Cat Claw Facts to Share at Parties

Cat claws grow continuously.

The next time you need a fun fact to get the conversation going at a party, try sharing one of these fascinating bits of information about cats' claws.

Cats Have Claws, Not Nails

Nails are flat, dull, and grow on top of the digits, like humans' do. They are mainly there to provide protection for a well-used part of the body.

Claws, on the other hand, grow out of the tips of the digits, are sharp, and have hooks. They are meant for use in climbing, grabbing and holding onto prey, providing protection, and removing meat from the bone. They grow continually throughout the bearer's life.

Cats have five toes with claws on each of their front feet and four toes with claws on each of their back feet.

A Cat's Claw Grows Like an Onion

Claws grow in layers like an onion. When a cat scratches something like a tree trunk or a scratching post, it removes the outer, dull layers and reveals the next, sharper layer underneath.

If your cat is wearing Soft Paws®, the vinyl cap will fall off with the outer claw layer after an average of four to six weeks.

The claws also grow longer. They're typically worn down through use, but if not, they need to be trimmed periodically, so they don't curve around and grow into the toe pads.

Cats' Claws Retract, but Not into a Sheath

Many people believe that a cat's claws can be retracted into a sheath when they aren't being used. This isn't exactly what happens. When a cat's claws are at rest, they sit up and back a bit. For cats with fur, that makes them difficult or impossible to see, but if you were to push aside the fur, you would see the claws' tips still. They do not completely disappear. Retraction keeps a cat's claws from being worn down during regular walking, so they stay sharp for use.

When a cat wants to use the claws, he uses tendons to extend them. This is a similar motion to a human pointing their toes.

This is why Soft Paws® do not interfere with retraction and extension of a cat's claws. The kitty is still able to retract them fully and extend them when desired. The claws are simply covered, so they're less likely to do damage to belongings or humans.

Cats Walk on Their Toes

Cats are digitigrade animals. That means their normal gait has them walking up on their toes. In contrast, humans are plantigrade, walking on the bottoms of their feet.

This plantigrade stance is one of the reasons declawing is so incredibly detrimental to cats. Not only must the kitty walk directly on the amputation sites, but those structures are also fundamentally disturbed, leading to crippling changes in the structure of the foot and potential lifelong pain.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.