Facts about the animal kingdom

What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws?

Anaëlle Laurent
By Anaëlle Laurent. November 26, 2020
What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws?

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Cats are affectionate animals that love to relax on the sofa with their companions. They love being caressed in the back of their ears and their neck. Others love being scratched at the base of their tail, however, what does it mean when a cat lets you touch its paws?

In this AnimalWised article we're going to talk about how get your cat to let you touch their paws, what it means when they do let you and some fun facts about cat paws. Continue reading to learn more!

You may also be interested in: What Does It Mean When a Cat Shows Up at My Door
  1. Fun facts about cat paws
  2. Why won't my cat let me touch its paws?
  3. How can I get my cat to let me touch its paws?
  4. Why does my cat let me touch its paws?

Fun facts about cat paws

To know what it means when a cat allows you to touch their paws and how to get them to trust you enough to do so, let's first take a look at some fun facts about cat paws:

1. The pads sweat and serve to mark territory

Cats mostly sweat from their paws because the vast majority of sweat glands in cats are located in the lower part of the pads. In addition to sweat glands, there are other specialized eccrine glands that produce odors that allow them to mark territory where they walk, scratch, scratch or knead. This way, they make it known that this place already has an owner.

2. Their pads match their coat

The pads match the color of the cat's fur and skin since the same pigment acts. That's why black cats have black pads and white cats have pink pads. If your cat has two different colours, it's very likely their paw pads will also have those colours.

3. They wash their paws frequently

We know that cats are very clean as we see them cleaning themselves throughout the day. They especially wash their paws as their paws get dirty after all the walking, running and jumping they do. In fact, some cats will instantly wash their fur or paws when their companion kisses or caresses them.

4. They walk on their tippy toes

Cats are digitigrade animals, which means that instead of walking like us, with the heels and soles of our feet, they walk with their tippy toes, like ballerinas. They are only supported by their toes when walking. This is natural and comfortable for them simply by their biological bodies and it is also beneficial as it helps them be quiet and careful when walking, running or jumping, making them extremely stealthy animals.

5. Their front and rear leg move together

Like camels and giraffes, cats walk by first moving the front and rear leg on the same side and then the same but on the opposite side. In addition, with the hind leg on one side they step on the same place where the front leg left its mark, making them very cautious walkers.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws? - Fun facts about cat paws

6. They have great sensitivity on their paws

Due to the numerous nerves and blood vessels they have on their paw pads, a cut or wound to their paw causes them a lot of pain and a lot of bleeding. In addition, this sensitivity allows them to know the temperature of the surface where they walk, the state of the terrain and its characteristics.

7. They have retractable claws

Their nails are usually stored in a leather sleeve under the pads that prevent wear and tear and allow them to walk quietly. The keratin, with which they are made of, makes them grow. They only take them out when climbing or defending themselves. In addition, they scratch to keep their claws sharp and ready to use if the situation requires it. That's why it's important provide them with scratchers to prevent them from scratching the armchairs or curtains in our house.

8. They prefer one leg

Studies have shown that, just as people are left or right handed, most cats tend to prefer one leg over the other. You can check by playing with your cat with something that is difficult to hunt, they will put their preferred or dominant paw in order to be more precise and catch the toy.

9. Great flexibility

Their legs are very flexible and capable of climbing, as they can use their hind legs forward to climb. However, going down is a different story as their front legs are not prepared for that. This is why it's more difficult for them to get down from high places, and sometimes they even get stuck and will need help getting down.

10. Number of fingers may vary

Most cats have 18 toes, 5 on each front leg and four on each back leg. However, there are cats that show polydactyly or more fingers than normal due to genetic mutations. This is more common in Maine Coon cats.

Why won't my cat let me touch its paws?

Next, we will discuss different reasons why a cat may not want you to touch their paws:

It hurts

As we have mentioned, cats have a lot of innervation in their paws and their pads. Although they are resistant despite their appearance, they can get damaged. When a cat steps on something sharp such as a needle, thumbtack or a nail, its nerve pathways will be activated and the cat will feel a lot of pain. This means that when you want to get closer to their legs, they may move them away or even attack you to avoid more pain with your contact.

Therefore, if your cat keeps rejecting having their paws touched and they are also experiencing other symptoms, such as limping or meowing, it's probable that they have hurt their paw. If this is the case, it's important you take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. You may also want to read our article about healing wounds on a cat's pads.

They want to protect themselves

Cats hide their nails within their paws when they don't need them. This way, they protect their nails from breaking or being harmed. Therefore, if your cat doesn't trust your intentions they may not allow you to touch their paws. They may move their paws away, run away or even attack you to let you know that you have behaved inappropriately and made them feel uncomfortable.

They don't trust you yet

Another similar reason is that they don't trust you or your bond isn't great enough yet. This may be the case if it's not your cat, perhaps it's a friend's cat or your partner's cat, or perhaps you've just adopted them and they need more time to get used to you and their new home.

In these cases you'll want to first work on your bond with them. You can do this by playing with them, caressing them when they are relaxing and feeding them delicious high quality cat food. Remember to be patient as cats need more time to get used to a new companion.

You may also be interested in our article about why your cat bites you when you pet them.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws? - Why won't my cat let me touch its paws?

Past trauma

If your cat suffered a past trauma involving their paw, they may be more careful when allowing people near it. They will probably protect it more as they remember the pain they suffered in the past. If this is the case with your cat, you will simply need to be more patient and keep in mind what your cat went through.

You don't caress him properly

Cats liked to be caressed a certain way. The touch must be gentle so you should avoid squeezing, being stiff or any sudden movement. If you caress them in any other way, they may feel pain or discomfort. Start small, by caressing them gently in places where cats usually liked to be caressed, such as the ears or neck. And then you can gently stroke their back, the base of their tail and eventually their paws.

Learn more in our article about the best places to pet a cat.


If your cat is suffering from osteoarthritis they may be more careful when allowing their paw to be touched or being touched in general as it may produce a lot of pain. Make sure to be understanding if your cat is suffering from this illness or any other that puts them in pain.

Talk to your veterinarian and respect their boundaries. Once they recover or ave the right treatment you may be able to give them affection as you did before they were diagnosed.

They simply don't like that type of affection

Lastly, your cat may simply not like this type of affection. Some cats enjoy being caressed in certain areas whereas others do not. In this case, this has more to do with their upbringing and personality than with their bond with you. We suggest you simply respect them and give them affection the way they like best.

You may also be interested in our article about why a cat wags their tail.

How can I get my cat to let me touch its paws?

To get your cat to let you touch their paws, you'll first need to make sure you have a good bond with them. Before trying to touch their paws your cat will need to love and trust you. You'll also need to make sure that they're not in pain, as they will not want to be touched if in pain. If they have had any past traumas, they will need to heal from that before allowing you to touch such a sensitive area.

If your cat has behavioural problems and it is challenging for you to bond with them, you may need to get in contact with a feline behaviour specialist. With that being said, let's take a look at some of our tips for getting your cat to let you touch their paws:

  • Choose the right moment: it's best to pet or hold your cat's paw when they are half-asleep or just relaxing. This way, they are already calm and will interpret your behaviour as affection.
  • Give them some affection first: to help them relax and understand you are just giving them affection, start by caressing them in their favourite places. Some cats love receiving affection at the back of their ears, others enjoy having their nose gently caressed.
  • Don't touch the inside part of their paw: when first starting to caress their paw, start with the outer part, where their fur is. They will most likely allow you to caress that part of their paw as it isn't as sensitive as the inside part of their paw that has more receptors.
  • Be patient: be very patient and stay calm. Cats are very attentive and can detect your feelings, therefore, if you are nervous or hyper they will feel that and it will stop them from being able to relax.
  • Caress them gently: start with very gentle strokes and see if they accept it. Cats usually really enjoy more intense scratches at the back of their ears or even their neck, but not on their paws, so keep it gentle.
  • Don't force it: take your time and don't force your cat. Only pet their paw if they feel comfortable with it.

We also encourage you to check out our article about why your cat meows when you pet them.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws? - How can I get my cat to let me touch its paws?

Why does my cat let me touch its paws?

As we've previously mentioned, a cat's paws are an extremely sensitive area of their body. Their paws allow them to feel different textures, vibrations and pressure thank to its receptors, and that's why most cats won't let strangers touch their paws. It is a very important and sensitive part of their body. However, if your cat lets you touch its paws, it means that they love and trust you.

This small action truly demonstrates that you have created a great bond with your cat as they trust you enough to let you touch one of the most sensitive areas of their body. With that being said, you should always pet or hold their paws gently in order to continue having their trust and allowing them to remain calm.

We also encourage you to check out our cat videos below where you can learn more about bonding with your cat, knowing when they truly love you and when they truly trust you!

If you want to read similar articles to What Does It Mean When a Cat Lets You Touch Its Paws?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • J. Bradshaw. (2019). In the mind of a cat . RBA Pocket.
  • L. Farm . (2019) . How to pet a cat according to science (and how to know if you really enjoy it) . Available at: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-49152043
  • GEMFE. Osteoarthritis in the cat: diagnosis and treatment . AVEPA. Available at: https://www.avepa.org/articulos/artrosis.html

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