What to Do When Your Cat Is Sick: FOOT PAD INJURIES

The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care

What to Do When Your Cat Is Sick: FOOT PAD INJURIES

The most common problems affecting cats’ foot pads are small cuts (lacerations) and punctures acquired during fights with other cats. As with other wounds the potential for infection always exists, so even if the foot pad injury seems minor your cat should be kept indoors and observed for several days to see if signs of infection develop.


Deep cuts on foot pads often cause profuse bleeding, requiring application of a pressure bandage to avoid serious blood loss. Any cut severe enough to require a pressure bandage will probably need stitches to achieve rapid, satisfactory healing and avoid repeated bleeding. Leave a pressure bandage on until a veterinarian’s advice can be obtained but no longer than twenty-four hours without reinspection of the wound and rebandaging.

Once bleeding has stopped, minor cuts should be inspected for foreign material, then gently washed with disinfectant soap, rinsed, and gently dried. The affected foot should be bandaged to protect the wound from dirt and recurrent bleeding. Change the bandage whenever it becomes wet and at least every third day in order to inspect the wound for signs of infection and proper healing. Reban daging can be stopped once the wound is well healed (not just sealed closed). This could take as long as three weeks; weight bearing puts a lot of stress on cut pads, thereby interfering with healing.


Any puncture of the foot pad should be inspected for evidence of a foreign object such as a small thorn or glass shard. Although bleeding is usually minimal, lameness can be severe and persistent, and puncture wounds are followed by infection more often than cuts are. Anytime your cat is limping you should perform a thorough inspection of the foot pads.

Be sure to do this in bright light and use a magnifying glass if necessary. If you see a protruding foreign body, you can carefully try to tease it loose with a sterilized sewing needle. (To sterilize a needle, heat the tip in a flame until it is glowing red, then allow it to cool, or immerse it in rubbing alcohol for ten minutes.) Once the foreign object is loose enough to be firmly grasped with tweezers or needle-nosed pliers, extract it carefully but quickly from the wound. Do not attempt this on an uncooperative cat unless you are willing to risk being bitten.

Success is indicated by immediate improvement of the lameness. If you have any doubt that the object has been fully removed, if the lameness persists after home treatment, or if signs of infection such as swelling around or drainage from the wound occur, consult your veterinarian. Cats who have received puncture wounds rarely acquire tetanus.