Many adorable descriptors for cats have popped up in the last decade: “loafing” and “chonky” come readily to mind. But possibly the cutest term of all? Toe beans! This nickname arose for cats’ squishy paw pads, which have a similar appearance to jelly beans. Toe beans don’t exist just for cat parents’ delight, though—they’re an important part of feline survival.
Toe beans are shock absorbers and mufflers.
You’ve no doubt heard the precarious tales of cats jumping from high-story buildings, landing on their feet, and walking away never the wiser. Well, part of this death-defying stunt can be attributed to cat toe beans. Paw pads are squishy because they contain a lot of fatty tissue, allowing cats to absorb the shock of a hard fall. For this same reason, toe beans also help cats prowl silently while stalking their prey.
Cats sweat through their toe beans.
That’s right, cats sweat through their paws. This will typically go unnoticed except in times of high heat and high stress. For instance, you may notice your cat leaving little wet pawprints on the exam table at the vet. (Aww…)
You can press your cat’s toe beans to trim his nails.
Pet parents who trim their cat’s nails at home sometimes have a difficult time getting easy access to the nails. Toe beans act as a magic button in this regard: Gently press your cat’s paw pad and voilà—you’ll see the extended claws.
Fur color and toe bean color are related.
Just like fur, cat toe beans are uniquely colored! According to Catster, fur color and paw pad color tend be related. For instance:
- Black cats have black pads
- White cats usually have light-pink pads
- Orange cats have orange pads
- Tabbies may have brick red or grey pads
- Multi-colored cats have multi-colored pads
- Solid-colored cats and some purebreds have paw pads that match the color of their noses
Cats have scent glands tucked between their toe beans.
Not only do your cat’s paws sweat, but they also contain scent glands. Some animal behaviorists say that cats knead and scratch on things as a way to mark their territory: The motion activates the scent glands tucked between their toe beans, which they use to signal to other cats that this is their spot.
The Cat’s Paw Nebula looks like—you guessed it—toe beans.
You’ll find the most out-of-this-world set of toe beans some 5500 light-years away from earth! The Cat’s Paw Nebula (also known as NGC 6334) lies near the heart of the Milky Way galaxy in the constellation Scorpius. This vast cloud of dust and gas has birthed numerous massive stars. We’re glad to see our furry friends represented even among the cosmos!
Toe beans sometimes need TLC.
For all their functions, paw pads are a very sensitive part of your cat’s body. Be mindful of this if you have an outdoor cat that may walk across searing asphalt or freezing sheets of ice. Cats typically do not show pain and other symptoms until the condition is severe—so it’s a good idea to check up on your cat’s toe beans every once in a while.
Sometimes paw pads dry out and crack; in this case, your cat may need a little moisturizer. Talk to your veterinarian about which moisturizing products are safe for your cat. Don’t use any of your own skin care products on your cat without your vet’s input, as your cat may end up ingesting some of the lotion or ointment during a typical grooming session.