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do cats shed their claws

do cats shed their claws

do cats shed their claws

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do cats shed their claws

No, they don’t – their claws do not drop off in their entirety with a fresh one growing in place of the old claw.

What does happen and what can confuse people and leave them certain that a claw has been lost is that layers of a claw can peel off. These layers are curved and pointed and mirror the shape of the claw leading people to assume their cat has indeed shed a claw. These layers are actually known as claw “sheaths”.

Claw sheaths come away at regular intervals to reveal fresh, sharp claws underneath the old top layer or sheath.

If you looked at a Cat claw in cross-section you would see that the claw is built up of numerous layers. As the layers move away from a blood supply they detach to reveal fresh layers of the claw beneath. The cat ends up with claws that are continually layering and shedding to reveal fresh sharp claws beneath!

do cats shed their claws
do cats shed their claws

Cat nails are always growing

Like human fingernails, claws grow throughout the cat’s entire life. They need to be trimmed because they are always growing,

and indoor cats don’t have opportunities to wear away their claws by scratching them on things like tree bark in the same way that outdoor cats do. Trimming their claws means they can knead on your lap without causing pain,

and their claws won’t get stuck when they scratch on things like carpet.

What is cat scratching?

Cats scratch by dragging their claws downward on a vertical surface, or towards them on a horizontal surface. This action is called “stropping” and is what helps to remove the outer shell of their claws. Some cats prefer scratching on either a horizontal or vertical surface and

some will scratch on a combination of the two. You might have also seen your cat drag himself along the floor by his claws – this might not be great for your carpets but is another

example of how cats loosen and shed those outer claw husks.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is an instinctive, natural behavior that not only helps to keep your cat’s claws in tip-top condition but also plays an important role in communication with other cats. All cats have scent glands in their feet that release scent onto the surfaces they scratch. This scent, combined with the visual damage caused by scratching, and the shed outer claw shells, are all ways in which cats mark their territory and communicate with other cats.

do cats shed their claws
do cats shed their claws

Why Is My Cat Missing Claws Then?

Cats do sometimes have missing claws (and they lose their whiskers). A cat that spends time outdoors is more likely to have missing claws as a result of routine daily activities.

It is not unheard of for cats to lose claws during fights with other cats. Usually the front claws are lost during fights.

Cats that have been accidentally trapped can end up digging themselves out or trying to claw their way out of a problem – the result can be the loss of the claws on the front feet.

In other circumstances, like climbing or jumping fences, mistimed or poorly executed leaps can result in a scramble that results in the loss of the odd claw from front or rear paws.

If your cat losses all of its claws this may signify that it has been involved in a road traffic accident. When a cat is hit by a car or bike the shock of impact makes them extend and dig in their claws to the pavement surface – of course, then they are flung by the impact and their claws are left at the spot of the accident.

Indoor cats can also lose the odd claw due to activity. They can get caught up in fabric on furniture and get ripped out following an escape attempt.

Why Is My Cat Missing Claws?

If your cat has always had missing claws and your cat came from an unknown background it could be that they were declawed early in life by an owner who was anxious to protect property from scratch marks.

Where your cat has accidentally lost claws in daily activity the claw will eventually grow back out much like if a human loses a nail. Declawed cats never regrow their claws. If the missing claw has left a tender or bleeding area of the paw it is important to try to stop the bleeding and clean the area to reduce the risk of infection. The best way to do this is with a salt bath to clean and reduce the chance of infection and then by dabbing the area with a dressing until the bleeding stops.

do cats shed their claws
do cats shed their claws

Can Cats Break Their Claws?

If you come across your cat’s claw and there is blood or you can see that there is no longer a nail attached to the paw, then you should be concerned. Cats can break their nails, just like people and dogs can. The nail can either break off, leaving part of the nail in the nailbed, or come fully detached from the nailbed. Either way, the nail will eventually grow back, but there are some concerns in the meantime.

No matter what type of nail break your cat has, there is a risk of infection, pain, and bleeding. There is a blood vessel inside your cat’s claws called the quick. The quick can be torn or broken open when a nail breaks, leading to a large amount of bleeding and pain. In some instances, the nail can be pulled out of the nailbed but leave the quick behind. There may not be any blood, but there is a risk of infection and the quick is very sensitive, so this can be extremely painful to your cat. You may also spot an incomplete nail break, where the nail is still partially attached to your cat’s foot but is cracked and dangling.

What Can I Do if My Cat Breaks its Claw?

If you notice that your cat has experienced a broken claw, a vet visit is in order. It typically isn’t an emergency unless you can’t get the bleeding under control,

or your cat is in a large amount of pain that doesn’t seem to be subsiding. Styptic powder is available at pet stores and can help stop the quick bleeding if your cat’s nail becomes damaged. Oftentimes, styptic powder can help decrease the amount of discomfort your cat is experiencing as well.

It is a good idea to get your cat to the vet as soon as you can. If it’s a holiday or weekend,

then it’s likely an issue that can wait until the regular vet reopens but you should monitor your cat’s behavior carefully. If you notice behaviors that are unusual for your cat,

like hiding, aggression, limping, hyper-grooming, or not eating or drinking, then your cat may need to see the emergency vet to make sure there is not another injury that has occurred when the nail became damaged. In severe cases, an injury to a claw can result in joint, tendon, or bone injuries.

How Do I Care for My Cat’s Claws?

In addition to honing their nails, scratching also helps cats to shed old claw sheaths. Felines who never scratch can require medical attention for nails that have grown so long that they curl under and pierce the paw pads.

This is why owners need to provide adequate clawing surfaces, such as a sturdy scratching post. Clipping also aids the shedding process — cutting the excess nail off means that cats don’t have to do as much scratching.

But even with regular nail trimming, kitties can still feel the need to scratch. “There is definitely a psychological reason why cats do this,” says Dr. Smith. “There is a look on their face of enjoyment. When they are happy, they really get their claws into it. It’s part of their environmental enrichment.”

do cats shed their claws
do cats shed their claws

What Causes Claw Sheaths to Fall Off?

The good news is that the process is natural and actually beneficial for a cat. Claws are essential for felines, who use them for defense, climbing and hunting.

According to Dr. Smith, when this happens, the nail has grown beyond the blood supply,

so the outside sheath is discarded to make room for a newer, sharper version. He estimates that this happens to each claw about every two to three months in the average housecat.

Don’t panic if you see claw sheaths on the ground

When you see pieces of your cat’s claws on the floor or embedded in his scratching post,

it just means that the outside layer of his claw has grown beyond the blood supply and therefore falls off when he scratches — revealing a nice,

sharp new talon underneath! Cats generally shed each claw once every few months.

Your cat’s claws grow right out of his phalanges

You might have noticed in the illustrations above that it looks like a cat’s claw grows right out of his distal phalanx. That’s because it does. Unlike our fingernails, which are only connected to flesh, a cat’s claws are connected directly to the bone. What that means is that when a cat is declawed, it’s not just a super-mega nail trim. The entire distal phalanx needs to be amputated in order to keep the claws from growing back again. As you can imagine, this makes declawing very painful,

particularly since your cat has to walk on what’s left of his fingers afterwards.

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