Cat Carpal Pad: What Is It?

The carpal pad is a paw pad that is located rear of the cat’s forelimbs where the wrists (carpus) is located. Unlike the other paw pads, the carpal pad doesn’t make contact with the ground. Its purpose is to provide traction when the cat comes to a sudden stop or descending a steep slope such as a tree or a fence. Think of it as an anti-skid mechanism.

Carpal pad injuries

Common carpal pad injuries include trauma to the skin which can happen if the cat is moving at speed and stops suddenly, or if the cat is hit by a moving vehicle and skids or is dragged along the ground. In some cases, the carpal pad may partially or fully separate from the underlying tissue.

Superficial injuries to the skin of the carpal pad may be able to be treated at home. Flush the area with salt water and apply betadine. Seek veterinary attention if swelling, redness or oozing develop.

Traumatic injuries such as a tear or laceration to the carpal pad will need to be treated by a veterinarian who will clean and stitch the wound (where necessary), bandage the area to prevent further trauma and in some cases prescribe antibiotics.

Carpal pad injuries can take between 7 and 21 days to heal.

Related: How dirty are a cat’s paws?

What is the carpal pad made of? 

All of the cat’s footpads, including the carpal pad, is made up of a hairless layer of skin that covers collagenous and adipose (fat) tissue.

Care

The skin on the paws and carpal pad can become dry, a small amount of olive oil, coconut oil or vaseline can help to moisturise the skin.

Frequently asked questions

Do all cats have a carpal pad? 

Yes, all cats have a carpal pad on the rear of the front leg.

Do carpal pads grow back? 

If the carpal pad will not grow back.

How do you bandage a cat’s carpal pad? 

If the carpal pad is injured, clean the wound with diluted betadine, apply gauze followed by a self-adhesive bandage. Any injury beyond a small graze should be evaluated by a veterinarian.