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How to Clean Cat Paws: Vet-Approved Step-by-Step Guide

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

woman cleaning cat paw

How to Clean Cat Paws: Vet-Approved Step-by-Step Guide


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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

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Cats are typically considered naturally clean creatures. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t experience some poor hygiene problems, especially if they spend a lot of time outside.

A cat’s feet are vital for its health. After all, they need to use them to get everywhere. If your cat’s feet develop mats, sores, or infections, it can quickly become a serious problem. If your cat spends anytime outside, they are more likely to develop problems with their feet.

Usually, you will have to perform some level of regular foot care—even if your cat is typically quite clean.

In this article, we’re going to explain how to clean your cat’s feet and take care of them.

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Choosing the Right Cleaner

Before you start cleaning your cat’s feet, you may want to consider a shampoo or cleaner to help get their paws extra clean. However, you can’t just use any cleaner you find laying around. Instead, it is vital that you choose a cleaner specifically designed for cats.

Many soaps and other cleaners not designed for cats may contain chemicals and other ingredients. Cats clean themselves often, and you don’t want them ingesting these chemicals.

Plus, a cat’s skin is a different pH from our skin. Therefore, if you use human shampoo on a cat, it can dry out their skin and cause irritation. It just simply isn’t designed to mesh with a cat’s skin pH.

Therefore, always choose a cleaner that is specifically designed for cats. Otherwise, you may end up with an itchy feline.

Image Credit by: Madhourse, Shutterstock

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How to Clean Clean a Cat’s Paws

1. Take a Look at Your Cat’s Feet

Before you start cleaning, it is important to get some idea of what you’re working with. Take a quick look at your cat’s feet and look for any signs of redness or sores. These can point towards an infection and will change how you need to go about cleaning their feet.

You should also look for any pus or drainage. Of course, these are also signs of infection. If any signs of infection or irritation are observed, you will need to seek veterinary care for your cat.

2. Start by Rinsing

Typically, you can clear away a lot of dirt and grime with a quick rinse. You will save yourself a lot of work later by quickly giving your cat’s feet a rinse before you start on the other steps.

To rinse, simply pour some warm water into a bowl. Then, quickly dip your cat’s feet in the water. We understand that most cats won’t like this very much at all, so you don’t have to hold their feet in for long. Be sure to give them plenty of treats if they handle their paws being rinsed.

If your cat absolutely will not have its paws rinsed, then you can skip this step.

siamse cat taking a bath
Image Credit by: Blik Sergey, Shutterstock

3. Wipe Their Feet

Now that they are wet, you can wipe their feet gently. Just use a regular towel for this step, you don’t need anything fancy. A microfiber cloth is preferable, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. You may need to dip again if your cat’s feet are absolutely filthy.

If your cat will not have their feet dipped, feel free to use cat wipes, which are typically designed for cats that don’t like to get wet. These wipes have soap and water built into them, so they work rather well for quick cleaning.

If you use wipes or soap, be sure to follow the directions for usage.

Hepper Pet Wash Wipes - Soft Pet Cleaning Wipes...
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It's hard to beat the convenience of pet-safe wipes after a big adventure, between baths, or when cleaning sensitive areas. Our favorite option is Hepper's Wash Wipes, premium wipes designed to safely and gently remove grime from cats and dogs of all ages and sizes. These hypoallergenic wipes are made in the USA and feature moisturizing ingredients to soothe your pet's skin.

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

4. Ensure That You Clean Between Their Toes

You should be extra careful about cleaning between your cat’s toes. Often, brambles and mats can easily set up between their toes, which can be painful and cause sores. Therefore, when you’re caring for their feet, you should spend some time checking between each of their toes to ensure that they are clean.

Dirt and grime can build up in this area as well, so you also want to clean this area with a damp rag.

Image Credit by: NONGASIMO, Shutterstock

5. Take Care of Their Nails

Now that you’ve taken care of the brunt of their feet, it is time to take care of their nails. Truthfully, this is probably one of the most important steps on this list. Cats typically do a pretty good job at taking care of their nails. However, they often get dirty over time. Dirty nailbeds can easily become infected.

Plus, if your cat’s claws are dirty, anything they scratch is also more likely to become dirty, as they may leave dirt and grime behind. We all know that cats may accidentally harm their owners, and the last thing you want is for one of those cat scratches to get infected.

Firstly, you simply want to inspect the nail to ensure that it isn’t broken or obviously damaged. If there is redness or swelling, it can be a sign of an infection. Infected nails can be very painful since your cat uses their nails to balance while walking. Therefore, you should take your cat to the vet right away.

Next, dip their feet in warm water to help dislodge any dirt and debris. You may need to use your fingers to dislodge dirt and anything else that is particularly lodged.

6. Trim Your Cat’s Nails

Excited Cats_How to Treat a Cat's Broken Nail_Infographic

After cleaning their nails, you may need to trim them. This maintenance helps keep your cat comfortable and prevents them from tearing up furniture. Cats typically wear their nails down properly when outside. However, when your cat is only kept indoors, this wearing-down process simply doesn’t happen. If their nails grow too long, they can become uncomfortable for your feline and even lead to health problems. Having multiple scratching posts and pads indoors can help your cat maintain their nails.

We highly recommend getting a set of nail clippers for this purpose. They are specifically designed to trim your cat’s nails and do a very good job at it. If your feline is not accustomed to getting their nails trimmed, you may have to take them to the vet for this purpose.

Remember, you’ll likely have to trim their nails over a long period, about a week. Try trimming just one or two a day to prevent stressing your cat out too much. As always, give lots of attention and treats when your cat allows you to trim their nails.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping your cat’s feet and nails clean is a vital part of taking care of them. Your cat needs their feet to move around each day. If you do not keep their feet clean, they can become infected and painful. In the end, this can lead to all sorts of problems.

If your cat spends their time indoors, it is unlikely that you’ll see your cats paws dirty all that often. However, they will be unable to wear down their claws quickly, which means that you will have to trim their nails regularly.

Along the same vein, if your cat spends all their time outside, then your cat’s paws are much more likely to get dirty. However, you may not need to trim their nails since they may wear them down on trees and by simply walking around outside. If you have concerns about your cat’s paws or are unable to trim their nails yourself, seek guidance from your veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: Standret, Shutterstock

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