Why Are My Cat’s Nails Splitting? Tips From a Vet

Do you find yourself worrying about your cat’s nails splitting? It can be concerning to see their nails in such a condition. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons why your cat’s nails may be splitting and provide you with helpful tips from a vet on how to address this issue.

Why are my cat’s nails splitting?

It’s natural to be alarmed when you notice your cat’s nails splitting or even falling off. However, most of the time, it’s a natural process similar to how our own nails may break.

Here are some possible reasons for your cat’s nail splitting:

1. Broken Nail

If your kitten has broken a nail, it is essential to seek medical attention to ensure there are no underlying issues causing it. If you’re unsure whether the nail is broken or not, it’s best to consult a professional for advice.

2. Unhealthy Nails

Diseased claws can be a symptom of underlying health issues. If your cat is exhibiting excessive paw licking, limping, or experiences pain while not scratching, there may be an unseen issue. In such cases, it’s crucial to contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

3. Nail and Nail Bed Disorders

Cats can have nail and nail bed disorders such as onychorrhexis and onychomadesis. Onychorrhexis refers to extremely brittle nails, while onychomadesis involves nails separating, peeling, and sloughing excessively. These disorders share similar symptoms with unhealthy nails, and it’s challenging to determine the exact cause without professional assistance. If you suspect a nail disorder, it’s advisable to schedule an appointment with your vet.

4. Age

Just like humans, older cats may experience brittle or tougher nails as they age. Senior cats’ claws tend to grow thicker than those of younger cats, which can lead to increased issues. Underlying health conditions such as arthritis can make it harder for older cats to use scratching posts.

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5. Nail Clippers

The type of nail clippers you use can also contribute to nail splitting. The most common types are guillotine-type clippers, scissors cutters, and human nail clippers. Guillotine and human nail clippers are generally easier to use. However, if the clippers are dull, they may crush the nail instead of cutting it, increasing the likelihood of splitting.

6. Trimming Technique

If you use guillotine-type clippers, it’s essential to use the correct technique to avoid hurting your cat. Ensure that the cutting blade aligns with the direction of your cat’s claws. This will help prevent crushing the nail instead of cutting it.

7. Shedding

The least severe reason for your cat’s nail splitting may be shedding. Unlike our nails that continue to grow until we cut or break them, cats’ claws grow differently. When a cat scratches furniture or posts, it helps their claws grow. As they grow, the top layer splits to make room for the new nail. It’s similar to how a snake sheds its old skin. If you’ve ruled out other potential issues, rest assured that this is a normal process.

Tips to Trim Your Cat’s Nails Safely

According to Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian, it’s best to have help when trimming your cat’s nails. Here’s what she recommends:

  1. Place your cat on a slick surface, such as a counter.
  2. Gently press on each toe and extract the toenail.
  3. Trim only the sharp tip of the nail, avoiding over-trimming.
  4. Initially, your cat may only tolerate a few nails being trimmed. Gradually work on trimming more nails each day until you’ve trimmed them all.

It’s crucial to have the right tools for the job. The three main types of nail clippers are:

  • Guillotine-type: These have a sliding blade that allows you to adjust how much you want to cut off.
  • Scissors: These resemble kid scissors with large grips and a dent to place the nail inside. The position of the nail clippers determines the amount of nail to be cut.
  • Human clippers: These are familiar to us, and you can control how much nail is cut with them.
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Choose the clipper that best suits your situation. If you’re a beginner, the guillotine-type clipper with an adjustable blade may provide more control.

Understanding the different parts of a cat’s nail is also essential. The visible white part of the nail is called the nail, while the pink part, known as the quick, contains the blood supply. Cutting into the quick can cause bleeding and be painful for your cat. So, it’s important to be cautious when trimming their nails.

If you’re anxious about cutting your cat’s nails for the first time or want to ensure you’re doing it correctly, you can consult a professional who can guide you through the process. Some professionals even offer tutorials to help you gain confidence in trimming your cat’s nails.

Tips to Keep Your Cat’s Nail Splitting to a Minimum

Dr. Ochoa recommends the following tips to prevent your cat’s nails from splitting:

  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly to maintain their health and prevent splitting.
  • Make sure that your cat is eating a proper diet as nutrition plays a significant role in the health of their nails.
  • Provide your cat with a scratching post to help them naturally sharpen their claws and keep them in good condition.

By ensuring your cat has the proper resources and using the correct trimming technique, you can help keep their claws healthy and minimize the risk of splitting.


Discovering that your cat’s nails are splitting can be worrisome, but it’s important to remember that in most cases, it’s a natural process. However, if you notice any underlying symptoms or have concerns, it’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian. By following the tips provided by Dr. Ochoa and taking proper care of your cat’s nails, you can help keep them healthy and prevent splitting. So, grab those nail clippers and give your furry friend the paw-some pedicure they deserve!

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