ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

How to Treat a Burned Cat Paw Pad (6 Effective Tips)

Given how curious, fearless, and agile they are, cats have a way of getting into things they shouldn’t. Add the fact that cats love warmth but cannot distinguish dangerous hot surfaces from safe ones, and you have a recipe for disaster in the form of a burned paw pad.

While you can’t prevent it completely, knowing how to treat a burned cat paw pad can help ease your kitty’s pain, prevent complications, and speed up the healing process.

Review the tips on what or what not to do whenever your beloved pet had burned their paw:

3 cat face divider

How to Treat a Burned Cat Paw Pad

1. Know the Signs of a Burned Paw Pad

Like many animals, cats are very good at hiding their pain. But there are some signs that your cat is in pain from a burned paw pad, including:

  • Limping or holding up the affected paw
  • Crying or meowing in pain
  • Licking or chewing at the paw
  • Avoiding putting weight on the paw
  • Swelling or redness in the paw
  • Blisters or open wounds
  • Charred fur or blackened skin

Look for subtle changes in behavior as well since it can take a day or two for burn damage to become visible. For instance, a normally rambunctious cat who starts hiding or becomes withdrawn may be in pain. Got a cat who loves to swat while playing? A burned paw pad may make her less likely to engage in this type of activity.

tabby cat licking her paw
Image Credit: SJ Duran, Shutterstock
thematic break

2. Identify the Type of Burn

There are three common types of burns your cat can get:

  • Thermal: These burns come from contact with a hot object, such as a stovetop, radiator, or hot pavement.
  • Chemical: Chemical burns come from contact with an acidic substance, such as bleach, battery acid, or even some plants (such as lilies).
  • Electrical: Electrical burns are caused by exposure to electrical currents, such as chewing on an electrical cord.

The type of burn will dictate what you need to do next. All burns need immediate medical attention, but certain types require specific first aid. Your vet will also need to know the type of burn in order to provide appropriate treatment.

cat sleeping on person's feet
Image Credit: Valeriia Miller, Unsplash
thematic break

3. Assess the Severity of the Burn

Just like with humans, burns in cats are classified according to their severity:

  • First-degree burns: These affect only the outer layer of skin and are similar to mild sunburn in humans. The skin will be red and painful, but it will be intact. Blisters usually don’t develop since the burn doesn’t go deep enough to cause them.
  • Second-degree burns: These burns damage the outer layer of skin and some of the tissue layers underneath. The skin will be red and painful, and there may be blisters.
  • Third-degree burns: These are the most serious type of burn, affecting all layers of skin and the tissue underneath. The skin will be blackened and charred, and there may be blisters, open wounds, and severe pain. Your cat may also go into shock.

Fourth-degree burns are also possible, but they are so severe that they cause damage to tendons, muscles, and bones. These burns are rare in cats, but when they do happen, they’re life-threatening, and you need to take them to the vet ASAP.

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock
thematic break

4. Apply Appropriate First Aid

First-degree burns may be treated at home, but any burn that blisters or breaks the skin should be seen by a vet. That said, there are some things you can do to help your cat in the meantime:

  • Cool the Burnt Area Down: Only do this for first-degree burns or for second-degree burns that aren’t blistered. Hold the paw under cool (not cold) running water for 3-5 minutes. If your cat won’t tolerate this, soak a clean cloth in cool water and hold it against the burn. Don’t use ice, as this can further damage the tissue.
  • Dry the Area and Keep It Clean: Once the area is cooled, dry it off and keep it clean. This may be difficult, as most cats don’t take kindly to having their paws handled, but it’s important to prevent infection. If your cat is extremely agitated, you may want to quarantine them in a clean, quiet, and safe area. This will help minimize their contact with dirty surfaces without you having to hold them down.
cleaning cat paw
Image Credit: NONGASIMO, Shutterstock
thematic break

5. Take Your Cat to the Vet

Despite the paw’s small surface area, severe burns can cause a cat to go into shock, dehydrate, or suffer organ damage.

Depending on the type of burn, there can also be other issues, such as chemical burns to the eyes or inhalation burns from smoke. For these reasons, it’s always best to take your cat to the vet after a burn injury, regardless of the cause or severity.

Your vet will likely give your cat pain medication and prescribe antibiotics if there’s any risk of infection. They may also need to give your cat IV fluids to prevent dehydration. More serious burns may require surgery to remove dead tissue or skin grafts to cover open wounds.

Some cats may also need oxygen therapy if they suffer from smoke inhalation, and those with chemical burns will need their eyes flushed out.

vet wrapping cat's injured paw with bandage
Image Credit: VGstockstudio, Shutterstock
thematic break

6. Observe Your Cat for Complications

Burnt paw pads can cause a number of complications in cats, even with proper treatment.

The most common one is an infection, which can cause your cat a lot of pain and may lead to sepsis if it’s not treated quickly. Look out for signs of infection, such as excessive licking, redness, swelling, or discharge from the burn site.

Cats can also develop scars or contractures as the burn heals. Scars are permanent and may cause your cat discomfort, while contractures happen when the skin around the burn heals in a way that pulls the tissue underneath tight. This can make it difficult for your cat to move their paw or use its claws and may require surgical correction.

Finally, some cats may develop behavioral problems after a burn injury. They may become more aggressive or withdrawn and may start to exhibit signs of anxiety or stress. If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior, talk to your vet about possible ways to help them cope.

stressed cat
Image Credit: yvonneschmu, Pixabay

3 cat divider

What NOT to Do If Your Cat Has Burnt Paw Pads

Burns affect cats differently than humans. Usual interventions for a burnt hand or skin, for instance, can actually be quite dangerous and even lethal to cats.

Avoid these interventions for a cat with burnt paw pads:

  • Don’t use ice. Ice can actually cause frostbite and further damage the tissue.
  • Don’t put any ointments, lotions, or other products on the burn unless your vet tells you to. Some human products can further irritate the skin.
  • Don’t try to remove any dead skin yourself. This is a job for a professional, and attempting to do it yourself can cause even more damage.
  • Don’t give your cat any pain medication unless it’s prescribed by your vet. Cats metabolize drugs differently than humans, and some medications that are safe for us can be toxic to them.
  • Never put your cat in a tub of water. This could cause them to panic and make their injuries worse.
  • Never try to force your cat to eat or drink. If they’re in pain, they may not have an appetite, and forcing them to eat or drink can actually make them vomit, which can further dehydrate them.

cat paw divider

Conclusion

While seeing your beloved cat in pain is incredibly distressful, try your best not to panic. Most cats recover well from mild to moderate burns with proper treatment. Even the most severe burns will heal properly with timely intervention.

As a pet owner, however, it’s your responsibility to be ready for anything. Be sure to keep the number of your local emergency vet clinic handy, and familiarize yourself with the signs of burn injuries in cats so you can act quickly if your cat is ever hurt.

With a little preparation, you can rest assured knowing that you’re ready to help your cat in case of an emergency.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

excitedcatssmallsfeb2022