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How to Clean Cat Paws (8 Simple Steps)

cat licking paws

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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Cats enjoy being clean and devote a lot of time to self-grooming, making them low-maintenance for cat owners.

However, sometimes cats need a little help tending to their grooming needs, such as their paws. Their paws take a lot of wear and tear as they play, hunt, and pounce in the house, leaving them susceptible to skin conditions and nail damage.1 Cats may also have debris stuck to their paws, such as litter or dirt.

Cleaning your cat’s paws regularly is vital to keeping them healthy and comfortable. Here’s how to tend to your cat’s paws.

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The 8 Steps to Clean Cat Paws:

1. Gather Supplies to Clean Your Cat’s Paws

Homemade oatmeal shampoo
Image Credit: kazmulka, Shutterstock
You only need a few basic supplies to clean your cat’s paws:
  • Cat-safe shampoo
  • Washcloths or pet wipes
  • Towel

You can wash your cat’s paws in your tub or shower. If your cat is uncomfortable or skittish about having its paws cleaned, you may get better results with a small basin or pet wipes. Use your judgment to make the experience as stress-free as possible.


2. Set Up the Grooming Area

It’s best to set up your grooming area in advance. Get your supplies ready and remove other pets from the room. The last thing you want is distractions or disruptions that will make your cat more nervous or defensive.

If it’s your first time cleaning your cat’s paws, be sure to have both your shampoo and pet wipes handy. You may find that your cat is too uncomfortable with a shampoo-and-water cleaning, and you can switch to pet wipes to finish. It’s also helpful to have your towel or blanket ready to go if you need to restrain your cat.

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hepper-cat-brush-close

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3. Prepare Your Cat

cat lying on a green towel
Image Credit: Danica Stradecke, Unsplash

Cats have different personalities. Some may be fine with grooming tasks like paw cleaning, while others may become stressed or aggressive. If your cat is nervous or resistant to regular grooming, you may need to restrain it for paw cleaning.

Wrapping your cat in a towel or blanket can make it easier to restrain it for grooming. You may want to ask a friend or family member to help you restrain your cat, making the whole process easier for everyone involved. This also reduces the risk of injury to both you and your cat if it’s resistant.


4. Examine Your Cat’s Paws

Before you clean your cat’s paws, take note of the general condition. Look for signs of inflammation, injury, and infection, as well as wounds, abrasions, or foreign objects. If your cat’s paws are really dirty, it may be difficult to get a good look, but do your best.

If you do notice anything amiss, avoid cleaning your cat’s paw. Injuries or wounds may be uncomfortable for your cat, so do your best to clean any caked-on dirt and debris. Then, schedule a vet appointment to have your cat’s paws examined.


5. Rinse Your Cat’s Paws

If you don’t notice any signs of injury or infection, you can move forward with cleaning your cat’s paws. This not only removes the heavy dirt or debris, but it prepares your cat’s paws for shampooing.

Begin with rinsing your cat’s paws with tepid water. Some cats won’t tolerate running water, so you may need to use a basin of water and dip your cat’s feet in. If your cat doesn’t like having its feet dipped, use a washcloth or pet wipe.

Rinse one paw at a time, lightly rubbing the dirt and debris away.


6. Shampoo Your Cat’s Paws

Note: Always follow the instructions on your cat-safe shampoo bottle. Some are designed to be used directly, while others need to be diluted before use.

If your cat will tolerate it, put a small amount of cat-safe shampoo in your hand and massage it into its paws. Do one paw at a time to maintain control of the situation and avoid overwhelming your cat.

Make sure you gently massage the top, pads, and between the pads. This is where debris is likely to collect. As you shampoo, take note of any abnormalities or areas that seem especially tender for your cat, as this may indicate an injury.

If your cat doesn’t like water at all, whether running or in the basin, use pet wipes. You may need to go over your cat’s paws multiple times to get them clean, but they don’t need shampooing and rinsing.


7. Rinse the Shampoo Off Your Cat’s Paws

bathing a tabby cat with shampoo
Image Credit: angnokever, Shutterstock

Once each paw has been thoroughly washed with shampoo, rinse them with running water (as tolerated) or in a basin of water. You may need to massage your cat’s paws and replace the water frequently to remove all the shampoo. Residue from shampoo can cause irritation to your cat’s paws.

If your cat doesn’t tolerate running water or dipping, use a washcloth and rinse it out frequently to remove shampoo residue. It may take longer to rinse your cat’s paws completely this way, so be patient!


8. Dry Your Cat’s Paws

With a dry towel, gently dry your cat’s paws. Make sure to do the tops, bottoms, and in between the pads and dry them as best you can. Your cat will handle the rest.

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When to Call a Vet

Vet looking for swelling in cat paws
Image Credit: Motortion-Films, Shutterstock

Cat’s paws are their contact with the world. Walking through toxic substances and irritants can cause skin inflammation and discomfort. Cats may have foreign objects between their paws, wounds, or injuries to the bones or connective tissue. In addition, underlying health conditions, excessive grooming, and allergies can cause redness and irritation.

Your cat’s paws should be free from wounds, redness, swelling, or injury, and the nails should be intact. If you notice foreign objects, irritation, or injury, it’s crucial to contact your vet for an exam and possible treatment.

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Keep Your Cat’s Paws Clean

Cats do a great job of grooming themselves but paying a little extra attention to their paws ensures they’re happy and healthy. While some cats may be resistant to paw cleaning at first, patience and rewards—such as treats—can help your cat adjust and become more comfortable with this regular grooming task.


Featured Image Credit: Elya Vatel, Shutterstock

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