Cat paw diseases

Updated March 23, 2017

At some point, cat owners are likely to see some kind of irritation or pain in their pet's feet. Usually, inflammation in a cat's paw is caused by something benign like an infection or an injury. But sometimes, irritated, sore, or bleeding paws are an indication of a more serious illness. If a cat is having discomfort with its feet for longer than one to two days, take it to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.


Cats with injuries or diseases in their feet usually have obvious symptoms. A cat will lick or chew an irritated paw constantly, sometimes to the point of causing bleeding. Often, the cat limps or otherwise attempts to favour the affected paw. If you examine your cat's paw and see that the pads are swollen and pink, bloody, or wet from excessive licking, you should have a vet look at it. Lesions, bumps, or pustules are also cause for concern.


Cats are active and curious animals, and even indoor cats are likely to injure their feet while playing and exploring. Cats also can hurt their feet in fights with other animals, and they are prone to insect bites and stings because of their tendency to chase bees or scorpions. Any open wound, embedded object, or insect bite on a cat's foot is prone to infection, particularly if the cat uses a litter box. Additionally, some cats have rather strong allergic reactions to bee stings and mosquito bites. Check with your vet about how to keep a paw wound clean and if your cat needs antibiotics or antihistamines.


Pemphigus is an immune system disorder that is common in cats. Cats with this disease get bumps on their feet and faces. The bumps turn into pustules, then become scabs. Paws pads can also thicken and split. The only way to diagnose pemphigus is with a skin biopsy. This disease is often confused with feline lupus, so it is important to have the biopsy examined by an experienced pathologist. Pemphigus is treated with immune system suppressants like corticosteroids, and the owner may have to soak and clean the feet until the sores heal.

Pillow Foot

The medical name for Pillow Foot is plasma cell pododermatitis. This disease is characterised by pink or purplish pads, severe swelling, and the pad feels very soft when pressed. Pillow Foot usually affects more than one foot. Often, the cat won't seem particularly bothered by this condition, and sometimes it can only be found with a biopsy or blood test. The causes of this condition are not well understood, but it can be treated successfully with steroids and or antibiotics.

Eosinophilic Granuloma

With symptoms similar to Pillow Foot, eosinophilic granuloma usually only affects one foot and is generally caused by allergies. The allergen can be airborne, environmental, or from food. If the cat's body has an extreme reaction to the allergy, its immune system attacks the collagen in its foot, causing the swelling. Eosinophilic granuloma can be treated with steroids, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatories, and the vet will also do tests to find the source of the allergy.

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