Cats constantly communicate with their humans using a combination of facial expressions, vocalizations and body language.
Unfortunately, these messages can be sometimes hard to decipher because one vocalization or action can mean different things. For example, when a cat reaches out his paw to you, that action can signify different things.
Why does my cat reach his paw out to me?
When your cat reaches out to you with his paw, it can mean that he is asking you for something, expressing his affection, telling you that he is sick or injured or is marking you as his own.
It is also possible that your cat is just stretching his body and you happened to be around.
Cats may seem aloof and independent but they rely heavily on their humans for their different needs, from food to affection.
Cats are highly observant, especially to the people around them. Through observation, they learn the habits and routines of their human family. They can even learn which person feeds them and which one is liberal with the treats.
More importantly, they can learn which type of language to use to get what they need. And in this case, your pet has probably learned that the best way to capture your attention is to use his paw to touch you.
As with most cat behaviors, it is vital to look at the context to help you understand what your cat is trying to tell you.
For example, if your cat is reaching his paw out to you at around feeding time, it means that he wants you to fill his feeding bowl for his next meal.
On the other hand, your cat may be reaching out his paw to signal that he is ready to play with you. Usually, an invitation to play begins with a quick tap of a paw followed by running away from you. You will also notice that his body language is energetic,
If you allow your cat to roam outdoors, a tap with a paw can indicate that he wants to be let out.
2. Show of affection
If you are sitting beside your cat or he is on your lap and he begins to reach out to you with his paw, it means that he is trying to show you that he loves you. Some cats even touch their human’s face to show affection.
Your cat may also be reaching out a paw to you so that he knows exactly where you are. Although cats have an exceptional vision that they use for hunting, they are far-sighted and cannot see things that are close to them. To compensate for that, they can use their paws to judge distance.
Reaching out with a paw may also indicate that your cat is asking for pets and cuddles. If your cat is in an especially affectionate mood, he might even knead you also called making biscuits.
Kneading takes your cat to the time he spent with his mom and littermates. This behavior can indicate that your cat loves and trusts you.
3. Disease or injury
Although some cats do their best to hide any pain or illness that they are experiencing, there are others that know how to ask for help from their humans.
When your cat reaches out to you with his paw after coming home, the first thing that you need to do is to inspect it for anything that may be causing your pet any kind of pain. Look out for splinters, wounds or bone or muscle injuries.
Reaching out to you with a paw may be a symptom that your cat is suffering from a condition known as feline calicivirus. This disease affects the respiratory system and is usually contracted from other infected cats. The disease can also be contracted from direct contact with prey like birds.
Aside from causing respiratory problems, feline calicivirus can also cause lameness and pain in the paws.
If your pet is still a kitten, it may be possible that he is reaching out with his paws because he is suffering from a condition known as limping kitten syndrome. This condition, also known as cat flu, affects a kitten’s joints and causes pain.
If your cat is injured, apply the appropriate first aid measures first, and if the injury is severe, bring him to the vet for the appropriate treatment.
4. Marking behavior
Apart from marking his territory with his urine, your cat can also mark objects and humans found in his territory using the scent glands found in his paws, cheeks and other body parts.
In multiple cat households, a feline can leave his scent on the objects that he wants to claim from other cats. In a way, this helps establish social order and prevent unnecessary conflicts.
When your cat is marking you, he is laying his claim on you and recognizes you as a member of his pride. Usually, this type of marking is accompanied by head butts and rubbing.
Understanding what your cat is trying to say with his paw
Dogs have earned the reputation of being easy to read, with their wagging tails, barks, and facial expressions.
However, cats are just as communicative as canines. The problem is that it is sometimes difficult to understand what they are trying to say.
On one hand, that is because cats use the same actions and vocalizations to mean different things. On the other hand, there has been little research done focusing on how cats communicate with people. It is only in recent years that there has been a push to study domestic cats the same way dogs have been studied.
If you want to truly understand what your cat is trying to tell you, it is best to look at the context of his vocalizations and actions. This will provide you with a deeper insight into what these outward signs mean.
This task may be difficult, especially if you have little to no experience living with a feline. But over time as you learn more about your cat, his habits and preferences, you become more attuned to your cat’s communication style.
Image: istockphoto.com / JIRANAN WONSILAKIJ