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Does a Cat Scratcher Sharpen or Dull Nails? Tips & FAQ

A cat scratcher provides felines with a way to engage in their usual scratching behavior, which helps them maintain the health of their claws. Cats need to scratch. It helps them remove the outer sheath of their claws, which needs to be shed occasionally as their claws grow. Therefore, a cat scratcher isn’t really about sharpening or dulling a cat’s nails—it’s about removing the outer, dead layer.

Cat scratchers do not sharpen a cat’s nails like you may sharpen a knife. Instead, the old, worn layer is removed to make way for the fresh layer under eath, which is often sharper. However, the nail can become overgrown and overly sharp without a cat scratcher, which can be a significant problem.

Cats will find a way to scratch even if you don’t provide the proper location or material. It’s an instinctual need that helps them keep their claws healthy.

However, not all cats scratch enough. This may lead to their nails becoming too sharp or too long. In these cases, you may need to clip their nails for them. You can do this at home or have a vet or groomer do it.

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How Do I Keep My Cats Claws Dull?

Without proper care, your cat’s claws can become increasingly sharp. Luckily, there are several things you can do to help your cat’s claws stay healthy and not terribly sharp.

1. Provide a Scratching Surface

Firstly, you should give your cat access to a cat scratcher or similar surface for them to scratch. You may need several of these scratching surfaces if you have a big house or several cats.

Different cats also have different scratching preferences. Some prefer to scratch vertically, while others prefer to scratch horizontally. Therefore, meeting these preferences can be helpful.

Cats naturally like to scratch to mark their territory, stretch their muscles, and keep their claws healthy. A scratching post provides a textured surface for them to scratch, which can help naturally file down the claws and prevent them from becoming too sharp.

cat using cardboard scratching post
Image Credit: Evgenia Terekhova, Shutterstock
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2. Choose the Right Material

While some cats may have individual preferences for scratching surfaces, some are pickier than others. Typically, sisal, carpet, and cardboard are the best option. Most commercial cat scratchers are made with one of these materials.

The “right” material varies from cat to cat. Therefore, you may need to experiment with different materials to determine which option is best for your cat.

grey cat using hepper hi-lo cat scratcher from side

We're quite fond of cardboard as a material in cat scratchers, which is why we love the Hepper Hi-Lo Cat Scratcher. Encased within a well-constructed, modern birch plywood frame, this scratcher is designed with both cats and their owners in mind. It offers three versatile configurations to keep your feline friend active and entertained while enticing them to fulfill their natural scratching instincts (and away from scratching things they shouldn't). For more details, click here!

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest, so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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3. Placement of Scratcher

The placement of the scratcher also matters though some cats will be pickier than others in this regard. You should put the scratcher where your cat spends the most time. If your cat scratches in a certain place naturally, you may want to place it there.

If you have several scratchers, place them in different locations. This helps your cat find somewhere to scratch no matter where they are.

cat scratching_Xandra Luijks_Pixabay
Image Credit: Xandra Luijks, Pixabay
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4. Encourage Proper Scratching

While you don’t want cats scratching furniture, you do want them to scratch on the proper surfaces. By scratching these surfaces, your cat takes care of their nails, which is precisely what you want them to do.

Therefore, it’s best to redirect and encourage your cat’s scratching in the proper places. If you only get onto them when they’re scratching in the wrong places, they might assume you don’t want them to scratch at all. Of course, this can be a problem and lead to overgrown nails.

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5. Regular Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimmings may be necessary for some cats. Different cats have different grooming needs. Sometimes, their nails grow faster than they can wear them down. Therefore, you must trim their nails as necessary.

You can do this at home or have a groomer do it. Many groomers allow for quick appointments that only involve nail trimmings.


Trimming your cat's nails at home can be hard, but having a professional do it can be expensive. With the help of great tools like Hepper's Cat Nail Clipper Set, you can easily and quickly trim your cat's nails at home. This set includes two pairs of stainless steel clippers with safety guards and locking mechanisms, plus a built-in nail file and a convenient pouch.

At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!


Do Scratching Posts Make Cat Claws Sharper?

No, scratching posts do not make cat claws sharper, or make them more pointed or dangerous. Scratching posts provide a textured surface that allows cats to engage in their natural scratching behavior.

When cats scratch on a suitable surface like a scratching post, they remove the outer sheath of their claws, revealing the sharper claws underneath. The scratching helps shed the claw’s outer layer, which may have become dull or frayed.

Regular scratching on appropriate surfaces, like scratching posts, helps prevent claws from becoming excessively sharp or overgrown. It also helps to keep the claws at an ideal length and condition.

Scottish fold little cat playing on scratching posts
Image Credit: Anatoliy Cherkas, Shutterstock

Do Cat Claws Get Dull?

Yes, cat claws can become dull over time. The outer sheath of a cat’s claw is made of keratin, the same material that makes up human nails. As cats use their claws for various activities like scratching, climbing, and playing, the outer layer of the claw can become worn down or frayed.

Regular scratching on appropriate surfaces, such as scratching posts, helps cats shed the outer layer of their claws, revealing sharper claws underneath.

However, if a cat’s claws are not regularly maintained or if they do not have access to suitable scratching surfaces, the outer layer of the claws can accumulate and become dull. This can lead to discomfort for the cat, as excessively long or dull claws may cause issues like snagging, difficulty retracting the claws, or uncomfortable walking.

To prevent claws from becoming excessively dull or overgrown, it’s important to provide cats with appropriate scratching surfaces, encourage regular scratching behavior, and, if needed, trim their claws using cat nail clippers. Regular nail maintenance helps ensure the claws are at an appropriate length and condition for the cat’s comfort.

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Final Thoughts

Cat scratchers do not really make a cat’s nails sharper or duller. Instead, the nail is constantly refreshing itself with new layers. The old layer will slowly wear out as the cat uses their nails. Eventually, this older layer will be shed by scratching, revealing the newer, sharper layer underneath.

Therefore, scratching does technically dull the cat’s nails. If cats never used their nails, they would get very sharp and very long prompting a need for human intervention. However, eventually, this scratching will make the old layer fall off, making the nail sharp again.

It’s an ongoing cycle—not one or the other.

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Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock