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Home > Cats > Why Are My Cat’s Paws Swollen? Signs, Reasons & Solutions (Vet Answer)

Why Are My Cat’s Paws Swollen? Signs, Reasons & Solutions (Vet Answer)

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You may notice that one or more of your cat’s paws are swollen. Often, they will look like little pillows, with severely puffed-up toes and paw pads. Your cat may be licking and/or chewing at the affected feet, and they may be painful and not want you to touch the affected paw(s).

But why are your cat’s paws swollen? Continue reading to learn about the five most common reasons your cat may suffer a swollen paw.

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The 5 Common Reasons Cat’s Paws Swollen

1. Ingrown nails

Cats who are indoor only, or indoor/outdoor need to have their nails trimmed on a regular basis. Without doing things such as climbing trees and fences or using a scratching post, your cats’ nails can grow exceptionally long. As your cat’s nails grow, they will start to curl downwards and eventually towards the toe pad.

What To Look For:

If the nail grows long enough, it will curl into the pads of the toe(s). Because the end of the nail is sharp, it will pierce the pad and cause trauma and infection. The toe pads of the affected toes will then become swollen from pain, trauma, and infection.

What To Do:

Your cat should be taken to your veterinarian for a nail trim. If the affected pads are traumatized or infected, your veterinarian will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics and pain medications. You can always trim your cats’ nails regularly at home or make regular appointments for your veterinarian’s office to do it for you. Often, it’s a quick technician appointment for a nail trim.

retractable cat claws
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

2. Trauma

Aside from the trauma of an ingrown nail, your cat may have suffered from something falling onto their foot, getting their foot stuck in something, or having someone step on their foot. Cats who live with other animals or who spend time outdoors may also suffer from bites and other sources of infection on their feet.

What To Look For:

Depending on where the trauma occurred, only one or a few toes may be swollen. Other times, your cat’s entire paw may be swollen. It is often very painful to the touch and may even have pus or purulent discharge from an open wound. Your cat may be limping on that leg and not want to put the foot down or be licking at it.

What To Do:

Make an appointment for your cat to see your veterinarian. Your vet may want to take radiographs to make sure there aren’t any broken bones. As with an ingrown nail, they may also want to prescribe pain medications and antibiotics. If your cat goes outside, keep them inside and try to keep activity to a minimum until your appointment time. You can leave them in the bathroom or small bedroom where they cannot jump, play, or run away.


3. Cancer

Cancer can occur anywhere in the body. If this occurs somewhere on the foot, your cat’s paw may appear swollen.

What To Look For:

Sometimes cancer will present as a distinct mass or tumor. Other times, you may just notice swelling or one or multiple toes, and/or the foot itself. Often, your cat may be in pain and limping on that leg, be hesitant or resistant to jump, or be hiding and not acting themselves. Some cancers will ulcerate and have open wounds associated with them.

What To Do:

Keep your cat confined in a small room or large crate to lessen walking on the leg. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for them to perform diagnostics and try to determine a cause. Cancers and their associated treatments vary greatly, and the best course of action cannot be determined just by looking at the foot. Diagnostics are needed to determine the type and extent of cancer your cat may have.

cat claws when kneading
Image Cedit: RJ22, Shutterstock

4. Allergies

Allergies in cats and dogs manifest as itchy skin. While licking of the feet is more common in dogs with allergies, we can still see cats excessively licking, chewing, or biting their feet from underlying allergies.

What To Look For:

Cats will regularly groom themselves. However, if you notice your cat excessively chewing or licking anywhere on their body, or aggressively chewing their feet, this is unusual. The more your cat licks and chews the itchy areas, the more inflammation will occur. This can also lead to secondary infections. Your cat’s feet may be severely swollen, red, ulcerated, and have an odor to them. Once these secondary changes occur, your cat’s feet will be very uncomfortable to the touch.

What To Do:

Use an E-collar, or “cone of shame” on your cat to prevent them from further traumatizing their feet. Then speak with your veterinarian about treatment options. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of great options on the market today for treating cats’ allergies. However, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medications for the swelling and any secondary infections.


5. Insect Bites/Stings

Cats are notorious for chasing fast-moving things, such as bugs. If your cat was chasing a bee or spider around the house, it’s possible that their paw may have gotten bit or stung. If your cat is indoor/outdoor, or outdoor only, the chances of them encountering an insect are much higher.

What To Look For:

If your cat got bit or stung by an insect, the entire paw will likely swell up. It may feel warm to the touch and be painful and red. You will likely not see any wound or area to indicate it was a bite. Typically, the swelling will occur within hours of the sting happening.

You can monitor the swelling for a short period of time and see if it goes down on its own. A mild reaction should self-resolve. However, if your cat is acting lethargic, and has also developed hives, itching, or swelling elsewhere, you should take them to a veterinarian. If the swelling worsens or does not improve after 1–2 hours, you should contact your veterinarian.

What To Do:

While not common, if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, and you live in an area of the country with snakes, you should seek immediate veterinary assistance if you notice your cat has a swollen paw. A venomous snake bite should be treated as soon as possible to decrease the chance your cat may pass away from the bite

cat's paws with long and sharp claws on cat fabric sofa
Image By: RJ22, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Cats can experience a swollen toe or paw for several reasons. Sometimes cats will have ingrown nails or some type of infection. Other times the foot may be swollen from allergies, cancer, or even an insect bite. Whatever the cause, once you notice it, you should try to prevent your cat from licking or chewing at their feet. Place an e-collar on them until you are able to get them an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Always keep your cat inside and as quiet as possible once you notice any swelling. The cause of the swelling and whether there is also an infection will determine how your veterinarian will treat the swelling.


Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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