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Why Is Your Cat’s Paw Swollen? 6 Vet Reviewed Reasons

Patricia Dickson

By Patricia Dickson

swollen right paw of a cat

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When it comes to felines, pet parents always do what they can to keep their cats healthy and happy. However, as with any animal, there will be times when your cat is sick or becomes injured. That’s why cat owners get so concerned when they notice their cat limping or favoring one foot. If your cat has come home with swollen paws, you’ll want to make an appointment with your vet for prompt diagnosis and treatment. We’ll discuss six possible reasons why your cat’s paws are swollen below.

The 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons Your Cat’s Paw is Swollen

1. Soft Tissue Trauma

One reason that your cat’s paw might be swollen is a form of soft tissue trauma. Soft tissue trauma comes in the way of lacerations, punctures, and bruises on your cat’s paws. These injuries usually occur on the pads of the cat’s feet and can be caused by a few things.

It’s possible that your feline pal stepped on something sharp or got his paw caught on a fence or other object. It’s also possible that another cat or even a dog bit him. There are several reasons for soft tissue trauma, especially when a cat is allowed to roam around outside. You don’t see this type of trauma as much in cats kept strictly indoors.

Puncture wounds can become infected easily. If you think your cat has a paw injury, it’s best to make an appointment with your vet for treatment. Other signs of an infection include pus, foul odors, and a discharge.

a swollen cat paw
Image Credit: Vovantarakan, Shutterstock

2. Overgrown Nails

If you notice that your cat’s nails are too long and curling towards the pad of his paw, the claws are overgrown and could cause a problem. Overgrown nails can cause a cat’s paw to swell. The nails can be so long they become embedded in your cat’s paw, which can lead to an infection.

Your vet can treat the paw and give your feline friend antibiotics for the infection if it’s gone that far. Overgrown nails can occur in outdoor and indoor cats.

3. Insect Stings and Bites

It could simply be that your cat has been bitten or stung by an insect. You’ve almost certainly seen your cat on the patio of your home, swatting at an insect as it flies by. Cats are curious creatures and will swing at anything that gets near them, trying to bat it out of the air.

While most insect stings and bites aren’t serious, they can become infected, so it’s essential to keep an eye on your feline if he comes in with his paw swollen. Make sure that you remove the stinger from the cat’s paw completely, and keep an eye on it until the swelling goes down.

Spider and scorpion bites are more concerning, as both can be poisonous to your feline. It’s best to immediately take your cat to the emergency vet since the bites can lead to infections, swelling, and be fatal if not treated immediately and properly.

a swollen cat paw because of snake bite
Image Credit: Vovantarakan, Shutterstock

4. Sprains, Fractures, or Dislocations

Contrary to popular belief, cats love to jump but don’t always land gracefully or on their feet. This has caused a lot of sprains, dislocations, and fractures and can cause your cat’s paw to swell.

A cat can also suffer one of these injuries by being accidentally stepped on or hit by a car, and it’s vital to get veterinary treatment immediately to treat the wound and reduce the swelling.

5. Constriction

If your cat has gotten something wrapped around his leg, it can cause the cat’s paw to swell. This could be a bandage wrapped too tightly, a string, a rubber band, or any other material in which a cat could get entangled when running around outside. If you find anything like this on your cat’s leg, remove it immediately, and the cat should be fine in no time.

Veterinarian holding cute scottish straight cat with bandage
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

6. Cancer

While not as common as most other reasons on the list, cancer does bear mentioning as a cause of your cat’s paw being swollen. As you probably know, cancer can grow in any part of your cat’s body, including the paws, where a tumor can develop.

The tumor can cause your cat’s entire paw to be swollen, and there may be cancer in other parts of the body. Lung-digit syndrome is seen in cats that have lung tumors that spread to the toes. While it’s never easy to hear that your feline pal has cancer, it’s essential to get your cat to a vet for treatment.

Your vet will devise a plan to treat the cancer and keep your cat as comfortable as possible, no matter which way the cancer diagnosis ends.

Signs Your Cat Has an Injured Paw

You’ll notice a few signs when your cat has a swollen or injured paw. If you see these signs in your cat, it might be best to make an appointment with your vet for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.

  • Limping
  • Licking the swollen paw
  • Favoring the paw
  • Foul odor from infection
  • Biting the injured paw
  • The cat is less active
  • The paw feels hot and tender to the touch

It’s possible that your cat won’t have all the signs, but even if he has a few, it’s best to get it checked out by your vet just to be safe.


Although agile and often graceful in their movements, cats have sensitive paws that can easily get injured when running around. If you suspect one of the causes on our list is why your cat’s paw is swollen and possibly infected, it’s best to make an appointment with your vet so that the cat can be seen and treated. It’s always better to be safe than sorry with your feline friend.

Featured Image Credit: Lethabo Joy, Shutterstock

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