Categories: pins-and-needles

Do cats’ paws fall asleep?

In other words, do cats get pins-and-needles in their feet? We don’t know the answer for sure. We can guess pretty accurately, though, that cats don’t get pins-and-needles in their paws and lower legs – the area below the hock.

What happens when feet fall asleep?

Pins-and-needles in feet are caused by pressure on nerves and blood vessels feeding the feet. Because a blood vessel has been compressed it can no longer supply nerve cells with the nutrients that they need to function properly. Pressure on the nerves can block transmission of electromechanical impulses. Consequently the brain receives mixed signals which it translates as paraesthesia or pins-and-needles.

Why no pins-and-needles!? Photo in public domain.

Cats’ feet don’t fall asleep

I don’t think that cats get pins-and-needles in their feet. This is based upon decades of observation of the cats that I’ve lived with. They’ve never demonstrated to me any signs of getting pins-and-needles. However, you might think that they would get this condition because they lie down so much and you see them partially sitting on their curled up front paws. This is probably why the question has been asked. If humans sat down in the way the cats do and remained still for so long their feet might fall asleep.

One possible reason why cats’ feet don’t fall asleep (if I’m correct!) is because the blood supply to their paw pads is said to be better than the blood supply to our feet. This means that they can withstand lower temperatures. Cats do seem to have a greater tolerance of cold objects on their feet than humans.

Cats are built through eons of evolution to lie around in positions that might cause circulation problems for humans but for cats there’s no problem. And cats are great survivors and predators; designed to be snoozing one minute and leaping into action the next. If evolution had given them pins-and-needles it would have upset their chances of survival.

A cat’s feet are not more compact than ours. Their feet extend from the hock which is the joint that you see halfway up the leg. Cats are digitigrades meaning they walk on their toes. Therefore the opportunity for compression of blood vessels and nerves would, on the face of it, be the same as for humans. Perhaps cats sit and lie down in a way which prevents this compression occurring but I’m not sure. I think you’ll find that the pins-and-needles in people occurs under certain situations such as crossing legs and sitting down for a long time. Cats don’t cross their legs! Although, as mentioned, they do curl the front feet up under them when sitting in that Sphinx-like position. I’m going to argue that cats position themselves in a way which prevents their feet going to sleep and/or their anatomy is built in a way which prevents pins-and-needles.

Diabetic neuropathy

An interesting sub-question is whether cats can suffer from diabetic neuropathy. This is nerve damage in the feet due to diabetes. Cats can be diabetic and in fact there’s been an increase in this illness due, it is claimed, to the increase in obesity in kitties. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness in the feet or they tingle and burn. It’s a bit like pins-and-needles. The condition is caused by high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period which damages the nerves.

It seems that domestic cats can suffer from diabetic neuropathy. There is an interesting story on the Internet which points to this possibility and a cure. It concerns a morbidly obese cat weighing 21 pounds, JackJack, which is more than twice what it should be. She struggled to stand up after a nap. When she succeeded in getting up she had difficulty walking and lost her balance. Her owner diagnosed diabetic neuropathy having also diagnosed feline diabetes mellitus or type II diabetes i.e. sugar diabetes. The owner has suffered from diabetes since 2015 despite being underweight. She decided that her cat had acquired insulin resistance because of her lifestyle. She took the blame for it in many ways.

Other signs that her cat suffered from this condition was that she walked on her hind hocks. In other words she stopped walking on her toes. She learned that dry cat food was no good as a single food source and that her cat had been eating it her entire life. She ordered wet cat food and served it up under a control diet i.e. 2 to 3 schedule meals per day and monitored her cat’s weight. She quite quickly improved on her account. Her cat lost 2 pounds in five days and at 3 May 2025, five months after starting her on the new diet she weighs 15.3 pounds and is “incredibly active”.

This is a good example, as a side issue, of curing feline type II diabetes through diet which very much supports the ideas of author and veterinarian Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM is expressed in her book Your Cat. In this instance wet cat food + reduced weight = cure for type 2 diabetes.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Over the years, we had two cases of obese cats with diabetes - one was 26-lbs, the other was 28-lbs. Both were very sweet, but only ate low-grade dry food. One cat had a senior owner who passed and the other was a stray who hung around a senior center and all the residents fed it.

    Under careful observation and vet care, both were put on proper diets and medication for the duration. The heavier cat actually dropped massive weight over a long time, ended up around 13-lbs., became insulin-free and was adopted to an experienced woman who was a nurse.

    Unfortunately, the other didn't survive even after all the care given. The diabetes was so far gone, even with the careful vet care it got, its heart just couldn't cope and it died from a heart attack, onset by the diabetes and obesity. As I recall, a number of shelter volunteers cried (myself included). Such a sweet cat to come to such a sad end.

    • Thank you Gail for commenting and telling the story. Anyone who has commented about feline diabetes being caused by dry cat food have always mentioned a full-time diet of low-grade dry cat food as you have. Low-grade dry cat food on a full-time basis seems to be a dangerous diet which can lead, as you attest, to a shortened lifespan for a beautiful cat. As you say, a sad end.

      • What people also need to understand is that it's not just low-grade dry cat food and diabetes. Even a sole diet of high-grade dry food is not good. Besides diabetes, other maladies include obesity, urinary tract diseases (like interstitial cystitis (FIC) and urolithiasis), chronic kidney disease (cats don't drink a lot of water, unlike dogs), poor dental health, potential cancer risks. I've included a link (one of many) explaining why a strict diet of dry cat food in unhealthy. Please people, take this seriously. We are the caretakers of our feline family. They depend on us.

        https://feline-nutrition.org/health/species-inappropriate-the-dangers-of-dry-food

        • Thanks Gail. You are right of course. It is just that it seems to me that slightly lazy or very lazy cat caretaking on a low budget results in low-grade dry cat food being the sole diet. It might be arguable that people who are on low incomes and perhaps you are not as well educated as they might be are predisposed to providing exclusive low-grade dry cat food for their cat. Is that fair?

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