Why Do Cats Shake Their Paws?

Why Do Cats Shake Their Paws

Cats sometimes have mannerisms that are also observed among humans and other animals. Take, for example, when they shake their paws. If you take some time to observe it, you start to realize that it is quite similar to a dog shaking its fur during bath time or humans shaking off soil or debris from their hands. 

Why do cats shake their paws?

Cats shake their paws for the following reasons:

1. To dry off their paws after walking through wet surfaces. 

Cats normally shake their paws to dry them when they walk through wet floors and other surfaces. Shaking off the paws removes water droplets from paw pads and the fur around them. This behavior is comparable to humans shaking our hands dry when we cannot get hold of a towel after washing dishes or doing the laundry. 

2. To remove debris from their paws. 

Cats may also shake their paws to remove dirt, dust and debris that becomes tangled or attached to them.  Being fastidious groomers, felines are conscious of their grooming and once they sense dirt and debris on their paws they will vigorously shake it off. Some cats may also chew at their paws when they cannot remove or shake off something such as tar. 

3. To alleviate paw pain.

Cats may be shaking their paws as a  way to lessen the pain they may be feeling in that area. The pain in their paws may be due to a cut, a bad landing after jumping from a high place, an insect sting, a sore spot, ingrown nails, embedded debris like stone or grass and damaged claws. Aside from shaking their paws, cats may also lick them to manage pain so be sure to identify what the problem is, treat it at once or bring your cat to the vet for prompt treatment. 

Declawing your cat may also subject her to immense pain and may lead her to shake her paws. However, while there may be advantages to having your cat declawed it may cause more harm than good for your pet. She may not be able to scent mark, climb and relieve itches anymore.

It is also considered a debilitating option and it may subject your cat to a lifetime of pain and confusion. She may also have to relearn how to walk, thus, declawing should only be considered an option for medical reasons like cancer. 

4. It may be due to litter issues. 

Cats may be shaking their paws because litter may be sticking into it each time they use the litter box. Some litter brands tend to track more compared to others and while some cats may not be so bothered with this, some felines tend to become agitated when they sense litter sticking to their paws. If this seems to be a problem with your kitties, opt for litter brands like World’s Best Cat Litter which is quick-clumping, easy to scoop and stays in the litter box instead of your cat’s paws. 

5. It may mean that something is not to their liking. 

If you notice that your cat is shaking her paws despite being uninjured, clean and dry, most likely it may be that your cat is expressing feelings of disgust and disapproval. Some cat owners like to call it the “paw shake of disdain”. Cats usually do this when they do not like their meals, to express disgust over loud noises like alarm clocks and barking dogs or when their food bowl is empty.

Cats may also shake their paws when their humans prevent them from doing something unagreeable like chewing electrical cords or when they are treated with medicine for their fleas.

6. They may just be dreaming. 

Cats that are sleeping soundly may shake their paws and may also meow and squeak. There is no need to worry as your cat may just be dreaming during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle. Cats may also twitch their tails and whiskers during this state.

7. It may be due to muscle spasms. 

Some cats may experience shiver-like tremors and involuntary muscle trembling called fasciculation which may also lead them to shake their paws. This may be due to a genetic condition but may also occur as a symptom of an underlying disease or disorder. These may include kidney failure, nervous system disorder, hypoglycemia, rabies, epilepsy, feline hyperesthesia and certain cancers affecting the muscles and nervous system. Bring your cat to your vet at once if you notice that she is frequently shaking her paws without any particular reason. 

8. It reminds them of their “kitten days”.

Cats may also shake their paws especially while drinking water from their water bowl since it reminds them of their kitten days when they used to drink milk from their mother. This is usually observed among cats that were separated from their mothers at a very young age.

It is interesting to note that a cat’s paws have scent glands, are very flexible and act as sensors. Cats use it to communicate, helping them to sweat and act as shock absorbers. You may also check out our earlier articles on cat paw pads change color and dry cat paws for more insightful information about your cat’s paws. 

Final thoughts 

Cats are quirky and they have mannerisms that may amuse but also baffle us such as shaking their paws.  They may do this to shake off water, dirt and debris from their paws. However, felines may also do it to express disgust and annoyance and to reduce paw pain. 

Image: istockphoto.com / taniche