What to do if your cat has dry or cracked paw pads

If you’ve ever experienced dry or cracked skin, you’ll know first hand just how irritating and painful it can be.

For our felines the equivalent is dry or cracked paw pads, and, unfortunately, the levels of discomfort are just as high. 

Dry cat paws can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from exposure to extreme weather or rough surfaces to a poor diet. 

Common treatments include cleansing the pad with soap and water, drying it, and then gently applying some Vaseline. But, as this blog will further explore, prevention is far better than the cure. 


How to inspect your cats paws


  • Before you begin any sort of inspection, you need to make sure your cat is comfortable. This is especially important if they’re not used to having their paws examined regularly. If you’re under the impression they’re feeling stressed or aggravated, then bide your time. Cuddles on the sofa often present the ideal opportunity to carry out an inspection.  


  • A good way of keeping your feline relaxed while you’re taking a closer look at their paws is to gently massage the top and bottom of each one with small circular movements. Separate their toes while doing this, and use a soft cloth to wipe around the pads and in between the toes. This will clear their paws of any foreign objects such as dirt and dust they may have picked up. 


  • We’d recommend checking your cat’s paws at least every two days. Dry and cracked pads are just one of the many paw-related problems our felines can encounter, and regular checks means we are able to identify any issues before swiftly resolving them. Some common complications to keep an eye out for include swelling, infections, cuts, and ingrowing toenails. 


  • Once you’ve carried out a thorough paw inspection, reward your feline for their good behaviour. You could spend some time playing with them, shower them with praise and pets, or give them a healthy treat. Treats should not make up more than 20% of your cat’s daily diet.


4 Common causes of dry and cracked paws 


  1. Rough surfaces. Cats aren’t going to slip on a pair of comfy trainers when they nip out for a stroll around the block. And while they’re tougher than nails, paws are well-equipped to handle most barefoot excursions, the sheer volume of rough surfaces they can encounter over the course of even just a month means their pads are going to get scuffed up over time. 


  1. Weather woes. Extreme cold or hot weather conditions can wreak havoc with your cat’s paws. Hot pavements can rapidly dry skin out, while freezing temperatures (combined with salt on the roads) can also zap the moisture from paws, leaving them susceptible to painful cracks. This can be further exacerbated by dry air in the home.


  1. Poor nutrition. Feeding our cats complete and well-balanced diets doesn’t just ensure they remain fit and strong, it also helps keep their skin and paws in tip-top condition. That’s right, poor pad health could be a direct response to a diet that’s lacking in the right levels of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre.


  1. Excessive licking. Cat paws are prone to picking up all sorts of irksome irritants, from bits of pollen and dust particles to chemical products such as carpet cleaners and fertilisers. Your cat may start repeatedly licking their itchy paws in an attempt to remove these bothersome hitchhikers or in order to soothe a paw that’s already beginning to crack. Unfortunately, the added moisture can actually do more harm than good, causing the skin to dry up further.  


How to improve the health of your cats paws


  1. Regular inspections. Checking your cat’s paws at least three or four times a week should help you nip any potential pad problems in the bud. Giving each paw a gentle wipe with a damp cloth should also ensure any nasty irritants they may have picked up aren’t there long enough to cause any damage. 


  1. Paw proof your property. Keeping your floors free of dirt and dust will go a long way to ensuring your cat’s paws remain clean and healthy. Household chemicals are another potential under-paw hazard. That’s why it’s vital no harmful chemicals are left on any floors or surfaces in the home.


  1. Nail care. An overgrown toenail that turns into an ingrown one can cause severe discomfort and inflammation. If that nail is then left to puncture the skin, your feline may well end up dealing with a very painful infection. Trim their toenails every two to three weeks. Also, place scratching posts around the house; this should help keep nails filed down. 


  1. Moisturiser. Cats are fantastic groomers, but they haven’t quite learnt how to apply moisturiser just yet. If your feline is experiencing dry or cracked paw pads, try applying an animal-safe moisturiser to the affected area in order to prevent further discomfort. Alternatively, you could use olive or coconut oil something safe for them to lick which should also reduce irritation. 


  1. Limit outdoor activity. If your cat has been experiencing dryness or cracking of the paws, you should try your best to limit their exposure to rough surfaces. This shouldn’t be a problem indoors, but outside they’re susceptible to stepping on stones, rocks, glass or other sharp objects. Limit outdoor activity until you’re happy their paws are back to full health.  


Should you seek veterinary support? 


Wear and tear on your cat’s paws is to be expected. 

We can’t be by their side every second of the day, and that adventurous spirit is going to see them strutting their stuff on all manner of surfaces.  

While Vaseline, moisturiser, and certain oils can help soothe cracked cat paws, if the problem persists, you should seek professional help. 

And if the condition continues to reoccur, contact your vet immediately.


Pay close attention

The last thing any pet parent wants is for their beloved feline to be in agony.

The problem is, cats are extremely good at hiding their pain, which is why we have to pay extra close attention.

A cat that’s limping, maybe due to something being stuck in their paw, is an easy spot. A subtle change in behaviour brought on by a dry or cracked paw pad; not so easy. 

So, keep checking those paws. 

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