Cat Paw Pads Change Color

Cat Paw Pads Change Color

A cats paws are not only cure but they serve their owner in many ways including as shock absorbers when the cat lands from a high place or insulators against hot or cold ground. But did you know that the paws can change color? 

Why do cat paw pads change color?

The color of paw pads usually correlate to a cat’s fur color so that ginger and white cats have pink paw pads, black cats have black pads while gray cats have gray pads. Cats with multiple colors like calicos can have pads of various colors. However, a cat’s paw pads may change color at some point in a cat’s life. The changes may be due to injuries, illnesses and medical conditions.  

These are the common medical and health conditions attributed to the change of color in a cat’s paw pads:

Vitiligo 

This is a rare skin condition where a cat experiences depigmentation and the skin loses its natural pigments.  It is not contagious but often hereditary. It is believed that this condition occurs when something interferes with the body’s melanin-producing cells. 

If your cat’s paw pads change from black to pink your cat may be suffering from acrofacial vitiligo which affects the paw pads and the area around the mouth, nose and anus. The condition may also make dark paw pads change to a lighter color. It does not cause pain ort discomfort and is purely cosmetic by nature.  

The main reasons why vitiligo occurs among cats include the following:

1. Hereditary 

Some cat breeds such as the Siamese breed are more prone to vitiligo.  These breeds may be carriers of a gene that causes vitiligo which may cause cats to turn entirely white. They may pass the gene on to their offspring resulting in the occurrence of the condition in future generations.

2. Auto-immune diseases

Auto-immune disorders happen when the immune system attacks the body itself.  These disorders cause the immune system to attack melanocytes, the melanin-producing cells resulting in vitiligo. 

3. Stress 

4. Exposure to toxins

5. Neurological diseases 

Symptoms may include painlessness and lightened skin and coat and tends to start at a young age. The white spots may start appearing in the face and nose, spread to the lips and the area around the eyes. Eventually, it will affect the paw pads and the rest of the cat’s body. It may continue to spread for up to six months but will differ from one cat to another. 

The good news is that once depigmentation stops it will no longer continue and the areas may eventually re-pigment. No treatment is needed but your vet may recommend that your cat should get more sunlight for melanin production and may screen your cat to check if the condition was due to medical issues. 

Plasma cell pododermatitis 

This condition occurs when the paw is inflamed due to plasma cells and the paw pads have a purplish tint.  Plasma cells produce antibodies that fight against infection or inflammation. The condition is also called a pillow foot since a cat’s inflamed paw may look like a pillow.  Symptoms may include mushy paw pads, purplish tint on the paw pads and may also take on a balloon or pillow shape. 

Treatment may involve the administration of antibiotics which shall be prescribed for several months until there are signs of recovery. 

Paw pad injuries 

Your cat’s paw pads may change color because of injuries and the resulting color is usually a pink tint or black scabs. The injuries may include bite wounds, burns, cuts from glass, stone, metal or rough surfaces and may also be due to ingrown or overgrown claws. If you suspect that your cat is injured, check out for tell-tale signs such as limping, bleeding, unpleasant smell of the footpads, fever and excessive licking of the foot. You may check our earlier article on dry cat paws for additional information. 

Diagnosis will depend on the type of injury and treatment may include removal of overgrown nails or foreign objects. Big wounds need to be stitched up, antibiotics administered and your cat may have to wear a collar so she won’t be able to touch the wound. 

Why are cat paw pads turning white?

A cat’s paw pads may turn white because she is suffering from health issues such as anemia, the presence of parasites and dehydration.  If your cat is dehydrated, encourage her to drink water but in the case of severe dehydration you have to bring her to the vet. 

Anemia is a condition among cats where there is a considerable decrease in the number of red blood cells which carry oxygen to the cells in the body and remove carbon dioxide. Because of this, cats  become weak, lethargic and may lose their appetite. They may also have bloody noses, urine and stool.

These are the causes of feline anemia:

  • infections – caused by viruses, bacteria and other organisms
  • toxins –  coming from plants like red maple, food like onions and metals like copper and zinc
  • hypophosphatemia – this usually occurs among diabetic cats wherein they have insufficient phosphates in the blood 
  • bone marrow diseases-  such as leukemia which is the second leading cause of death among cats 
  • nutritional deficiencies – lack of nutrients such as iron, niacin and Vitamin E to manufacture red blood cells 

Your vet may administer a blood test to determine the severity of anemia and may also help to rule out the presence of parasites which is also a cause of anemia among cats. 

Why are cat paw pads turning black?

Cat’s paws may turn to a different color especially when they are older. For instance, cats that were born with pink paw pads may eventually have black paw pads and this is entirely normal. However, if you notice signs of redness, scabbing or scaling, consult your vet as it may indicate health issues. 

Certain cat breeds often develop black paw pads in their lifetime. Such breeds include the Bombay and domestic shorthair and longhair breeds that have black fur. Another reason why cat paw pads turn black is the puffy-pad disease as well as other conditions like infections and immune dysfunctions. In such case your cat may have difficulty in walking and may become less active than her usual self and a visit to the vet is in order.

Final thoughts 

A cat’s paw pads provide important functions to ensure its mobility and fluid movement. The common reasons for the changes in color include anemia, injuries and pododermatitis. If you notice any sudden changes in your cat’s paw pad color, bring her to the vet for the proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Image: istockphoto.com / krblokhin