Do Cats Have Unique Paw Prints?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    "Give me five, man."

    "Give me five, man."

    In some ways, Ginger's paws are similar to your hands and feet. You both use your feet for standing and walking, and your digits are useful for grasping things. But if she gets in trouble, don't bother fingerprinting her; cat paw prints aren't unique.

    Built for Work

    Ginger's paw pads are cute and functional. Her pads are actually pigmented, hairless skin covering a thick mass of fat and tissue. These built-in shoes help with balance and stability, provide traction and act as shock absorbers for the bones, tendons and ligaments of Ginger's legs. Her pads help her navigate silently through a variety of terrain, useful for sneaking up on prey. Paw pads also contain glands that secrete oil that only cats can detect. When Ginger claws her scratching post, a tree or even your favorite chair, it's a way to mark her territory. Her pads also contain sweat glands, helping to maintain a balanced body temperature.

    Take Care of Those Pads

    Paw pads are built for work, but they are still vulnerable to damage. Ginger's pads can sustain cuts, abrasions and even develop yeast infections. They're also sensitive to temperature. Though her pads are tough enough to navigate a variety of terrain, they're still sensitive enough to evaluate her surroundings, including texture and the liveliness of prey. If it looks like Ginger's favoring her paw by not putting weight on it or licking it excessively, take a minute to examine it. Keep an eye open for bleeding, cuts, cracks or abrasions, as well as swelling of the pad and surrounding area. If you see anything amiss, take her to the vet.

    Pad Color Indicates Fur Color

    Although not as unique as a fingerprint, the color of Ginger's paw pad tells a little more about her. A black cat will have black pads and orange cats have orange pads. Tortoiseshell cats have mottled pads to match their mottled coats. A blue point Siamese will have slate gray pads. Multi-colored cats tend to have multi-colored pads.

    Nose Prints, Not Paw Prints

    Although Ginger's paws don't have unique prints, her nose does. Her nose is a pattern of ridges and bumps, much like human fingerprints. Every cat's nose is different, and theoretically could be used as a form of identification. However, it's doubtful Ginger would sit still for an introduction between her nose and an ink pad.

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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