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

Home > Cats > Why is My Cat Holding Their Paw Up When Sitting? 7 Vet Approved Reasons

Why is My Cat Holding Their Paw Up When Sitting? 7 Vet Approved Reasons

Orange cat sitting on the window sill and licking her paw

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

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

Learn more »

Cats frequently have many strange behaviors, and one that confuses many pet owners is when they hold up their paw while sitting. While it could signify that your pet has an injury, there are several other reasons that your cat might do this behavior, so read on to figure out what is going on with your cat.


The 7 Likely Reasons Why Your Cat is Holding Their Paw Up When Sitting

1. Your Cat Is Injured

Unfortunately, holding up their paw can be a sign that your cat has an injury. You might notice them limping and trying to favor their legs when they walk, possibly keeping their paw off the ground altogether. Your cat may hide and sleep more when they are hurt. If you suspect that your cat has been injured, try to look at the paw to see if any thorns, slivers, wounds, or cuts are causing the problem. Your cat may have an abscess, which is painful and can lead to significant swelling. Make sure to examine the paw very gently, as many cats may not tolerate this due to the pain and discomfort and could try to bite or scratch. Contact the vet immediately to have them looked over.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat Is Grooming

Cats often lick their paws and forelimbs while they are grooming themselves. Grooming is a long process, and cats are easily distracted by noise and sudden movements, which can have them sitting in place, holding up their paws, while seemingly staring into space. Once your cat determines that there is nothing to chase or run away from, they will return to grooming.

3. Your Cat Is Getting Ready to Strike

If another cat, dog, or even family member is nearby while your cat is holding up their paw, there is a chance that they are getting ready to strike. Most cats will give a few quick hits with or without claws as a warning before storming off. It’s usually a sign that the cat is looking for alone time and will settle down afterward. Adding more perches and scratching posts around your home can help ensure that all your pets have a place to call their own, which can help reduce anxiety, stress, and aggression toward other pets. If your cat is being aggressive towards you or other pets, seek help from a vet, as there may be a medical reason or a painful condition that’s causing them to be intolerant. Otherwise, you can resort to environmental enrichment, pheromone plug-ins, or advice from a feline behaviorist.

white and red cats fighting
Image By: RJ22, Shutterstock

4. Your Cat Is Showing Affection

Cats may stretch their paw toward and tap one of their favorite family members in a show of affection. Many cats prefer to show affection on their own terms, instead of constant petting and cuddling. They may also attempt to mark you with their scent by raising their paw to touch you as you walk by. Cats have scent glands on their paws that leave behind unique pheromones that cats can smell.

5. Your Cat Is Communicating

Many cat owners notice that their cats like to raise their paws when trying to communicate, which is usually a desire for food or treats but can also include toys or affection.

bengal cat gives high five paw to owner
Image By: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

6. Your Cat Is Stretching

Another reason your cat might be holding up their paw while sitting is that they are stretching out and preparing to nap. Cats stretch in unusual ways that can appear quite strange to their human owners, so they can easily appear to simply be holding up their paw while sitting.

7. Your Cat Is Being Cautious

A cat may take an on-guard stance with their paw up, ready to strike if they hear a strange noise or see a movement that startles them. This pose is more common when the cat is asleep or nearly asleep, and many owners also notice it when their cat is walking in an unfamiliar area.

playful seal point siamese cat raising paw and sticking out tongue
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

divider-cat Conclusion

The most likely reason that your cat is sitting with their paw held up is that they’re grooming themselves. If another pet is nearby, they might also put up their paw to warn them to keep away. However, if you notice that your pet is trying to lift their paw, is not bearing weight on it at all, or is favoring this leg while they walk, it could be a sign that they are injured. Look over your cat’s paw to see if you can remove any thorns or splinters, check for wounds, discharge, or swelling, and call the vet for help, as your cat will require treatment. Just be careful when checking your cat’s paw, as not all cats will tolerate this, so avoid getting scratched or bitten.

Featured Image Credit: Orange cat sitting on the window sill and licking her paw, Ivan Radic, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets