6 Amazing Facts About Cat Nails

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

A cat’s claws, the tiny knives beneath the toes, are simply amazing. Each detail is so beautifully crafted, and the nails themselves are a big part of what makes a cat, a cat! They aren’t just cute little fuzzy paws, there is pure science happening beneath those toes! Here are some amazing facts about a cat’s claws you may not have known.

A Cat’s Foot Bones Are a Lot like Human Hands

The phalanges in a cat’s foot are the bones that attach the nails to the rest of the paw’s bone structure. The toes are directly connected to the leg bones. Think of a phalanx as a finger, this is connected to the metacarpal bone. The metacarpal bone is the same bone in your hand connecting your knuckles to the heel of the hand, which connects to the wrist.

Next time you consider declawing a cat, keep in mind that each phalanx is REMOVED! Think of someone removing the tips of your fingers. How hard do you think it would be to type? Imagine if all your weight was pressed on the tips of those fingers, which leads to the next fact…

A Cat Walks on Its Tippy-Toes

Unlike humans who walk on the heels and balls of the feet, a cat is a digitigrade walker. This means they walk on their tippy-toes! Imagine how strong their toes are to carry all their weight during running, playing, jumping. Have you ever tried walking on your tiptoes for an extended time? It is quite hard. Now imagine doing this with toes that have had the tip of each bone removed!! Please people, don’t declaw cats. It is not right and painful. Just because they can’t tell you it hurts, or don’t show it, doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there. We hide pain every day.

Claws Are Controlled by Tendons and Ligaments

The flexor tendon is responsible for the nail being extended or retracted. With tension in the flexor, a cat’s nail will come out, when it is relaxed, the nail rests through the middle phalanx which keeps the nail from touching the ground. Ligaments are what connect the bone to another bone. The tendons are responsible for connecting the bone to the muscle.

A Cat’s Nails Shed in Sheaths

Each nail in a cat’s paw is directly supplied with blood flow. As the nail grows, the blood supply begins to get cut off and once the outside layer no longer has blood flowing to it, it falls off. This will happen once every 3 months for each nail. You will find claw sheaths in furniture, scratching posts, or lying around on the floor.

If you happen to find one in your cat’s fur, be sure to remove it as it can lead to knots as well as poke unto their skin and become stuck.

Cat Nails Are like Human Hair

The main component that makes up our nails, hair and even mammal hooves is keratin. Because a cat’s nails are made of keratin, they grow in layers. If you ever cut your own nail too short, you will see blood. This is the case with cat nails. At the base of the keratin layers are nerves and blood flow. This allows for quick growth and quick repair.

Cat Nails Need to Be Trimmed

The nails grow quite quickly. For a cat who is not as active or not playing outdoors, it is important to keep an eye on how long they get. Most cats will take to scratching posts and other scratching areas which will keep the nails at a decent length. As they age, they will need assistance. Trimming the nails keeps them from being as sharp, and less likely to get caught on objects. If you ever caught your nail and bent it back on something, it is quite painful. Imagine a cat’s nail getting caught on something, and as read above, their nails are connected to the bone! Do not cut too short though, you do not want to hit the nerve. If you are nervous, have your vet or an experienced nail clipper show you how to do it.

Declawing Cats

It should be considered inhumane everywhere but unfortunately, only in a few countries is it illegal. So many cats end up homeless from becoming angry or depressed after getting declawed. People need to be fully aware of what is happening when a cat gets declawed. If you can’t handle a cat scratching its nails on things, or don’t have the time to train them, you should not own a cat. A cat’s nails are a HUGE part of what being a cat is all about. What if someone took away your voice to speak?

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