After cats eat, they oftentimes will wash their paws and faces with their tongue. Cats' little "hands" are very important to them, so they have to keep them clean. This is why cats groom their feet so often, to clear away pieces of food, specks of dirt, shed hairs, and anything else that gets lodged in the fur between the little pads on their feet.
Although cats are notorious groomers, sometimes they need help keeping their feet and coats properly cared for.
The ASPCA made a list of ten paw care tips for cat owners to follow. The tips I found the most relevant and important are as follows:
1. Once a day, wipe off your cats paws with a damp rag. Wiping off their feet will hopefully remove any chemicals they might have encountered during the day.
2. Check between their toes and around the pads for anything stuck that might hurt them, or for any cuts, splinters, sores, or swollen places that need cared for. The ASPCA says to "Remove splinters or debris gently with tweezers and clean any small cuts. If you notice any blood, pus or an unusual odor, please take your cat to the vet to check for infection."
3. Hot and cold weather can be hard on a cat's sensitive paw pads. Use a vet-recomended moistener on their pads to keep them safe in extreme cold and hot weather that can dry and crack their little paws.
4. Watch how your pets groom. If they seem overly obsessed with licking their feet, check their toes for any of the problems already mentioned.
Animal Planet on Discovery.com suggests ways for cat owners to help pets groom if they are having trouble doing it themselves.
One suggestion is to brush your cat daily to help remove old, shed fur and help the cat feel refreshed.
Sometimes cats will stop grooming themselves as they grow older, gain too much weight, or become ill. If any of these things happen, take your cat to the vet for professional grooming help and advice.