Why Do Some Cats Always Hold Up One Paw When Sitting?

Why do cats sometimes hold a paw up in the air?

All animals, including cats, exhibit unusual behavior patterns. Have you ever noticed your kitty sitting with one paw raised in the air? You might have wondered why she does this.

Most Likely Answer

In most cases, this is just a quirky behavior, nothing more to read into it. Even humans have their little quirky behaviors. (Mine is twiddling my thumbs when I am sitting.) If you have ruled out any possible health reasons, you can relax and just enjoy watching kitty’s moves.

But… Let’s Not Rule Out a Health Issue

There are a couple of things you can check that may be causing the paw raising.

  • Take a look at the paw, as well as the paw pads. If your cat meows loudly or pulls away, look for cuts or swelling.
  • Also check for splinters, infected paw pads and ingrown toenails. (This is why claw trimming is so important.)

Pulled muscles or strained tendons could also be the culprit. The tendon that holds the paw in place is very sensitive, which would trigger pain.

Declawed cats sometimes experience pain after the declawing procedure. A hypersensitivity of the nerves in the toes can make for a lifetime of pain when weight is put on the paw, prompting the cat to hold her paw up. In some instances, medications will reverse this problem.

If you do not find any visible signs of a problem but you’ve noticed your cat holding her paw up more often than usual, have your veterinarian check things out.

If Your Cat Is Limping

Common sense tells us if your pet has a limp, she has some sort of injury. Arthritis, along with other joint problems, may be an issue with older cats in particular. However, since they are so lightweight, felines tend to tolerate this condition quite well. Take note that cat-limping has many possible causes, including neurological causes and even kidney disease.

Paws to Reflect

No medical problems found? Maybe your cat is just sitting there thinking, and for a moment has lost her train of thought. Holding her paw up for a few minutes, she may be asking herself, “Now, what was I thinking?” (That happens to us humans all the time, right?)

Then again, maybe your cat simply adores you — and by raising her paw off the floor she is only looking for a high-five.

Photo: J. Scotty Emerle/Flickr

book-cover-smallest1Does your cat hold a paw up? Tell us in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls. New subscribers also get instant access to our 40-page ebook — which has “secrets every cat and dog lover should know.” Learn more here.

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  • Laura P.

    Thanks so much for this! My cat, Crystal, almost constantly holds a paw up off the ground when she sits. No medical issues, so I figured it was just a quirk like the writer indicated. Funny thing, though, is that her mom – who is the spitting image of her, or vice versa – does exactly the same thing! I got Crystal as a kitten at 10 weeks old, so perhaps she learned this behavior from mom, or maybe it’s genetic? Food for thought!

  • Meredith

    This is lovely, thank you Gayle. My kitty holds her paw out almost like she’s expecting a handshake and we’ve always wondered why she does this. It’s so cute :)