a calm and relaxed mood before you wash its paws. Once you and your cat are ready, follow these steps.

cleaning cats paws after litter box

Have Your Materials Ready

To clean your cat’s claws and remove any debris, you’ll need:

  • A damp washcloth
  • A towel to wrap your cat in
  • A pair of tweezers to remove any small particles
  • A cat-friendly antiseptic (such as Betadine, witch hazel or Burrow’s Solution) in case there are any punctures
  • Cat treats to comfort your cat

Wrap Your Cat in a Towel

If your cat’s paws just need a quick clean, take its paw gently and wipe it with a damp cloth.

If your cat’s paws need a deeper clean, you may have to wrap it in a towel. Here’s how:

  • Start by petting your cat and making it feel comfortable
  • Carefully wrap it in a towel with the dirty paw (or paws) sticking out. Avoid wrapping the towel too tightly to prevent discomfort

Wrapping your cat in a burrito will prevent it from moving around too much while you clean its paws. It also prevents it from scratching you.

Your cat may not tolerate being held. If so, try asking a friend or family member to assist you if your cat is uncooperative.

Wipe the Paws

Gently hold your cat’s paw and wipe it with a warm, damp washcloth. You’ll have to rub between your cat’s paw pads to remove particles, such as litter, feces, food, chemicals, and gravel.

Once you clean the first paw, place it back in the towel before starting on the next one. Here are some tips:

  • Clean the front paws before you tackle the back paws. Then slide the bottom of the towel up so that the back paws stick out.
  • Use your fingers to loosen visible debris, such as litter and gravel.
  • If the debris is stuck on, soak your cat’s paw(s) in warm water with some soap for a few minutes.
  • Avoid trying to dislodge any foreign objects if you notice a splinter in the paw. Remove the sharp object or splinter first.

Remove Splinters and Sharp Objects

Check to see if there are any splinters or other sharp debris, such as glass or thorns, in your cat’s paws.

If a foreign object is lodged in your cat’s paws, use a pair of tweezers to remove it. Slide the sharp object out at the same angle as it entered the skin to remove it safely.

Once you’ve removed the foreign object lodged in your cat’s paw, apply a cat-friendly antiseptic. Apply the antiseptic on any injuries or scrapes. Put the antiseptic on a cotton ball before applying it to the affected area.

If you find a shard of glass or large splinter, these should be removed by a vet. Large sharp objects can lead to significant puncture wounds. Also, consult a vet if you find pus, swelling, fungus, discoloration, or odor.

How to Clean Your Cat’s Nails

Nails are the most essential part of a cat’s paws during cleaning. Foreign particles can get trapped inside a cat’s claw sheath and cause pain.

While cleaning your cat’s paws, hold one paw at a time in your hand and inspect for any build-up around the nail sheaths. The nail sheath is delicate, so you’ll have to clean it with a damp cloth very carefully.

Cleaning Cats Paws After Litter Box Usage

The litter box is one of the largest sources of bacteria and other germs your cat will come in contact with. Although cats spend a generous portion of their waking hours grooming themselves, they may not necessarily clean their paws immediately after their litter box visits.

Your cat may step on its urine, feces and soiled litter before exiting its box. This may cause it to leave bacteria, litter and fecal trails all over your clean floors and countertops following each visit.

Wiping the paws with a damp cloth every day can prevent your cat from spreading litter and fecal matter throughout your home. Cleaning the litter box every day and replacing the soiled litter with fresh litter is always a good idea.

You can also place a cat litter mat to wipe its feet after leaving the litter tray.

how to clean dirty cat paws

Do I Need to Clean an Outdoor Cat’s Paws More Often?

The paws of an outdoor cat should be cleaned several times a day, and with good reason.

According to Biocontrol Science, outdoor cats have more bacteria on their paws compared to indoor-only cats.

A cat’s paws play a vital role during hunting. A cat may sink its claws into its prey to immobilize it before killing it. Your cat may also play with small animals, such as mice and birds, between its two paws.

Sometimes, a prey animal may fight back, causing injuries to the paw. Your cat may have fur and blood stuck under the claws. These may attract bacteria, causing health issues if your cat licks its paws during cleaning.

Your cat’s paws may also get dirty when it walks through muddy surfaces, or harsh salts during the winter months.

Clean your cat’s paws as soon as it enters the house. This prevents your cat from spreading germs and ingesting any harmful substances.

How to Prevent your Cat’s Paws from Getting Dirty

Following these additional steps will minimize the amount of dirt that gets trapped in your cat’s paws, making your cleaning routine much easier.

  • Keep your cat indoors. Keeping cats indoors isn’t only recommended for avoiding dangerous predators, but it also minimizes your cat’s exposure to dirt, mud and other foreign substances.
  • Keep your home clean. Disinfect floors, countertops, carpets, and furniture to eliminate germs brought in by your cat.
  • Use a cat litter mat. Special litter mats with angled ridges can pull away litter lodged in your cat’s paws, preventing any litter trails after your cat goes to the toilet.
  • Change your cat’s litter every day. Replace soiled litter with fresh litter so that your cat doesn’t walk on its feces and urine.
  • Scratching posts. A scratching post will help your cat to file its claws and remove any build-up around the nail sheath.
  • Trim paw hair. Trimming paw fur in longhaired cats can prevent dirt and debris from getting caught in the fur. Simply use a pair of round scissors to carefully trim your cat’s paw fur.

Keep in mind that even if you maintain a clean home and litter box, you’ll need to clean your cat’s paws regularly. Cats are clean but they can still spread germs on your floors, countertops and eating surfaces.

Cleaning your cat’s paws is a crucial part of maintaining its health and wellness. While cats are finicky about their personal hygiene, they may not be able to clean their paws as well as they should.