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Why Do Cats Like Nail Files? 4 Interesting Reasons

It isn’t odd for cats to rub against nail files or lick them and there are several reasons why this may occur. The most likely reason is that they enjoy consuming the left-over nail dust on the file. Although there are other reasons, none are particularly worrisome, so you don’t have to worry about your cat liking a nail file.

Here are some reasons why your cat may like nail files:

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The 4 Reasons Why Cats Like Nail Files

1. Minerals

When you file your nails, you may unwittingly leave several minerals on the nail file. Nail dust can contain magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Cats may be deficient in these items or just like the taste. The felines may lick the nail files to consume these nutrients and minerals.

Of course, we don’t know if this is true or not. We can’t ask the cats and no studies have been done on this topic. However, it’s one of the most popular theories.

If you think your cat is too close to your nail filer, you may want to speak to your vet about the potential deficiency your cat has. However, the average cat food should contain enough minerals for your feline. Cats may rarely need extra minerals due to underlying conditions.

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2. It Feels Good

The scratchy surface of the nail file may feel good on your cat’s face or tongue. They may rub up against the nail file for this reason. The nail file has a surface similar to a cat’s tongue. Therefore, it’s likely that cats like how it feels.

That said, we can’t know for sure about this reason either. It’s a strong possibility, but we can’t exactly just ask our cats.

Cats are intriguing animals who sometimes have odd interests and indulge in unusual behavior. Understanding them might be tough but providing a toy that fosters their instinctual needs and curiosities is simple.The Hepper Hi-Lo Cat Scratcher encourages playtime and offers a cat-appropriate place to scratch. 

cat in living room playing with hepper hi-lo cat scratcher while in highest position

It’s unique 3-position design and cardboard scratch pad allow your cat to explore different levels, improves their health, satisfies natural feline impulses, and deters your cat from delving into places they should not. Show your cat how much you love and appreciate their quirks by gifting them the Hepper Hi-Lo Cat Scratcher.

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3. Scent Marking

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks to mark their territory. That’s why cats often rub against things with their face, marking their territory. Your feline may need to mark their territory on the nail file. In this way, they may rub up against the nail filer for a time.

However, if this is the case, the cat will probably rub up against everything else, too (including you!)


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4. Scratching

Scratching is a need for cats. They must scratch to keep their nails filed down, and it’s vital for their health. This is why cats scratch on furniture and carpets. It’s instinctual. Cats may like scratching on nail filers for the same reason, especially if you use them on your cat’s nails. It may feel good to scratch their nails on this rough surface.

You should provide your cat with scratching posts to wear their nails down. You don’t have to worry about your cat scratching on a nail filer as long as you do this. Your cat just needs to have multiple scratching options available.


Stopping your cat from scratching can be tricky, but keeping their nails trimmed can help. Hepper's Cat Nail Clipper Set can make it easier, with sharp stainless steel blades for precision clipping and ergonomic, non-slip handles. The built-in safety guard and locking switch will keep you and your cat safe, and the two different sizes of clippers will allow you to handle any size or angle of nails. 

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!



Cats often like nail files because of the left-over nail dust on the file. However, they may like the nail file for many other reasons, too. For instance, it may simply feel good on their skin. Alternatively, they could use it for scent marking, as cats have scent glands in their cheeks.

Typically, there isn’t a problem with your cat liking the nail file. In most cases, there isn’t anything you need to be concerned with. However, cats that insistently lick the nail filer may have mineral deficiencies that need to be addressed by a vet.

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Featured Image Credit: Lapina, Shutterstock