The average cat has five claws on its front feet and four claws on each of its back feet, unless the cat is a polydactyl cat, meaning it has extra toes. These cats are also called Hemingway cats, as a large number of his 60 cats were polydactyl. Each cat's foot contains six separate pads that can help a cat move with speed or stealth. Interestingly, cats have sweat glands on their paws also. The sweat increases traction for the cats and they, like humans, sweat when they are nervous and feel the flight instinct kick in. Cats can suffer from diseases in their paws, as well as simple problems such as cuts or foreign objects that irritate and rub the pad. If your cat develops pad problems, a veterinarian visit is the best course of action.
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Cats can develop autoimmune disorders such as pemphigus and lupus. Cats with these disorders can develop sore pads that may split or become thick and tender.
Nail Bed Infections
If the infection is on one or more nail beds of the same foot, your cat might have a bacterial infection which can be treated by the vet easily. If the infection occurs on more than one foot, it might be an indicator of an autoimmune disorder or feline leukaemia. Your vet can advise you on further testing such as a biopsy.
Mushy Pad Syndrome
Mushy Pad Syndrome, or plasmacytic pododermatitis, shows itself in the form of soft, mushy pads, which feel like soft marshmallows. The pad surface appears wrinkled and sometimes flaky. The condition can affect one paw or all four. Vets haven't established a clear cause of the condition yet but some believe it to be an allergic reaction. The worst-case scenario involves bleeding ulcerations.
Ulcers and Granulomas
Granulomas are areas of inflammation from tissue injury. These can occur from physical trauma or chemical damage. Ulcerated sores can occur also from the result of injury. These two types of cat paw disorders are usually treated with corticosteroids.
Sometimes symptoms in a cat's paws point to other diseases. For example, the respiratory virus calicivirus symptoms include ulcerated pads and in between toes. Another example is Lung-Digit syndrome which is a feline form of lung cancer that spreads to the cat's paws.
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