Why Cats Pull at Their Claws: Understanding the Reasons

claw pulling

If you’ve ever noticed your cat pulling at their claws, you might be wondering what’s behind this behavior. Don’t worry too much, it’s usually nothing serious. Let’s dive into the three main reasons why cats engage in this behavior: normal grooming, medical issues, and behavioral factors.

Normal Grooming: A Peek into Your Cat’s Claws

When it comes to grooming, cats engage in various behaviors such as licking, chewing, and biting. Understanding the structure of their claws can help us comprehend why they pull at them. A cat’s claws are composed of layers that grow from the inside out. Over time, the outer layer can become worn and frayed. So, when your cat pulls at their claws, they are trying to remove the outer layer to reveal the sharp claw underneath. In most cases, nail-biting is considered normal and doesn’t require any treatment.

claw pulling

Medical Causes: When It’s More Than Just Grooming

Apart from normal grooming, there are instances where cats pull at their claws due to underlying medical issues. Some of these causes include:


Ringworm, a fungal infection, can be difficult to diagnose in cats. It can cause skin irritations and dandruff, often leaving a red ring on the skin’s surface.

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Pemphigus is a common autoimmune skin disease in cats that leads to irritations on the face, ears, and paws.

Brittle and Thick Nails

Older cats might experience brittle or thick claws due to various factors like bacterial infections, cancerous tumors, or cutting the claws too close to the nail bed. These conditions can leave the claws vulnerable to infections.

If you notice your cat compulsively licking and biting their claws, having difficulty walking, or showing signs of pain, it’s crucial to seek medical advice.

claw pulling

Behavioral Factors: When Habits Get Out of Hand

Excessive chewing of claws can also be a result of behavioral issues in cats. It’s important to distinguish between normal behavior and excessive behavior. Keep an eye on your cat and be aware of any unusual behavior patterns.

How to Help: Simple Steps to Alleviate the Issue

Here are a few tips to help your cat overcome claw-pulling habits and regain their comfort:

Keep a Routine

Cats thrive on routines, so maintaining a predictable home life can be beneficial for them. Feed them at the same time each day and schedule regular playtimes.

Reduce Stress

Identify the cause of stress and take steps to restore harmony in your cat’s life. If it’s caused by another cat in the home, consider separating and gradually reintroducing them. Neutering can also help reduce aggression. Additionally, ensure you have enough resources for each cat, including food and water bowls and litter trays.

Provide Mental Stimulation

Indoor cats require mental stimulation, especially if you’re away for long periods. Schedule playtime each day or create an enriched environment with elevated surfaces like shelving or cat trees. Interactive toys and simple items like boxes or paper bags can keep your cat entertained. If possible, consider building a cat enclosure to provide them with a safe space to explore.

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Consulting Your Vet: When in Doubt

If you’re concerned about your cat’s claw-pulling behavior or notice symptoms such as redness, raw skin, bleeding, or hair loss, it’s recommended to consult your veterinarian. They can assess whether the behavior is normal, medical, or behavioral and provide appropriate guidance.

Remember, understanding the reasons behind your cat’s claw pulling can help you address the issue effectively and ensure your furry friend is in good health and spirits.

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