When a cat is relaxing, its paws will often be exposed. It may be tempting to touch your cat’s paw pads as you walk past. However, most cats react with immediate aggression if their paws are touched unexpectedly.
Cat paws are highly sensitive. The paws pick up all manner of sensory input from the ground, using vibrations to complement other senses, such as their hearing. This makes handling the paws stressful for cats. In addition, a cat’s paws are host to its claws, so you are neutralizing the animal’s primary form of self-defense from predators.
Sometimes, handling a cat’s paws is unavoidable. You may need to treat an injury, trim the fur or nails, or moisturize the paw leather. This means that you’ll need to teach your cat to accept a small amount of paw handling.
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Why Do Cats Hate Their Paws Being Touched?
Touching a cat’s paws without permission usually ends badly. You touch the cat’s paws, it reacts defensively, and you are left nursing a scratch or bite. Felines rarely like this form of physical interaction with humans. Never touch the paws of a cat that you don’t have a strong bond with.
You will need to handle our own cat’s paws eventually, though. Before looking more closely at how paw handling is possible, let’s better understand why cats hate their paws being touched so much.
A cat’s paws have many nerve receptors. These enable a cat to detect vibrations from the ground and changes to texture. If you watch your cat move, it creeps on tiptoes to avoid a sensory overload.
Touching a cat’s paws unexpectedly will create an unwelcome sensation. Squeezing or pinching will be even more painful.
Cat paw pads must be handled delicately. It doesn’t mean they can never be touched. You just need to learn how to do so carefully and at the cat’s behest. Adding surprise to pain will inevitably upset your cat.
Cats think like predators. They are not at the top of the food chain, though. As a result, felines also think like prey. Cats are aware that other animals are much bigger and stronger than them, including humans.
Cats take comfort from having sharp claws. They leave a cat confident that it can fight back and wound an adversary. Alternatively, the cat will turn tail and flee. The fight-or-flight instinct defines the feline brain.
By handling and grabbing a cat’s paws, you are denying it both these opportunities. In essence, you are handcuffing the cat and rooting it to the spot. This will cause a great deal of agitation and distress. The cat may start to bite as it feels this is the only recourse left.
The only way to change this is to build a cat’s trust in you. You know that you mean your cat no harm, but survival instinct is a powerful thing. You need to teach your cat that paw handling does not equate to danger. Never violate a cat’s trust by handling paws without permission.
Massaging a Cat’s Paws
The only way to help a cat tolerate paw handling is through exposure. You should start massaging your cat’s paws. This will convince your cat that having its paws touched is not frightening or painful.
Massaging feline paws is a great way to boost your bond with your cat and build trust. It will also make the cat more comfortable on its feet. Senior, arthritic cats will particularly enjoy this sensation.
Do not just pick up your cat and start massaging thaw paws. This will frighten the cat, especially if it typically rejects handling. Wait for the cat to relax and have a treat handy. Loosely take one paw between your fingers and, if the cat does not retreat, praise, and treat.
Start the massage with the top of the paw. Rub your thumb for around three seconds. Do not squeeze or tug, and certainly do not pinch. If the cat starts to pull away, follow the direction of the paw while still rubbing.
If the cat appears to be enjoying the massage, move to the base of the toes. This causes claws to extend, so only do this is you’re convinced the cat is comfortable. If the cat is in any way agitated, you will be scratched. Keep rubbing, eventually moving to the paw leather.
Handling a Cat’s Paws
We have established that cats loathe having their paws touched, and this should be avoided. On occasion, though, it may be necessary. Cats are independent but cannot do everything by themselves.
There may come a time that you need to touch your cat’s paws. This may be to aid grooming, injury or discomfort. If this is the case, do not have grab and hope for the best. Follow bespoke instructions to make the process as painless as possible for all concerned.
You should help your cat clean its paws at least once a day. Cats are hygienic, always licking and grooming paws as standard. This may not capture everything, though. Cats can get poop or litter stuck in their paws and tread this through the home.
Relax your cat with petting and massage. Once purring and relaxed, take a wet wipe to the paws. Be gentle and do not grab the paw. This may take a few attempts to get right. You need to build your cat’s trust in you.
Eventually, your cat will accept paw wiping as part of its daily routine. This will keep the cat and your home cleaner. Just remember to always be soft, and to never actively grab or restrain the paw. This can result in the cat refusing to allow you near it in the future.
Treating Paw Injuries
If your cat roams outside, injury is always a risk. The cat can enter a conflict with other felines, experiencing cuts and scrapes. It may step on sharp objects. While cats are skilled at avoiding obstacles, accidents can happen.
If your cat has something embedded in its paw, this must be removed. The likeliest foreign object to be trapped in a paw is broken glass. Your cat may also have a thorn or wooden splinter.
Removing Foreign Objects
You’ll know if your cat has something trapped in its paw. It will not come to show you, but the cat will limp or avoid movement. Upon inspecting a cat’s paws, you’ll see what is causing such discomfort.
While your cat is calm, gently hold the paw. Use two fingers rather than a closed hand. Your cat’s paw will already be sore. If the cat suspects you intend to inflict further pain, it will react poorly. You may need a second person to soothe the cat while you touch its paw.
Once you have identified the foreign object, use tweezers to slowly and steadily tease it out. Do not just tug with all your strength. This will hurt the cat and potentially cause bleeding.
Once the item has been removed, clean the paw with clean water. Add an antibacterial ointment to minimize infection risk. If necessary, apply a loose bandage to the wound. Your cat should recover and return to full mobility.
Scratching is among the most common behaviors of cats. As discussed by the Canadian Journal of Zoology, cats often scratch to mark and claim objects. In addition, cats scratch to prevent claws from growing overgrown.
A scratching post is a non-negotiable need for any domestic cat. Felines simply must have the opportunity to scratch. By investing in such a toy, your cat will be entertained and focus its scratching. This will prevent your furniture or carpets from suffering.
Even with a scratching post, your cat’s claws may need additional trimming. If a cat’s claws grow too long they curl over the paw. This makes walking difficult and may even puncture the paw pads. In addition, the longer a cat’s claws, the more painful a scratch will be.
Trimming a cat’s claws requires time, patience and iron will. Most felines will fiercely resist this treatment. You should at least attempt to undertake the task where necessary, though. If your cat is completely resistant, consider visiting a pet groomer.
Trimming Paw Fur
In addition to claws, you may need to trim fur around your cat’s toes. This is especially likely in longhaired breeds. Excessive fur can grow tangled and knotted. This will be uncomfortable for the cat.
The process is similar to clipping nails. Calm your cat and massage the paws. Hold the paw in question gently, and snip away at excess fur with sharp scissors. Work quickly and efficiently, not forcing your cat into any more interaction than it is comfortable with.
Moisturizing Paw Pads
Feline paws suffer during extreme temperatures. It is best to keep cats inside during particular hot or cold periods. A hot sidewalk or icy ground can leave a cat’s paw pads chapped and sore. While paw pad leather is tough, it is susceptible to weather.
If your cat does roam during extreme weather seasons, take a look at its paws. If they look dry, chapped or burned, they must be moisturized. Your cat will not like this, as its paws will already be causing discomfort. Touching the pads further remains necessary though.
Wait until your cat is at its most docile. This will typically be after eating and grooming, before sleeping. Massage your cat to enhance its relaxation and gently take a paw between two fingers.
Add any of the following products to the cat’s paws, without rubbing too vigorously. This can be a balancing act. You need to get the ointment on the paw before the cat flees, but not hurt it.
- KY jelly
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
All of these substances can be safely consumed by a cat. Cocoa butter is not toxic like chocolate, so it remains an option. These moisturizing agents will heal and protect your cat’s paws.
Many cats hate having their paws touched. You need to steadily build your cat’s trust. This is achieved by only touching paws when necessary. Eventually, your cat may actively request a paw massage.