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Should You Clean Your Cat’s Paws?

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it’s hard to go more than a couple of hours without being reminded to “wash your hands,” but what about washing your cat’s paws?

Beth Ann Mayer  |  Apr 6th 2020


As COVID-19 continues to spread, it’s hard to go more than a couple of hours without being reminded to “keep a social distance” and “wash your hands.” For many cats, keeping a social distance is second-nature, and, as it turns out, so is washing their hands (paws).

Related: How to Entertain Your Cats During COVID-19 Pandemic

“Cats are fastidious by nature, so normally they take care of most of their grooming needs,” says Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary. “The exception is a pet that is sick.”

“Sick” would not mean COVID-19. The World Health Organization maintains pets cannot transmit the virus to humans. But if kitty is having trouble grooming and her pet parent would like to give her a hand by cleaning her paws, it’s pretty straightforward.

“You can buy wipes at pet stores or you can simply take a washcloth with some warm water and wipe them down,” Dr. Richardson says.

A cat getting his nails clipped.

Photography ©Evgeny_Kozhevnikov | Thinkstock.

You need to cut your cat’s nails

The most important thing a pet parent can do for their cat’s paw hygiene, pandemic or not, is cut their nails every four to six weeks.

“They can get their nails stuck in things like screens or carpets, and in their effort to extract their little finger, they can tear their nail, which is quite painful,” Dr. Richardson says. “If your cat has very curly nails, they can actually grow in a complete circle and embed themselves into the pads.”

To safely cut kitty’s nails, extend her nails by gently pressing between the toe and pad to extract the nail out. Take the skinny part that looks like a hook and cut it, taking care not to cut the pink part of the nail.

“The pink inside the nail is where the blood vessel is, and when you hit that, it will be a little bit painful, and they will bleed a little bit,” Dr. Richardson says.

If you hit the pink part and the cat bleeds, don’t panic. It won’t kill her.

“They are not going to bleed to death; you can use corn starch or flour,” Dr. Richardson says. “Put some on top of the nail you trimmed too short, and that will help it clot.”

A cat getting brushed under the chin.

Photography ©anurakpong | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

When to brush your cat

Parents of long-haired cats should also brush them three to four times per week to keep their coats silky and knot-free.

Though cats cannot transmit COVID-19, if someone who does have the disease has touched them, Richardson says a bath wouldn’t hurt.

This can be done in a sink or baby bath. Fill the sink or tub with warm water.

“[Running water] will freak them out,” Dr. Richardson warns.

Mix about one tablespoon of shampoo in the water — applying it directly to their coats can oversaturate them. Because their skin is different than a human’s, find a shampoo specifically for pets.

“Human shampoo can be a little irritating to cats,” Dr. Richardson says.

Related: Do You Need to Bathe Your Cat? Here’s How to Do It Right

If they squirm or hiss, Dr. Richardson has two suggestions: Drape a towel over them to create a kittle burrito. This can help a person regain some control and calm the cat down. The other option is to give up — the odds of kitty having or spreading COVID-19 are slim to none.

“They are usually so good at grooming themselves they will take care of it for you,” Dr. Richardson says.

Read Next: Cat Toys: How to Keep Them Clean and When to Throw Them Out

Top photograph: Getty Images