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What Are Cat Paws Made Of? 5 Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQs

Vet approved

	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats’ paws are incredible, and they use them for a host of different things. Paws not only help with balance and carrying the load of the cat, but they provide protection, offer grip, and even dissipate energy, which is how cats can fall from large heights and land silently without hurting themselves.

The paw is made up of several layers with thin skin on the outside, covering blood vessels, nerve endings, and connective tissue. This combination makes them gentle but powerful and gives them some incredible properties.

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About Cat Paws

cats paw on childs face
Image Credit: antibydni, Shutterstock

A cat’s paw has four or five digital pads or digits like our fingers. They also have metacarpal pads on the front feet and metatarsal pads on the rear feet, and these help balance and provide support for the cat’s weight. An additional carpal pad is found on the rear leg, and this is used to give extra traction if your cat needs to stop suddenly or if it is running downhill, for example.

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The 5 Amazing Cat Paw Facts

Paws are vital to your cat’s well-being, which means that any serious injury or damage to the paw can leave your cat with mobility issues as well as a host of other problems. The paw is an incredible part of a cat’s anatomy:

1. They Have Excellent Circulation

Cats have greater circulation in their paws than humans do in their feet. This enables them to withstand colder temperatures and is why cats can bear to walk on snow and cold surfaces.

However, cats can still get frostbite if their paws are exposed to the cold for too long, so you should limit the time your cat spends outdoors in extremely cold conditions or put on some protective booties when they do go out in the snow.

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2. Cats Sweat From Their Paws

cleaning cat paw
Image Credit: NONGASIMO, Shutterstock

Cats can sweat, but they don’t have as many sweat glands in as many places as people. Their paws are one of the few areas that cats sweat from, in fact. Not only do cats sweat in hot conditions, which helps to regulate body temperature and keep them cool, but they also sweat when stressed or anxious. You may notice damp pawprints on the floor if your cat is especially anxious.

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3. Cats Have a Dominant Paw Side

Cats have a dominant paw side, in much the same way that humans have a dominant hand. However, unlike in people, some experts have suggested that the dominant side is usually determined by gender. Males tend to lead with their right paws while females lead with their left. You can check whether this is true by burying a cat treat under a cushion and seeing which paw your cat uses to get it.

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4. They Absorb Shock

Cat's paw on floor
Image Credit: Marie Charouzova, Shutterstock

The paws are the reason that your cat can sneak up on you at virtually any time, and in the wild, this would help cats stalk their prey. The soft collection of tissue under the dermal layer of the paw absorbs shock, which means that they can land cleanly from great heights. And the same squishy texture means that when your cat lands it effectively deadens the sound. The soft texture of the pad also means that cats can walk silently on hard surfaces.

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5. Paw Colors Vary

Paws are colored in a similar way to a cat’s coat and skin. This means that black cats will likely have black or very dark pads, ginger cats have pink pads, and tuxedo and multi-colored cats are likely to have multi-colored pads with spots of color.

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FAQ

What Are Cat Paw Pads Called?

The different pads on a cat’s feet have different names. They have four or five digital pads on each foot, and these are commonly referred to as “toe beans” by cat lovers. On the front leg, a cat also has a metacarpal pad. On the back leg, there is a metatarsal pad.  Collectively, they are properly known as pads.

red tabby cat showing its paw pads
Image Credit: Kevin Bidwell, Pexels
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Do Cats Have Feeling in Their Paw Pads?

Under the thin skin layer of a cat’s paw, there is a collection of tissue but also nerve endings. The large number of nerve endings means that cats’ paws are actually very sensitive.

As well as being able to feel when they are touched, cat paws can sense changes in temperature and pressure, and they can even feel vibrations to warn them of approaching predators.

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Do Cats Have Fingerprints?

Cats’ paws are similar to human fingers in the way that they are all unique and each one has a unique pattern. If such a database were kept, it would be possible to trace a cat by its paw prints in the same way that we can trace people by their fingerprints.

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Why Don’t Cats Let You Touch Their Paws?

Some cats strongly dislike having their paws touched, although some don’t mind. This is because cat paws are very sensitive. Even if you are gentle, they will pick up on the feeling. It could tickle them, or they could be worried that the gentle touch will get rougher.

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Cats are agile, silent, fast, and adept at jumping to and falling from great heights. Their paws are chief among the reasons that they have these skills. Made from a collection of thin skin, tissue, and nerve endings, cat paws are very sensitive. They help with balance and load bearing, and they can detect movement as well as temperature changes.

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Featured Image Credit: Kirsten Kluge, Unsplash

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