If you currently own a cat or are thinking about getting one, the anatomy of cat paws is very interesting. Cats are interesting creatures in general, to say the least, and they come in all sorts of colors, shapes, breeds, and personalities.
They need their paws for literally every activity from walking to jumping to playing to even pooping. Let’s take a deeper dive and learn about cat paws anatomy.
1. Basic Anatomy of the Cat Paw
If you’re curious about the anatomy of a cat’s front or back paws, you in the right place. Cats can have a range in their number of toes but typically they are at 18 toes, which include 4 toes as well as a dewclaw on both of their front paws. In the back, they also have an additional 4 toes.
Some cats like my highland lynx have more than 18 toes and they are called polydactylies. My cat has 6 toes on their front and back paws. Check out the article I created on my Highland Lynx.
If we look at the anatomy of the paw pad for a cat, they are skin pads. They help keep the cat protected when they are walking on certain surfaces, but they are also sensitive. They can tell the difference between a surface that is hot or cold. This is so they can detect their prey in the wild.
There are also retractable claws on the rear and front paws of a cat. Most of the time, the ones that are on the cat’s back paws, are duller than the ones that are on their front paws. Cats need their claws to help improve their overall well-being. Cats will use their claws for hunting, itching, climbing, self-defense, and gaining more traction.
It’s important to maintain the health of your cat’s paws. You should be trimming your cat’s nails often and start at a young age so they get used to it.
2. The Cat Paw Walk
Cats are Digitigrade. This means they explore the world on their tiptoes. They do this because this is how they advance to their prey in the wild. If you’ve ever seen a nature show, you’ve seen leopards and tigers which stalk their prey very quietly. If they are quiet, they can get themselves a great meal.
Walking and running on toes ups the odds of having a successful hunt by boosting speed and lengthening the strides. Cats are also quieter on their toes, making it harder for prey to detect them.
3. Cat Paws Anatomy – Sweat Glands
Cats have sweat glands on their paws which help them sweat. They also have glands that are located between their toes. These glands also have a unique scent, which they use to mark territory but also excrete sweat when they are stressed or scared. Sweat helps cats similar to humans to regulate their body temperature. They help cool cats down on hot days and prevent them from overheating.
Another way cats cool themselves down is by licking their body and by panting. This puts some wet saliva onto their fur which cools them down as it evaporates. Cats also like to mark their territory so they can do this by rubbing their paws onto whatever territory they are trying to mark.
An interesting fact many people don’t know is that cats ONLY sweat from their paws. This is why if they are stressed or very hot, you can see little wet paw prints in the ground. Cat Owner’s Veterinary Handbook explains that cats’ sweat glands are found only in footpads.
4. Cat Paw Pad Colors
Are cat paws sensitive?
Cat paws are quite sensitive – they act as little sensors that have plenty of nerve receptors that they use to get important information about their surroundings. They can sense anything from vibrations, textures, and pressure.
Are cat paws dirty?
Although cats do a pretty good job of keeping themselves clean, cat paws tend to get dirty from the litter box and other things they walk around on. It is important to clean your cat’s paws as well when you give your cat a bath to remove any dangerous germs and bacteria that can cause infections.
Are cats paw dominant?
Cats overall do not have a paw preference. There is also no scientific evidence that shows cats prefer one paw to another. There have been some anecdotal stories of cats that do prefer a single paw.
Do cat paws grow back?
If your cat has suffered an injury to his/her paw pad, generally speaking, the paw pad will not grow back. Since the area is sensitive and is due to much stress throughout the course of their life, the pad may not heal.
Do cat paws get cold?
The answer is yes. Cat paws, along with their ears and the tip of their tail are the first places to get cold and lose heat.