Do cats lose their claws?

Cat owners would often see a claw caught on the carpet or on the furniture the pet had been scratching. A torn claw would be seen stuck on the shredded curtain or caught on the sisal covering of the scratching post. The pet parent would therefore have the conclusion that just as the hair is shed, the claws are shed as well. Do cats really lose their claws? Cats would not be able to lose the claws even if they scratch the carpet 24/7. Unlike nails, a cat’s claw is actually a part of the distal phalanx or the last bone of the cat’s toe. What a cat or sheds is the worn out sheath that covers the claw.

Most mammals have appendages at the end of their fingers or toes. In humans, this appendage is called nails. In cats, these toe appendages are called claws. Nails and claws are both made of keratin. The only difference is that human nails are flat while cat claws are curved, pointed and very sharp. Cat claws are also retractable. The retractable claw is a most distinct characteristic of cats. Felix the cat and the rest of the tribe are digitigrade animals. This means that like a ballet dancer that dances on her toes, cats stand and walk on the tip of their toes. Cats are predators. Being digitigrades make cats excellent hunters. By walking on their digits, cats can move swiftly and silently. Without the claws, cats would have damaged and misshapen paw pads. Thanks to the claws, cats have an amazing keen balance that enables them to walk on ledges. Cats are excellent climbers because of the traction provided by the claws. Did you know that your cat is practically carrying sheathed ten daggers? Unsheathed, the razor sharp claws of the pet become highly efficient hunting tools. The sharp claws are as well used to fend off the attacks of predators. Cats use the claws to mark the territory. The inclination to scratch is a common concern of cat parents. The scratching though is not done to spite the owners. Cat owners have to realize that their pets are territorial animals. When cats scratch, the scent that is secreted by the glands on the front paws will be used to mark the territory. The most important reason for the scratching is to maintain the sharpness of the claws.

Claws are cats’ multipurpose tools. Without the claws, a cat would be one handicapped animal. This is one reason why some people would not want to declaw the pet. Cats do not really lose their claws. The claw is firmly connected to the last bone or the distal phalanx. A declawing procedure necessitates the amputation of the tendons, ligaments and the terminal toe bone. To lose their claws, cats would have to lose the terminal toe bone as well. So what are the claw-like objects often seen by the cat owner stuck on the object being scratched by the pet? Cats scratch to maintain the good condition of the claws. The claws have to be kept sharp. What is actually shed or lost is the worn out sheath that covers the claws. Once the old sheath is discarded, the new pin sharp claw will be revealed. This transparent sheath continuously grows and therefore periodically lost by the cat through scratching. The cat has to maintain the good condition of its claws thus do not prevent the pet from scratching. Of course an excessively scratching cat can be destructive. To prevent this unwanted occurrence, it would be best to train the pet to use a scratching post.

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