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Cat Toe Beans: 10 Surprising Facts (and Cute Photos!)

Close up of cat toe beans
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Ever heard of cat toe beans? If you have a cat, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. When you look at the underside of a cat paw, you’ll see that the soft pads resemble jelly beans. They are adorable and often a favorite feature for cat owners to photograph. 

People can’t seem to resist looking at cute cat feet and kitten paws. In fact, a quick search on social media using #cattoebeans, #toebeans, #cattoes and #catfeet will bring up tons of photos of cats and their little foot pads. 

But why do cats have toe beans? Do these pads on cat feet serve a certain purpose, other than looking cute? And do all cat feet contain the same amount? Here are some fun facts to know about cat toe beans.

10 Facts About Cat Toe Beans

Close up of cat toe beans

What are cat toe beans? 

The technical term for toe beans is digital pads. “These are found on both the front and rear paws,” explains Dr. Casey Robinson, area medical director of IndeVets in Detroit, Michigan. Simply put, they are the paw pads that make up a cat’s foot. 

How many toe beans do cats have?

Typically, cats have five toe beans on their front feet and four on their hind feet. A polydactyl cat will have extra toes and can therefore have additional toe beans.

Why do cats have toe beans? 

Cat feet have toe beans for a variety of reasons. They primarily absorb shock and provide grip and traction. Their digital pads also provide sensory information, such as temperature and vibration, as well as aid in balance, Robinson says. Since cats are more agile than dogs, balance is crucial to maintaining this agility. 

Do other species have toe beans?

Yes, digital pads are found in many species. However, they are quite important to cats since they tend to jump from higher surfaces and require more shock absorption. “Cats also use their paws to catch and hold prey,” Robinson says. “This requires their toes to be sensitive and strong in different ways from that of other species.”

What are cat toe beans made of?

Cat toe beans primarily consist of thick pigmented skin tissue, as well as collagen and fat tissue. This allows the pads to be more resilient to caustic surfaces as well as provide shock absorption, says Robinson. “The structural makeup is very similar to that of our own fingertips and thumb pads,” she says. “However, since cats are bearing more weight on these structures than we are, they require a more robust or souped-up version of our own digital pads.” A cat’s paw pads also contain scent and sweat glands.

Why do cat toe beans have scent glands? 

“Cat toe beans contain scent glands that help them to mark their territory,” says Robinson. “This is one of the reasons that cats will scratch surfaces in the house.”  

Why are my cat’s toe beans dry? 

Cat paw pads may feel dry because of the type of tissue that they are composed of. “The anatomy of a toe bean is far different than the anatomy of the other skin on the cat,” says Robinson. She describes them as being “much like the surface of the sole of your foot feels different to the rest of your skin.” If you notice that your cat’s digital pads rapidly become more dry than normal, make an appointment to have your veterinarian look at your cat’s feet. Your vet can suggest ways to treat this.

Why are my cat’s toe beans black?

The beans on cat feet can vary in color, ranging from black to pink. And on some cats, they can even be multicolored. Sometimes the color of the toe bean correlates with the coat color, says Robinson.

Do cat toe beans change color? 

Yes, cat toe beans can change color. This, however, can be a sign that something may be off with your cat. This can occur because of injury, systemic disease processes and specific inflammatory processes (pododermatitis). “If you notice that your cat’s digital pads acutely change color, prompt evaluation by a veterinarian is recommended,” says Robinson.

Do cats like their toe beans massaged? 

Traditionally, due to the high density of nervous tissue in the digital pad, cats do not like their cat toe beans touched. Some cats, however, tend to be more okay with having their paws touched than others. Be mindful of this whenever you have the urge to touch your cat’s toe beans. “Gentle pressure on the digital pad can be a great way to reveal the nail, which allows for effective and safe nail trims,” says Robinson. “It is recommended to routinely touch your cat’s digital pad when they are kittens, which may desensitize them to this process and allow them to be more comfortable with it later in life,” Robinson explains. 

The Cutest Photos of Cat Toe Beans

Remember when we told you cat toe beans were cute? We promise we weren’t lying. If you didn’t believe us, you soon will. Here are some cats who serve as living proof that a cat foot can be an unbelievably adorable thing.

Cat toe beans cute cat
Photo credit: Mario Musa

Don’t be coy, kitty! We know you’re hiding three more paws with perfect little pink toe beans in that cat tree.

Cat snoozing toe beans stretched out
Photo credit: Danny Graham 

Catnip got you in a trance? Fine by us, it’s a pawfect opportunity to peep those adorable toes.  

Cat with very cute pink toe beans
Photo credit: Jessica Siegel

No need to come out of your shell, Peanut. We’re content to admire your dainty pink toe beans while you relax all day! 

Stella Toe Beans
Photo credit: Grant Tucker

Raise your foot if you love to mix and match! It’s only fitting that this multicolored cat has pink toe beans and brown paw pads. A stellar combination, Stella! 

Cat sleeping on a chair
Photo credit: Patricia Hoyos Rogers

Nice to meet you, Miso. You’re making miso happy right meow. Bet your human isn’t getting any work done today!

Photo credit: Jennifer Vincenzo McLucas

We gotta hand it to you, Winnie. Who knew that cat toe beans could make such a pawsome pillow!

Cat sleeping sitting up
Photo credit: Hannah Dordick

Life is gourd when we’re looking at your cute cat feet, Pumpkin. Thanks for playing along and giving us a good glimpse!

Cat sleeping in a sunlight beam
Photo credit: Courtney Osgood

Leave it to Luna! That sliver of sunlight is the perfect place to stretch out, strike a pose, and show off your toes!

Cat on bed stretching comfortably
Photo credit: Vanessa Gordon

From nose to toes, we’re truly digging those pops of pink, Talia! P.S. Your fur is gorgeous. We’d love the card of whoever does your grooming…oh wait, that’s you!

Cat snuggled in cat bed
Photo credit: Melissa Merritt

If we didn’t know any better, we’d think you were stuck in that cat cave. But maybe you’re just confidently and comfortably showing off your cat toe beans for our benefit. Hey, we’ll take it!

Cat cuddling at home
Photo credit: Melissa Merritt

What could be cuter than cuddling with your own cat paw? Doing it while rocking multi-colored cat toe beans, of course. That paw print blanket has nothing on the real thing!

Cat yoga stretching
Photo credit: Sarah Usher

Max, you may have a leg up on the rest. Keep flexing, we’re here for it.