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Swollen Cat Paws? Discover What May Be the Cause

cat paws
Picture of Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

Cats are agile and known to “always land on their feet.” Even so, their cute little paws can end up swollen if they run into trouble while adventuring around the house or outside. Seeking veterinary help for swollen cat paws is important to ensure your cat can safely get around and won’t end up with permanent pain.

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic our veterinarians have decades of experience to safeguard your cat’s health. We understand the importance of providing prompt, complete care so your cat can recover quickly and get back on his feet.

Cat Paws: How to Tell If They’re Swollen

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your cat’s paw is swollen because of the surrounding fur. This is why it is important to monitor your cat’s behavior and do your best to get a good look at the paw pads. Signs of a swollen cat paw include:

  • Limping
  • Reduced activity
  • Frequent licking or biting of the paw
  • Discharge, foul odor from paw
  • Heat in the paw
  • Decreased appetite

Along with these common symptoms, owners can also take into account their cat’s recent activity. For instance, if your cat has been outside recently, the swelling could be due to a bite or cut.

Cat Paw Problems

With cat’s independent nature, they frequently venture off on their own. This allows them lots of time to explore, whether inside or outside, but it also means there are many factors that can cause cat paw problems. Most issues occur due to cat paw injuries, insect bites and stings, pododermatitis, and nail overgrowth.

Cat Paw Injuries

As cats adventure, climbing and jumping can lead to a few different paw injuries or trauma. If your cat returns with a puffy, swollen paw, one of the following may be the cause:

  • Fractures
  • Cuts and puncture wounds
  • Abscesses
  • Sprains or strains
  • Irritation from a foreign object

Insect Bites and Stings

Whether your cat spends his day indoors or outdoors, he is susceptible to insect bites and stings. From spiders to wasps and bees, your cat may encounter many different critters. Oftentimes, your cat is fascinated by the movement of the insect and will try to paw at or catch the creature. In turn, the insect bites or stings, causing irritation and discomfort. In severe cases, your cat can have an allergic reaction to the bite or sting, which can lead to breathing troubles and vomiting, sometimes proving fatal.


Pododermatitis is the drastic swelling of a cat’s paw, also known as “pillow paw.” The “pillow” effect is caused by an aggressive inflammatory reaction. Pododermatitis can be triggered by numerous issues, including:

  • Poor grooming
  • Infections (bacterial, fungal, or parasitic)
  • Allergies
  • Immune disorder
  • Cancer, feline leukemia
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)

Nail Overgrowth

If your cat isn’t able to maintain a comfortable nail length by clawing and scratching at scratching posts or towers, his paw may swell. When nails are overgrown, they are prone to getting caught, twisted, and torn on objects. There is also the possibility of long nails puncturing your cat’s pad. Overall, the pulling, ripping, and sharpness of nails cause irritation, inflammation, and can lead to infections.

Swollen Cat Paw Treatment

Once it becomes apparent that your cat has a swollen paw, you need to take a trip to a veterinary clinic. There, the vet will determine the cause of the swelling, as well as treatment options.

  • Injuries and trauma – These will be determined through an examination, sometimes requiring an x-ray, then treated accordingly.
  • Insect bite or sting – Once identified, your vet will likely administer a steroid or antihistamine to reduce the swelling and discomfort. 
  • Pododermatitis – Treatment will vary for this condition, depending on the underlying cause. Oftentimes, therapy and a change in diet will be necessary.
  • Nail Overgrowth – Cuts and infections caused by nail overgrowth will be bandaged and treated with antibiotics.

Preventative Measures

Of course, preventative care is always the best option. To reduce your cat’s risk of developing a swollen paw, you can do the following:

  • Ensure your cat’s surroundings are safe
  • Know and avoid your cat’s allergens 
  • Take your cat for annual checkups
  • Groom your cat and trim their nails

Does Your Cat Have Swollen Paw? | Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic

If your cat has a swollen paw, our experienced veterinary team is equipped to nurse your cat back to health. We offer comprehensive wellness exams, lab work, and x-rays to quickly identify the underlying issue. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic is seeking an enthusiastic and caring veterinarian to work relief, part-time or full-time in our general practice. PVC is a full-service, 3+ doctor, small-animal veterinary hospital. We have established an excellent reputation for developing lasting relationships with our clients and for providing compassionate and quality care to our patients.