Characteristics that you should know about the legs of cats

You see your cat’s paws every day and you find them very cute, soft, fluffy,  and sometimes you even take photos, but in reality you know almost nothing about them.

However, behind their soft and delicate appearance, cats’ nails and paws are an infallible weapon. Unlike humans, they not only serve to stand and walk, but also allow them to be great predators, while maintaining the cuteness of cats.

In this article, I will show you nine characteristics of cat paws , which you may not know.

You may also be interested in reading this article: The dangers of spring for cats. What you should know.

What are the legs of cats like?

Cats’ feet are endowed with blood vessels, nerve endings, fatty tissue, and connective tissue, which work together to provide shock absorption, balance, cushioning, isolation, and tactile feedback on surfaces and prey. Their sensitivity allows them to detect vibrations from approaching or fleeing animals.

Retractable claws

Cats have retractable claws, which are usually kept in a leather case under the toe pads. This prevents the claw from wearing out and allows for quiet and smooth walking, which is important when stalking prey. Claws are made of a protein called keratin and they grow continuously. Cats scratch to keep their claws sharp and ready for use.

How many fingers do cats have?

Cats have five toes on their front legs and four on their back legs . On the front legs, the more hidden toes function in a similar way to human thumbs when grasping objects. Some cats can have polydactylism, this is a congenital fault that results in the appearance of extra fingers.

How many pads does a cat have?

The tough leather pads offer protection when walking through rough terrain, but also improve traction on slippery surfaces. They are very sensitive, because they contain numerous nerve endings, including Pacini corpuscles, which allow cats to feel the texture of the ground. Cats have five pads on each front leg and four on each of their back legs.


Cats have sweat glands in their paws, which help them maintain the temperature balance in their bodies. These specialized glands, which are also called eccrine glands, are found in the pads. Felines also have sebaceous glands hidden between the pads of the foot, which secrete a scented oil detectable only to cats and keep their paws hydrated.

1. Cats have a preference for one leg

Did you know that your cat can have a dominant front leg ?

Although studies differ on the percentages of cats left or right handed, everyone agrees that felines have a preference for one leg, especially when performing challenging tasks.

A study, carried out by Queens University in Ireland , relates gender to the type of front “dominant leg” . Their data shows that male cats prefer to use their right paw , while females mostly opt for the left.

You can find out which paw your cat prefers by demanding difficult tasks, such as scooping up delicious treats in hard-to-reach places. To obtain accurate data on the cat paws in question, the task must be replicated at least 75 times. Your cat will probably be happy to help.

2. How cats walk

Cats are  digitigrade . That assumes they walk on their toes.

Walking and running on your toes, without articulating your cat’s heel , increases your chances of having a successful hunt by increasing your speed and lengthening your strides.

Something curious is that they place the hind legs almost in the same place where the front legs have previously rested. The hind legs of cats have four toes and the front legs have five toes. This way they can reduce footfall noise and feel safer when stepping on terrain that has already been explored. With this they manage to be more silent, which makes it more difficult to be detected by their prey and predators.

3. The cat’s paws are very sensitive

My cat Nina is bothered by having her paws rubbed and handled. The reason is that cat pads are very sensitive. They contain a large concentration of nerve receptors , which makes them sensory organs that help hunt and maintain balance.

With these receptors, cats “feel” texture, pressure and possibly vibrations, which help them to “feel” the proximity of their prey.

Although the pads are strong enough to protect cats from some environmental damage, they are very sensitive to temperature, pressure, and pain. Soft pads are not insulated and can be injured by hot pavements, frozen sidewalks, and uneven surfaces.

4. The cat’s paws are flexible

Cats’ legs are incredibly flexible . The ability to bend and twist helps felines climb and hunt. One of the reasons cats are so assiduous in climbing trees is because their front legs are designed to turn inward to sink their claws into branches and maintain stability.

Although this is useful for climbing trees, it does not help with the descent. In addition, its front claws are oriented in the wrong direction to descend, and the front legs are weaker than the back ones which are more muscular. This peculiarity causes cats to sometimes get stuck in trees.

5. Cats’ feet act as shock absorbers

Another feature is that cats’ paws act as shock absorbers and absorb sound . Paw pads cushion and smooth landings when cats jump.

In addition, these pads help the cat to  move on difficult terrain without injuring itself . In fact, they allow you not only to feel the vibrations of the ground but also to evaluate the temperature or the texture, and thus quickly adapt to your surroundings.


6. The paws of cats help in their grooming

The front paws are very useful for grooming , as they help cats clean hard-to-reach areas behind the ears, under the chin, on the neck and on the face. They do this by first licking their paw several times and then cleaning it in those areas that they cannot lick directly.

Usually after a few paw strokes, they stop to lick and wet their paws again and repeat the process. Kittens normally begin grooming on their front legs before they are 4 weeks old.

7. Your cat’s paws help him sweat

What do you know that cats sweat!  Felines have sweat glands, but unlike humans, cats are under the paws, between the pads . Therefore, if you want to refresh your cat, it is recommended that you start by wetting its paws.

This cooling system helps prevent cats from overheating on hot days. Frightened and stressed cats also sweat under their paws.

8. The colors of the cat’s paw pads vary.

The pads are generally the same color as the skin.

The paw pads are usually colored, those that match the rest of the cat’s hair color scheme. Cats that are gray in color generally have gray pads. Those that are orange have pink pads.

9. Cats use their paws to communicate

One of the many reasons  cats scratch objects is to mark their territories and convey information about themselves.  In addition to visual evidence, in fact, the sweat glands under its legs secrete  pheromones  that it deposits wherever it goes.

Pheromones are hormones that contain varied information about the cat and that allow it to send “messages” to its peers at a distance.

10. Why do cats bend their legs?

Have you ever seen your cat fold its paws and get into a rectangular position? I’m sure you’ve watched it, because everyone does this.

Why do cats bend their paws in this way? Cats bend their paws in this way because it is a form of relaxation for them. They can also remain reactive in this position, if it is, in a short time they can jump and react.

Therefore, happy cats will position themselves this way and let their eyes slowly close. This way they remain ready for action, but at the same time enjoy their relaxed surroundings.

This position is also known as “loaf cat” . Simple, it’s so called because when you look at your cat in this position, you literally see it as a loaf of cat bread, don’t you think?



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