What to Do for Dry Pads on a Cat's Feet

By Lisa McQuerrey

A cat’s footpads are tough, but they can become cracked, dry and even painful if they aren’t properly cared for. This is especially true for outdoor cats who rough the natural elements. Diligent footpad care not only keeps a cat healthy, it can be a bonding, trust-building experience.

Why Pads Become Dry

Many things can dry out your cat’s footpads. If you have an outdoor cat, she may travel on rough surfaces. She may be susceptible to pad burns in summer, and ice or snow damage when it’s cold. Indoor cats may develop dry pads by coming into contact with chemical cleaning solutions on floors and other surfaces. Careful, regular inspection can help you identify injuries and keep your kitty’s footpads in good shape.

Hands-on Foot Care

Get your cat used to having her feet handled by gently massaging her footpads when you pet her. This gives you the chance to dislodge any litter or outdoor debris between her toes that could be contributing to dryness or irritation. Wipe her feet with a damp cloth when she comes in from outside in harsh weather, using special care to wipe away salt used for melting ice. Make the foot handling a good experience for your cat, building up contact over time, if necessary. Reward her with a treat when she lets you touch her toes and pads.

Topical Treatments

Moisturize your cat’s footpads with vet-prescribed ointments or use topical home remedies such as olive oil or coconut oil. Remember, your cat is a groomer, and she’s likely to lick whatever you put on. She may run away when you’re done and leave a trail of oil prints on furniture or surfaces. Pick a bathroom, laundry room or other easily cleaned location for your application. Avoid creams and moisturizers intended for humans, as they could contain toxic substances that could make your cat sick.

Supplements and Home Care

Ask your vet about giving your cat oral doses of omega-3 oils or vitamin E supplements to help keep her footpads moisturized from the inside out. The supplements will moisturize her skin and make her coat sleek and shiny. Consider using a humidifier in your home, particularly during winter months. A humidifier adds moisture to the air and can be good for hydrating everyone’s skin.