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My Cat Lost a Claw – Is That Normal? Do Cat Claws Shed?

If you’ve found bits of your cat’s claws around the house, the good news is that this is a normal and healthy part of owning a cat.

As cat claws grow out from the blood supply (also known as the quick), they form what’s called a claw sheath. The sheaths peel off the claws and shed, revealing a sharper claw beneath them.

If you’re only seeing small, thin pieces of a claw, there’s no harm in these shedding and falling out. This is a normal part of cat life.

If you see large, thick pieces or your cat is missing a claw in the socket, have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian. This could be a severe injury that needs to be overseen by a doctor to prevent infection and promote comprehensive healing.

divider-catclaw1What Are Nail Sheaths?

As human nails grow out, they break and split. While they make good tools with a little bit of length, they can be cumbersome if they get too long.

Similarly, as cats’ claws grow out, they get dull. Dull nails aren’t good for defending themselves, hunting, or using as tools.

Unlike human nails that just break away and get shorter, the dull portion of a cat’s claws breaks off and reveals a sharper claw beneath it.

Additionally, long claws are uncomfortable on the feet when your cat walks by changing the point of pressure on the pads. Breaking the sheaths off their claws shortens and sharpens the claw, making it more comfortable when they walk.

The breaking of the nail sheaths also prevents the claws from becoming too long. If the claws become too long, they can curve into the paw pads and pierce them.

If the claws pierce into the paw pads, it’s not only painful for the cat, but it can become infected if not removed. Some cats require surgical intervention to remove claws that have gotten stuck in their paw pads.

cat claws when kneading
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

How Do Claw Sheaths Shed?

Claw sheaths usually are shed while the cat scratches. Cats will scratch scratching posts, furniture, carpeting, or wood to shed claw sheaths.

You can also artificially shed the claw sheaths by clipping your cat’s nails. When you clip their nails, the sheath will break and peel away. This is normal and healthy as well.

When trying to shed the claw sheaths from the back paws, cats will usually bite and pull on the claw sheaths to remove them from the claws. You can help your cat keep their claws properly maintained by providing adequate materials to regularly scratch and trim their nails.

What Kind of Scratching Tools Do Cats Prefer?

Just like people, cats have individual tastes, and what a cat prefers may differ between two cats. While some cats may prefer a vertical, others may prefer a horizontal surface. You’ll just have to work with your cat to figure out what works best for them and what they like the most.

Most cats tend to prefer objects that are tall and sturdy. They like to stand up next to it and put their weight on the object to dig their nails into it and get a good grip on it.

In the wild, most cats would scratch on trees. As a result, most cats will scratch untreated wood if it’s offered to them. Some cats also like the texture of corrugated cardboard, sisal rope, or carpeting.

Cat parents who are particularly handy can make their own scratching posts by affixing sturdy wood beams to a base that allows them to stand upright. If you want to get fancy, you can add carpeting or sisal rope to make the scratching post irresistible to your cat.

paw with long and sharp claws_RJ22_shutterstock
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Is Additional Nail Care Necessary?

Nail care is necessary to help your cats stay healthy. Regular nail trims help cats shed their nail sheaths without excessive scratching and can help protect your furniture from your cat’s scratching.

Additionally, nail trimming helps keep their nails from getting too long or going too long without shedding the sheaths. You shouldn’t skimp on it. It helps keep your cat healthy and happy!

How to Get Your Cat Used to Nail Trims

You can trim your cat’s nails at home or have a professional do it. Most veterinarians’ offices offer nail trimming services where a trained technician in handling animals will trim your cat’s nails for you.

Additionally, you could have your cat see a professional groomer every so often to have their nails trimmed and maintained if you find the process to be unwieldy to do yourself.

There are some essential keys to helping your cat adjust to the process of being groomed by a human. Here are some tips to help your cat acclimate:

  • Start Young: If your cat has experienced grooming all their life, they’re more likely to view it as a part of living rather than a threat to be neutralized. Start by touching and holding their feet when they’re a kitten. This will help not only get them used to having their feet touched by humans for nail trims, but it also helps your vet during physical examinations when they have to take hold of your cat’s feet and legs.
  • Follow Your Cat’s Lead: Your cat will know best when their nails need to be groomed. If you see your cat scratching at their scratching post, their front claws may need a trim to help them shed those nail sheaths. Similarly, if your cat is nipping and pulling at their back feet, they may need to trim their back nails.
  • Reward Your Cat: Rewarding your cat for good behavior during grooming helps reinforce positive associations with grooming. A quick treat or some snuggles is usually enough of a reward to keep your cat calm during the process.

divider-catclaw1Final Thoughts

Grooming your cat’s nails is an essential part of cat ownership. While cats do a great job of maintaining their nails, a helping hand can keep them on track and save your furniture from the murder mittens!

If you’re finding a lot of nail sheaths around your house, it’s probably a sign that you need to trim your cat’s nails more frequently. That way, the nail sheaths don’t shed when they’re scratching!

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Featured Image Credit: Naturell, Pixabay

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