A Cat and Her Claws
A cat’s claws are an integral part of who she is. Cats are exceptional hunters, excellent climbers and specialists in personal defense—thanks in great part to their unique protractile (extendable) claws. They also use their claws as social signaling instruments, leaving messages on surfaces to tell other cats where they frequent. Although an indoor cat doesn’t need to use her claws to hunt, will probably never need to defend herself and may have no other cats around to leave messages for, her claws and their care will still influence her natural behavior. Because her claws grow in layers, she’ll frequently feel the need to sharpen them against coarse materials to remove the worn and fraying outer layer. In addition, she’ll use her claws in play, often extending them but purposely inhibiting the precision of her paw swipes. Unfortunately, while this use of her claws is natural, normal behavior for a cat, it can create certain problems for her pet parents.
However, scratching and other claw use in cats is much easier to manage than most people realize. You can teach your cat to direct her scratching toward appropriate targets. (Please see our article, Scratching, for more information.) You can also use plastic caps on your cat’s claws (Soft Claws®). However, a simpler and easier solution is to regularly trim them yourself. Although the thought of trimming your cat’s claws may be intimidating, if you do a bit of preparation in advance, proceed slowly and follow the guidelines below, the procedure can be relatively trouble-free and painless for everyone.
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