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Cat Paw Anatomy, Facts, Care Guide, Pictures, FAQs & More

Cat paws anatomy front and back in white background

The cat is an interesting creature not only for its innate charm but also for its over-engineered body parts, like the cat’s paw.

Toe beans are what we usually call cat and kitten paws, but did you know they are extremely functional?

The cat paw anatomy is filled with many exciting things you are about to discover.

The cat’s feet and legs are fascinating. From the way they stretch to the way they walk, we cannot help but watch in awe as cats do it majestically. And all that comes from the power of their paws.

Read along the article to learn more about the anatomy, interesting facts, care tips, and frequently asked questions about cat paws.

Anatomy of the Cat Paw

Cat paw anatomy with labels

What you can see above is the anatomy of a cat’s front paw. The front paws of a cat comprise digital pads, metacarpal pads, dewclaws, and carpal pads, while the back paws consist of digital pads and metatarsal pads. 

Collectively, they are called paw pads. In this segment of the article, we will expound on these parts and their functions.

Digital Pads

Digital pads are present on both the front and back paws of cats. These are small pads you can see on each toe or digit of the cat. 

The front paw usually has five digits, including the dewclaw. The back paw has four digital pads. They help in supporting the cat’s weight. 

Metacarpal and Metatarsal Pads

Metacarpal and metatarsal pads are the equivalents of palms in humans. Like the digital pads’ function, the metacarpal and metatarsal pads also act as the cat’s weight support. 

These pads are the fatty, larger pads located in the middle of the paw. These pads are filled with blood vessels, nerve endings, and fatty tissues.

Aside from being weight supports, these pads also provide cushioning and impact absorption. 

Dewclaws

Dewclaws correspond to the human thumb. These are also present in many mammals, although they are often more non-functional than the cat’s dewclaws.

Cats use dewclaws as an additional grip for climbing, balance, and stability.

Some cat owners take their cats to the vet to have their dewclaws removed. However, according to some sources, this procedure is more harmful than beneficial. In fact, some countries have banned this harsh alteration.

Carpal Pads

Carpal pads are the sixth pad on the cat’s front paws. And although they do not make contact with the ground, carpal pads provide traction when they are coming to a halt, jumping off from a higher place, or descending a slope.

Like the metacarpal and metatarsal pads, carpal pads also provide cushioning whenever a cat lands from a jump.

These pads are covered with highly sensitive nerve receptors, which are also used for detecting textures and vibrations. 

Claws

You might think that cats’ claws are these annoying little scratchers that damage furniture; however, claws are an essential part of the cat’s feet. As with other feline species, cats’ claws serve as a tool.

The cat’s claws have many uses. These creatures use their claws for climbing, hunting, running, and even self-defense. Interestingly, cats also have retractable claws on their front and back paws. 

Shape, Size, and Color

Have you ever thought of reading your cat’s paws? Give it a try and look at your cat’s paws because the paw pad shape and personality of your cat are reportedly correlated. This paw version of palmistry originated in Japan.

As for the size of their paws, a cat’s paw is usually proportional to its overall body. Contrary to popular belief, kittens’ paws do not determine how big they get as an adult. 

It is possible that a kitten’s paws appear larger because they are physically big-boned. This is especially true for large cat breeds like the Maine Coon and the Ragdoll, among others.

In terms of color, usually, cat paw pads will come in the same color as their fur. For instance, black cats have black paw pads, white and ginger cats have pink paw pads, and grey cats have grey paw pads. 

Paw Odor

The smell of corn chips, otherwise known as Frito Feet in dog and cat paws, is typically nothing to worry about.

This yeasty odor is caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas and Proteus, which naturally exist in cats’ paws. 

However, if your cat’s toes produce a very strong or foul smell, you should visit the veterinarian as soon as possible. Bad odor in cats can be an early sign of a more serious health issue,

Before we move on to the next section, here is a short video showing one of the many ways cats make use of their paws: 

Why Does My CAT Drink Water With Their PAW? 💧🐈

12 Amazing Facts About Cat Paws

Cute little red kitten showing her cat paws

Its anatomy is just an overview of what we can further discover about cat paws. 

Anyone could get lost just by looking at cats’ cute little paws. That is how amazing cat paws are, but prepare to be more surprised with the following twelve facts:

1. Cat paws are kneading machines 

They say cats make the best biscuits. Cat parents would know, as some cats are often seen kneading. But why do cats knead? 

Cats knead for several reasons, a few of which include marking their territory, expressing comfort or happiness, and stretching their muscles. 

Cat kneading is also explained in this video: 

Why Does My Cat KNEAD Me? 😼 Origin and Meanings

2. Cats walk tiptoed 

Cats are digitigrade, which means, similar to dinosaurs, they also walk on their tippy-toes. Their feet extend to the second bend in their legs. This way a cat walks is rooted in its means of survival in the wild. 

The way cats walk or run on their toes increases their chance of catching their prey off-guard with quieter and quicker strides. It helps in avoiding predators as well. 

3. Cat paws are shock absorbers

Cats can jump from a flight seven times their height with a graceful landing. This is because cat paws act as shock absorbers. Their paw pads help lessen the impact of their fall and soften their landings. 

4. Cats have dominant paws

Like us humans have a dominant hand, felines also have paw preferences.

These preferences may also depend on gender, with males more likely to be left-paw-dominant and females to be right-paw-dominant.

5. Cat paw pads have sweat glands 

Another thing that cats and humans have in common is sweating. While we humans tend to have a sweaty hand every now and then, there is also a thing known as a sweaty cat paw pad. 

And just like the way we get sweaty palms, cats’ paws secrete sweat whenever they are frightened or stressed.

However, we humans have several sweat glands; cats only have them in their paw pads. Cat sweat glands help in regulating their body temperature.

6. Cat paw pads have scent glands

Located in the grooves of their paws, cats have secret scent glands that are sources of scent marks that only fellow felines can smell.

When your cat is kneading or scratching on a surface, it is basically claiming it as its own.

7. Cats can have extra toes

Most cats have a total of 18 toes, but other cats are born with extra toes. This condition is called polydactyly

Cats normally have five toes on each front paw and four toes on their back paws. Polydactyl cats can have as many as seven toes on each paw.

8. Cats use their paws for grooming

Cats only need to do two things for grooming: lick and scratch. And their powerful tools? Tongue and paws. 

With the help of their forelimbs, these hygiene-conscious kitties use their paws to clean hard-to-reach areas behind the ears, face, neck, and under their chin.

9. Cat paws are flexible

The cat paws’ ability to turn and bend is helpful when they climb and hunt. Their front paws can turn inwards, making them sink their sharp claws into branches and helping them maintain stability as they climb up. 

The downside, though, is that it only helps them while climbing up; the descent can be rather difficult for them,

10. Cat paws are used to communicate

One of the reasons why cats scratch and knead is to mark their territories and leave information about themselves. 

Have you observed your cat scrape their litter or other areas after they have urinated? It is to deposit pheromones from their scent glands to signal other animals over their claim to that area.

11. Cat claws are not nails

Unlike our nails that grow out of our fingers, cats’ claws grow out of the bones at the end of the paws.

A cat’s claws are tools to catch and hold its prey. Without claws, cats would not be able to survive in the wild.

12. Cats have more front toes than back toes 

Cats have five front toes and four back toes. The extra toe on their front paw is the dewclaw, which corresponds to the human thumb. 

Dewclaws are present in mammals, but most are vestigial (non-functional), unlike cats. Cats use their dewclaws for hunting and extra grip.

Cat Paw Care Tips: How to Care for Your Cat’s Paw

Cat paws are on the hand

A healthy cat’s paw means a healthy and happy cat. Caring for your kitty’s paw pads is essential to keep them robust. After all, kitty paws go through a lot, as cats are extremely adventurous creatures. 

Here are a few tips on how you can care for your cat’s paw at home:

1. Keep your kitty’s paws clean

Wiping your cat’s paws with a damp cloth daily to keep them clean is the most crucial step to keeping them healthy. Make sure to check in between their toes to remove litter or any dirt that may be stuck in there.

2. Check your cat’s paws daily 

While cleaning them, you might want to do a quick check on your cat’s paw pads. Look closely for any wounds, cuts, sores, or any foreign object that may be stuck in their toes. 

Cats are also prone to having red paws, similar to dogs. If you spot minor wounds, wash their paw with some mild soap. If there appears to be an injury, take your cat to the vet.

3. Provide your cat with scratching posts

By now, you should know that cats don’t just scratch for fun. Cats scratch to exercise and sharpen their claws. Scratching surfaces also sheds the outer layer of the claws.

Providing your cat scratching posts around your house does not only satisfy their need to use their nails, but it also saves your furniture and other surfaces from damage.

4. Trim your cat’s nails

Scratching helps, but your cat still needs regular nail trimming. To avoid extra-long claws and reduce scratching, trim your cat’s nails once every few weeks to prevent fracture or painful breakage. 

When you trim their nails, make sure to avoid the pink part that supplies blood in the nails. Only cut the translucent white part. If you can’t do this on your own, you may take your cat to a professional groomer or a vet. 

5. Do not declaw your cat 

For starters, declawing is by no means beneficial to your cat. Besides, cats need their claws for survival. 

Declawing is not as simple as pulling out their nails. As mentioned earlier, cats’ claws grow out of the bones at the end of their toes. 

To declaw means to amputate these last bones of each of your cat’s toes. This can only cause harm and pain to your cat and risks its overall health and safety. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Close up portrait of caw paws cat toe beans

Do Cat Paws Peel?

Yes. Cat paws peel, and sometimes it can cause some severe issues. A dry climate can cause peeling due to a lack of moisture on the cat’s paw pads. 

Simple moisturizing of lick-safe food-quality oils such as coconut and olive oil should do the trick. 

However, if dry paw pads are already cracking with the presence of bleeding and scratches, it is best to consult your vet immediately. 

Are Cat Paws Sensitive?

Cat paws are extremely sensitive. It is for the same reason a cat will not let you touch its paws. Their paws have a large concentration of nerve receptors, making them fine-tuned sensory organs. 

Because of their paws’ sensitivity, cats can easily sense vibrations, feel pressure, and change in texture and temperature. Through this, too, they are unfortunately more sensitive to pain and pressure. 

Do Cat Paws Sweat?

Yes, cats sweat, and like dogs, their paws are the only sweat glands cats have. Cat paws sweat for different reasons.

Stress and anxiety are contributors to cat paw sweating. Another common reason is high temperature.

Are Cat Paws Waterproof?

While there are videos on the internet showing how a cat’s paws appear to be waterproof, further research reveals they are not waterproof.

Unlike most dog paws that are waterproof, a cat’s paw is not. In fact, cats’ coats are not hydrophobic, which means they absorb water.

Final Thoughts

Cats’ paws have got to be one of the most interesting things in a cat. And like any other body part, the paws serve a lot more than just one purpose. 

Regardless if you’re a cat fanatic or a dog lover, learning about cats’ paws is undeniably interesting! 

A cat’s paws, legs, and feet will continue to amaze us — even how they climb, jump and walk. And in this article, we gave the “catwalk” a whole new meaning — the cat paws are not there just for show; they are cats’ tools for survival.

Ultimately, human hands and feet have a lot in common with the cat paw anatomy. So the next time you are itching to touch those cute little cat paws, realize that you are touching an incredibly unique and versatile body part.

Did you learn anything from this guide? Let us know your thoughts about cat paws in the comments below!