I love lots of things about cats but to me, one feature is the best – in fact I am a bit obsessed with it. I’m certain I’m not the only one who is.
A cat’s toe beans are so called because of their appearance. For those of you who are not familiar with this part of a cat’s anatomy who are thinking, “What are cat toe beans,” here’s an explanation.
A cat’s toe beans are the thick, rubbery pads of fatty tissue covered by a layer of tough skin found on the undersides of its paws. They are known as toe beans simply because they are bean-shaped. As well as looking cute (and edible), a cat’s toe beans have several important functions.
Cat toe beans: the facts you need to know
1. The anatomy of a cat’s paw pads
If you want to sound knowledgeable, a cat’s toe beans are scientifically termed digital pads. This is because they are found on their toes and another word for toes is digits.
The reason we refer to a cat’s digital pads as toe beans is simply because they resemble little jelly beans. We will never know who first came up with this phrase but it has stuck ever since and is a perfect description.
When you look at the underside of a cat’s paw, you’ll actually find other soft pads as well as its toe beans:
- a number of digital pads (or toe beans) on front and rear paws
- a metatarsal pad on each rear paw
- a metacarpal pad on each front paw
- a dewclaw pad on each front paw
- a carpal pad on each front paw
As you can see, the front paws have more pads than the rear.
Here’s a labeled diagram of a cat’s paw pads to help you distinguish each part.
2. A description of cat toe beans
Unlike most parts of a cat, its toe beans are totally free of hair. Any fur in the toe bean area sprouts from between a cat’s toes.
On a kitten or indoor cat, toe beans have a smooth soft surface. If a cat roams outside, the surface of its toe beans tends to feel a little bit rougher.
3. Toe beans are various colors
Cat toe beans can be a variety of colors. You may see them in:
- All black
- All pink
- All rose
- All blue
- A mix of colors
If a cat has a single-colored coat, its toe beans are usually the same color as its nose. If a cat has a bi-colored or multicolored coat, it might have different colored beans.
4. A cat’s toe beans are used to sense things
A cat’s toe beans are packed with nerve receptors and are one of the most sensitive areas of its body. For this reason, they are often not keen on having them touched.
The concentration of nerves enables a cat to feel vibrations and also aid with its balance.
When a cat leaps, its toe beans provide crucial shock absorption to protect the bones in its paws and allow a safe landing.
Another crucial function of toe beans is to sense hot, cold, and sharp surfaces, preventing a cat from suffering any injury these might cause.
5. Cat toe beans provide cushions to walk on
Cats are known as digitigrades which means they walk on their toes and the balls of their paws. Each toe bean provides a soft cushion to make walking comfortable.
More importantly, they allow a cat to move in silence when stalking its prey. Once a cat has caught its prey, its paw pads can help it to evaluate what it is and how edible it might be.
6. Claw cases!
Toe beans also house a cat’s claws which it can extend or retract as necessary. If you apply gentle pressure to a toe bean and the top of its toe, a cat’s claw will be revealed. This is a good way to make claw clipping easy if you need to.
7. Marking territory
In between a cat’s toe beans are its scent and sweat glands. When a cat scratches at things, its scent is released and toe beans help to spread this to mark its territory.
If a cat overheats, perspiration is released, and when it walks you may notice a trail of little sweaty paw prints!
8. The number of toe beans can vary
A regular cat has 18 toes and 18 toe beans: five on each front paw and four on each rear paw. However, a specific type of cat can have more than 18 toes: the polydactyl.
Polydactyl cats have extra toes and the number can vary. Polydactyl is a term applied to cats who for genetic reasons are born with more than the standard number of toes.
You might find a polydactyl cat has just 1 extra toe and toe bean on one paw, or it might have 2 extra on every paw. There is no set number of extra toes and beans.
However many toes a cat has, every extra toe also has an accompanying squishy toe bean. How heavenly!
9. Toe beans can change color
Occasionally, you might notice a cat’s paw pads and toe beans actually change color. Though the most common reason is because of an injury it can signify something more serious such as anemia, vitiligo, or pododermatitis.
If you are ever unsure of the reason for a color change, take your cat to the vet for a check-up.
10. Toe beans need caring for
Cats love to lick their paws and you can help to ensure they don’t ingest anything unsavory or even dangerous by keeping them clean.
By far the best way to do this is with a cloth and warm water. Don’t forget to clean in between your cat’s toes too! This is always recommended before you go in for a kiss!
Inspect your cat’s toe beans regularly for cracks cuts, scratches, splinters, and inflammation. If you are unable to resolve any problems you find, it’s time to visit a vet.
In the cold months, especially if your cat has access to surfaces coated with winter salt, it’s important to remove any residue from their paw pads each time they’ve been outside. Licking salt can make a cat ill.
A cat’s paw pads are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and can become dry and cracked in winter or summer. Moisturizing a cat’s paws will help to protect them from drying out.
Petroleum jelly or olive oil are safe moisturizers. Don’t use anything that contains essential oils or any sort of medication. If in doubt, ask your vet for a safe moisturizer recommendation.
Musher’s Secret offers excellent toe bean protection and is made from 100% natural waxes. It’s conveniently available on Amazon and you can see more details by following this link.
Cat toe beans: the conclusion
There’s no doubt in my mind, toe beans are one of the cutest parts of a cat’s anatomy. As well as being gorgeous, they serve very important functions for a cat and will benefit from extra care on your part.
Keep an eye on toe bean condition to keep your cat happy and active.