When your cat’s paws feel hot to the touch, it may simply be her warm body temperature, or it could be a sign of health troubles. A cat’s normal body temperature can generally range from 99.5˚ to 102.5˚ Fahrenheit (F), so it makes sense that she might feel especially warm to your chillier hands. But, if your cat’s paws feel warm to the touch and she’s showing other changes in behavior, it might be a sign that something else is going on. Here are some potential reasons for your kitty’s warm toe beans and paw pads.
Why Are My Cat’s Paws Hot?
Your Cat Is Cooling Down
A little too much fun in the sun could cause your cat’s paws to become hot. After a long catnap in a warm spot, your cat is probably cooling down by releasing body heat through her paws. No worries here, your cat is doing normal cat stuff. But, if your cat is exhibiting other changes in behavior after exposure to hot temperatures, she may need medical attention.
Scalds & Burns
If a surface is too hot for your bare hand, then it’s too hot for your pet’s paw pads. When your cat paws across a surface that is too hot, she can develop blisters and burns that feel hot to the touch. In the unfortunate event that your cat has burned her paws, PetMD says to use cool water on first- or second-degree burns and follow-up by applying a small amount of aloe vera gel once the heat has dissipated. If the burns are severe, or if your cat is in pain, it’s best to see your vet.
Heatstroke occurs when your cat is so hot that she can’t regulate her internal temperature. During this medical emergency, you might notice your cat trying to cool down by panting, grooming, and sweating—along with warm, moist paw pads. At the first sign of heatstroke, move your cat out of the sun to a cool place and call your vet to let them know you will be coming in—your pet needs emergency care.
Bring her body temperature down by applying cool water or a towel to her paws, groin, armpits, and neck, leaving the cooling pads in place while you transport her to the vet. To learn more about recognizing the signs of heatstroke and how to respond, you can read our article: Not Fun in the Sun: Cat Heat Stroke and How To Prevent It.
Your Cat Injured Her Paw
If your cat’s paw feels hot to the touch and she filches, limps, or has been excessively licking at her paw, she might have injured it.
According to Pet Medical Center, one of the most common injuries to a cat’s paw is stepping on or swatting at something that can sting. Fortunately for cats, anaphylactic shock is more common in humans, and minor stings can be managed at home (VCA Hospitals explains how here). If your cat is clearly in pain or her paw is excessively swollen or bleeding, take her to the vet immediately.
Scrapes, Cuts & Punctures
Another common injury to the paw is stepping or pawing at a sharp object. The heat you feel could be the inflammation caused by your cat’s body fitting off a potential infection. “Most of the time, if you don’t see signs of an embedded foreign object in the paw, and the foot is not broken, you can clean and dress the wound and let it heal on its own,” writes the Pet Medical Center. But, the Center advises, if your cat is clearly in pain and the feet are severely swollen or bleeding, then it’s time for a checkup.
A cat’s nails typically wear down from day-to-day prowling around and scratching, in addition to the occasional trim. But once in a while, a pesky nail will grow too long, curling back into the paw pad, making the tissue hot. Petful says this is most likely to occur in cats with extra toes, or polydactyl cats.
As a mom to two polydactyl cats with a combined total of 52 toe beans, I know how difficult it is to keep up with nail trims. If a nail looks funky—swollen, hot, or smelly—it’s best to see your vet. “Trimming these ingrown nails is not an easy DIY project. The vet may have to remove a nail, treat a deeply infected wound, or take a biopsy,” writes Petful’s Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD.
Broken Bones, Fractures & Injured Ligaments
Your cat’s paws may be hot because she has suffered an injury by or on her foot. If you suspect this to be the case, you should take your cat to the vet for treatment and proper diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the injury, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, wrap or cast the injury, or manage the injury surgically.
Does My Cat Have a Fever If They Have Hot Paws?
Fever (an abnormally high body temperature typically related to an underlying infection) can be dangerous for all pets. Hot paws might occur with a fever, but it’s certainly not a tell-tale sign. The best way to determine if your cat has a fever is by taking her temperature with a pet thermometer. A temperature above 103.5˚ F indicates a fever.
According to PetMD, signs that your cat could have a fever include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy or activity
- Decreased drinking
- Decreased grooming
- Shivering or rapid breathing
If your cat has a fever that persists for more than a day, or it reaches 104˚ F, your cat should be seen by her vet immediately.
There’s probably no need to worry if your cat has hot paws without other symptoms or unusual behaviors. Your cat’s paws are tough, but they’re no match for extreme heat and can come in contact with some dangerous stuff, so look for any changes that could indicate injury. If you’re concerned about your cat’s health or behavior, it’s best to consult with your vet.