Playing with a cat can be a strange experience. Your pet will purr while you lavish them with attention, and then suddenly they’ll walk away for no reason. Unfortunately, stroking or touching a cat’s paws is likely to be met with a warning bite to stay away.
The paws serve multiple purposes to cats, and we will look at why cats guard their paws so fiercely. Cats preferred to be petted in other areas of the body, so avoid playing with your cat’s feet.
My Cat Attacks When I Touch Its Paws
If you touch your cat’s paws without invitation, don’t expect a positive response. Your cat will likely lash out with a free paw, hiss, growl, and bite.
The main reason is that your cat is reacting through instinctive fear. Many of us watch our pets and assume they see a ferocious tiger in the mirror. That’s certainly the impression that cats give.
In reality, they are comparatively skittish and frightful animals. Felines are acutely aware that they’re smaller than most of what surrounds them – including humans.
Thankfully, cats can defend themselves from anything that means to do them harm. We’re referring, of course, to the retractable claws located in their paws.
Feline claws have three primary uses. Hunting and trapping prey; gaining purchase when climbing trees, and fighting off predators.
Imagine if you were handcuffed, and then confronted by a wild animal such as a bear. Fight or flight instinct would kick in pretty quickly, right? Well, that’s what is happening in your cat’s mind when you touch their paws.
Of course, you would never hurt your pet. You’re just playing. You may even be helping them out by cleaning their paws or clipping their nails. That doesn’t register with a cat, though. All they know is that a larger animal has them captive, and they’re unable to defend themselves.
Also, to this, your cat’s paw pads are packed with nerve endings. This means that, should they be injured in any way, the consequences will be drastic. If you have ever seen a cat with a crack on their paw pad, you’ll know this.
Injuries to the paws bleed far more than any other body part. Your cat isn’t silly. As a result, they’ll protect their paws from any potential harm.
Are Cat Paws Ticklish?
Your pet’s aversion to having their paws touched goes beyond sheer, bloody-minded survival instinct. Cat paws are also extremely sensitive. This can work to a feline’s advantage. Cats can sense vibrations through the ground, and know when somebody is approaching.
However, it also means that the slightest touch can be ticklish. If your cat enjoys that, they may ask you to tickle their paws. What’s more likely, however, is that they’ll lose their minds when touched.
You can always tell if a cat enjoys any physical contact – including tickling. To be more precise, you can tell when they don’t enjoy it. At best, your pet will sidle off in a huff.
What’s more likely is that you’ll be nursing scratches and even bite wounds. Don’t push your luck in tickling a cat that isn’t interested!
You also have to remember that cats do not laugh. This isn’t because they are joyless animals incapable of having fun. They cannot make a laughing sound to denote their happiness.
This means that you’ll need to look for other signs that your cat enjoys being tickled. According to Animology, these include:
- Purring. Just remember, purring could also mean that your cat is in pain.
- Happy vocalizations, such as short, sharp chirps. If your cat releases an elongated meow, this likely means, “get off.”
- Kneading at your clothing between tickles, or with other paws. Kneading is a classic sign of feline contentment.
- Rolling onto their back, and exposing their belly. This is a classic sign of a happy and contented cat.
- Twitching their tail. This must not be confused with swishing their tail from side to side. The latter is a warning sign of agitation. The former means your cat is having fun.
Perhaps the most important sign of all, however, is your cat letting you tickle them. If they stick around, they are enjoying the experience.
It’s advisable to quit while you’re ahead, though. Don’t wait for your cat to tell you that they’ve had enough. The claws will come out in such a situation.
Why Does My Cat Let Me Touch Its Paws?
A cat allowing you to touch their paws suggests that they trust you. An extremely relaxed pet may tolerate this contact for a while.
Your cat is announcing that they do not consider you any threat to their safety. That level of trust from a feline is not easy to build.
Be aware, however. Your pet can – and probably will – change their mind at a moment’s notice. Don’t be surprised if your cat withdraws their paw and acts as though you attacked them.
It isn’t in their nature to allow themselves to remain vulnerable for too long. Feline survival instinct is too strong for that.
You may find, however, that your cat places their paws on you. This is another sign of affection from your pet, as PetHelpful explains. Cat paws contain sweat glands, which release a scent.
As a result, cats use their paws for marking. Your cat trusts you, and is thus marking you as a safe source of pleasure. Do not ruin the moment by grabbing a paw and upsetting them!
Do Cats Like Having Their Paws Massaged?
As cats loathe having their paws touched, surely they’d reject a massage too? You may be surprised. Some cats actively enjoy a paw massage, as the pads go through so much every day.
This is especially likely if your cat roams outdoors. Walking, climbing, marking, and grooming means that your cat’s paws see a lot of action on a typical day.
If you’re going to attempt a paw massage, ensure that your cat is completely relaxed. A good time to approach them is after a big meal. Your cat will be contented, and may be susceptible to such attention if they trust you.
Gently reach for one paw, and gently hold onto it for around three seconds. If your cat stays calm, give them a treat. This reinforces your good intentions.
If they pull their paw away, don’t force the issue. You can try again another day, but right now a massage is off the table.
If your cat allows a massage, gently rub each paw from the top to the claw. Don’t squeeze too hard, as you’ll frighten them.
Don’t rub too hard against their paw pads. This will agitate the sensitive nerve endings, and draw the massage to a hasty conclusion.
If you can master this technique, your cat will start approaching you for a paw massage. That will be a good thing, for various reasons. It suggests that you have earned the complete trust of your cat. It makes paw inspections much easier – and claw trims less of an ordeal.
Do I Need to Check My Cat’s Paws?
Reluctant as they may be to present them, you should inspect your cat’s paws regularly. This is especially important if you see them limping, or during periods of extreme weather.
If it’s snowing outside and the roads are covered with salt, your pet’s paw pads are in danger. This risk is magnified if they lick and ingest the salt.
It’s best to avoid letting your cat out during such conditions. If you do, always check their paws when they return. They may need a thorough clean.
Similarly, extreme heat can do serious damage to your cat’s paws. Blistering sun can burn the pads at the bottom of their feet.
In such an instance, your cat will need treatment, such as shea butter. You could also apply a similar treatment any time that your cat’s paw pads show signs of wear and tear.
You’ll also need to see if your cat’s claws are growing too long. This can be a real problem for felines. Claws that go untrimmed will often curl over, causing severe damage to the paw pads.
Most cats keep this under control themselves with the aid of a scratching post. If your pet needs a helping hand, however, you’ll need to invest in cat claw clippers. Don’t attempt to use human nail clippers as feline claws are too tough.
Touching your cat’s paws is inadvisable unless they initiate the contact. You shouldn’t ever touch the paws of a strange cat. When the feline reacts poorly, they’re not just being fussy of acting out.
They are afraid of having their greatest defense against predators disabled. If you avoid placing your cat in such a predicament, you’ll all get along better.