8 Reasons Your Indoor Cat’s Paws Are Dry or Cracked

Your indoor cat’s paws are a sensitive part of their body. Although they are protected from dangerous environments and situations, sometimes their paws can still become damaged. There are a handful of potential causes at home that you need to be aware of which we cover in this article.

If it gets to this point, you may notice your cat start to limp as their paws become uncomfortable to walk on. Paws that are continuously dry can become cracked, exposing lower layer of skins which can become infected and even more painful for your cat. Most vets will recommend that you bring your cat in if this happens to prevent further damage. Its also important that you find the cause of their dry paws at home so they can live comfortably.

Dry air

Dry air will wick away the moisture from your cat’s paw pads. If the weather has recently becme colder, humidity will drop as the air can hold less moisture in it. The drying effect will also be worse if you have a breeze going through your house. Apartments, especially ones with controlled air systems, can suffer from having dry air especially as the air may be trapped and become stale.

Extreme heat or cold

If the inside of your house is excessively cold or hot, your cat can suffer from damage to their paws. Cold weather causes air to lose humidity like we said previously. Hot weather causes your cat’s paws to sweat more which can lead to rapid dehydration. The quickly evaporating sweat on their paws will take away moisture leaving them dryer than normal. You can make sure that your indoor cat is comfortable when it is hot by reading our previous article about keeping indoor cats cool in summer.

Over Grooming

Cats will lick their paws to clean themselves while grooming. Not only does this clean their paw, but they can also use their slicked paw to clean places their tongue can’t reach like the back of their head. Some cats will over-groom when they are stressed, bored, or depressed. This can cause their paws to dry out as their saliva is regularly wicking away moisture. You may also be drying out your cat’s paws if you are frequently bathing them at home. Especially if you aren’t completely washing off cleaning products from their skin.

Walking through cleaning products

If you clean your hard floors with a cleaning spray or even just water and your cat walks through it, their pads can be covered in a thin film of irritating chemicals. This is particularly common for cats that have their litter boxes in areas that regularly get wiped down like the bathroom. Make sure that your floors are dry before you let your cat walk on them to protect their delicate foot pads.

Rough surfaces

If your house has rough surfaces, they can irritate your cat’s paws when they walk or run along them. Garages that have been painted with anti-slip paint can be a source of this. They may also be rubbing their paws on other rough surfaces without your knowledge like a rough scratching post.

Irritation from cat litter

Like humans, some cats can have sensitive skin. Certain cat litters may irritate and dry out their exposed skin. This effect will be made even worse if their paws are damp from water or sweat before they enter their litter box as cat litter and clay dust can become stuck to their paws. Rougher litter can also damage your cat’s paws when they dig through it. Getting the right litter is important to make sure that your cat is happy and doesn’t use other places around your house as their toilet.

Improper diets

Cats need the right nutrients for their bodies to maintain themselves properly. A lack of protein or certain vitamins can cause your indoor cat’s paws to be dry or crack. Cats who eat low quality dry foods will be particularly at risk from this but the only way for you to tell if your cat’s diet is right is to take them to a vet for testing.


Cats that frequently wash or dip their paws in water can dry their paws out by losing the protective oils on their skin. Evaporating water then wicks away moisture from their skin. This is quite an unlikely cause which we wouldn’t normally expect. Some cats like to put their paws into their water bowls to make sure that their drinking water isn’t stagnant. In these cases, a cat fountain may keep your cat happier.

Should I take my cat to the vet if they have dry or cracked paws?

Dry paws are not an immediate health concern for your cat but lead to a lot of worse problems. If your cat’s paws are regularly dried out or stay dry for several days, you should take them to the vet for advice on what treatment to use.

When paws dry out too much they can crack. Cracks and large cuts can be at risk of infection. Infections will take time to treat and heal and will leave your cat in pain in the meantime so it’s always best to treat dry paws as quickly as possible. Cuts on paws can be very painful for your cat. The constant discomfort from walking on their cut paws can lead to bad behavioural problems such as redirected aggression to you other animals in the house.  

You may be tempted to moisturise your cat’s paws with your own medication to give them some relief, but you should never use human medication on a cat without your vet’s approval. Lots of ingredients used in human moisturisers can be toxic to cats. You might also be tempted to make your cats’ paws wet to moisturise them but this will actually dry them out more. Your vet may recommend some of the natural and safe remedies which we go through below.

How to treat your indoor cat’s dry paws

Immediate care for dry or cracked paws involve covering the area in a cat-safe moisturiser. Its particularly important that whatever you use is cat-safe. Your cat will probably start licking their paw to “clean” themselves from whatever you smear onto their paws.

The best option for people who are concerned about using home remedies will be an over-the-counter cat moisturiser that you can purchase from a pet shop or reputable online seller. However, there are some more accessible home remedies.

A small layer of oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or Vaseline will trap moisture in your cat’s paw and stop them from drying out further. Be warned, your cat will leave behind oily paw prints on your floor while this is absorbed into their skin so you may want to keep them in the bathroom while you do this. Do not use cocoa butter as it is highly toxic to cats and can result in hyperactivity or even death.


Dry or cracked paw pads can be painful for your cat and lead to lots of further health complications. There are many causes why your indoor cat’s paws could be dry and some of them, like dietary deficiencies are hard to detect. Its best to take your cat to your vet to get advice on how to treat your cat’s paws before a serious problem arises. Make sure that any moisturiser that you use on your cat is definitely safe for them to eat. Avoid human moisturisers, just because something is safe for us doesn’t mean it is safe for your cat.