Photo: Getty Images

Should You Clean Your Cat’s Paws?

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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

29 thoughts on “Should You Clean Your Cat’s Paws?”

  1. Pingback: 9 Ways Cats Can Soak Up Summer Vacation | Catster – Petcobestfood.com

  2. I’ve had my two for 10 years and I was thinking about having them declawed to appease my possible new landlord but my girlfriend told me no. It’s part of their predatory nature. And plus now I wouldn’t try and attempt to trim their nails because I haven’t tried to so far. Besides, I know the male won’t let me. He’s too feisty. Besides, I don’t want to run the risk of accidentally cutting one of the blood vessels.

    1. Hi. I’ve adopted & raised cats for over 20 years, pleeeease do not have your cats declawed!!! It is a major surgery for them & very painful! If you don’t want to trim their nails, a vet will be glad to do it! Thanks! ????

    2. Hi. I’ve adopted & raised cats for over 20 years, pleeeease do not have your cats declawed!!! It is a major surgery for them & very painful! If you don’t want to trim their nails, a vet will be glad to do it! Thanks! ????

    3. Please don’t! When you declaw your cat it’s like cutting off the fingertip instead of cutting the nail. The cat will suffer the rest of its life because of this and it’s way of moving will be affected and it will develop arthritis early on in life.

      If you cannot have a cat with its claws, you simply should not have a cat at all.

      Actually I think it’s better to put it down than to declaw and let the cat live with pain the rest of its life.

    4. I sit on my cat to cut her nails. Seriously, I kneel on the floor with the cat in between my knees and ‘sit’ on her holding her firmly in place. Then the nails are easy to cut. You can safely cut at least 3mm, which isn’t a lot, but it is better to cut too little than too much. Afterwards, or during if you have someone to help, you can give lots of love and yummy snacks.

    5. Please do not do this. It is a horrific surgery and can cause many problems. With that being said if it comes to declawing or you will have to surrender the cst then declawing. But please dont if at all possible

      1. Patricia M Summers

        No! surrender the cat (or better put, “re-home your cat”) rather than de-claw. It is illegal in some cities in the US and 1 state so far, i think, as well as banned in a number of European countries. Cats have claws for a reason, and it’s not for you to (cruelly) tamper with nature!

    6. When they are young they will scratch and remove the nail outer covering but as they get older (10+ years), they are less adept at it. There are several tutorials on youtube. I can clip all but two of mine (one is polydactyl with hard to find inner nails and the other is one that doesn’t like to be restrained) and I take them to the vet every 2 months. So worth it as the control freak likes to pick the furniture and my clothing. They get used to it. The nail trim helps the 19 year old get around easier.

    7. I agree NO to declawing! If you can have someone help you. I hold our two cats and my wife trims. My normally docile boy has starting growling a bit and tries to nip at my wife but it is pretty harmless, we’re not sure why his change in attitude. And they get rewarded with treats after.

    8. My Vet trims my kitties nails every few months. Yes it cost some money but it’s worth it if they won”t let you touch their paws. Make sure you have a scratching post for your kitty. I have one in every major room of my home so my three furbabies can enjoy the house as much as I do. It is their home too! But NEVER declaw your kitty!

    9. Please don’t even consider declawing. You can always pay to have nails trimmed at your vets office or a mobile groomer for a very nominal fee.

      Declawing is really amputation of the end of the foot. I don’t know of any vets that even do this anymore. It’s barbaric and cruel.

      My shelter cat is pretty hyped up so I trim as many claws as I can while he is napping. Another method is to wrap them in a towel like a burrito and then clip the nails. Helps to have two people but can be done with one.

    10. Please do not declaw your cats. It is like pulling out the nails of a human being. It adversely affects the kitty’s attitude also. Without claws, they are vulnerable and afraid to be active. Having no claws also affects their entire leg and they cannot ambulate naturally. If they enjoyed running, jumping and playing with a toy, those exercises may be painful without claws. Declawed cats often become quiet and standoffish, protecting themselves. Really, it is inhumane to declaw a cat. Please don’t do it.

  3. Pingback: Нужно ли чистить лапы у кошки и как часто? – Kotikmeow

  4. Pingback: Should I Clean My Cat's Paws? – Kotikmeow

  5. I never had that many cats of my own but lived in a house that belonged to a woman who had that many and I took care of them. I envy you. Do your dolls all get along? I worry about transmitting covid to my cats too. For that reason I stay away from people who might be sick. I do prefer my kids to humans anyway.

  6. I just read that cats can give covid-19 to each other. That means my cats, who love to go out for short times during every day (weather permitting), are going to have cabin fever soon.

    1. Clarisse Miller

      I read that too, and I kept my cat in for a few days. But she was miserable, and so was I, because the outdoors is usually her litter box. I justified letting her out again by thinking about how exactly will she contract COVID. She doesn’t let random people pet her, and I’d be willing to bet that the percentage of cats that have gotten COVID is very very low.

  7. “long-haired cats should also brush them three to four times per week” – how about daily or several several times a day.

  8. Not a comment, but a question. One of my longhaired cats has quite a bit of fur between his pads on his paws. Should the hair be trimmed to reduce the amount that he will have to clean himself and keep the paws cleaner? He sometimes goes outside to check his territory.

  9. Thanks for the tips, I have fifteen indoor cats and two outdoors, and I’ve been worried sick not about catching it from them but transmitting it to them.

    1. I never had that many cats of my own but lived in a house that belonged to a woman who had that many and I took care of them. I envy you. Do your dolls all get along? I worry about transmitting covid to my cats too. For that reason I stay away from people who might be sick. I do prefer my kids to humans anyway.

    2. My understanding is they can get a version of it but it is not as significant for them as for us and thus far there is no indication we can transmit to them or they to us.

      1. Patricia Garlausky Horwell

        Oh, yes there is. Tigers at the Bronx zoo got it from their zookeeper. Other cats were in the news because they got it from their owners. My own don gave it to one of his cats. Et agreed. If you have covid-19 try to keep away from your cats!

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