Why Do Cats Bite Their Nails?

For people, nail biting is a nervous habit that must be conquered. For cats, its a pretty normal grooming behavior. Up to a certain level, it is a normal part of feline grooming routines, explains Dr. Carlo Siracusa, clinical assistant professor of behavior medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia.

Siracusa warns that sometimes nails can grow too long and cause lesions on paw pads or even difficulty walking. To help lessen anxiety, he recommends that owners ensure that their cats have a reliable routine and are getting enough exercise.

It may take a couple of months before you start to see improvement with medication, but it should help even out the cats anxiety and help him feel more calm, Dodman explains.

Is it normal for my cat to bite his nails?

For people, nail biting is a nervous habit that must be conquered. For cats, it’s a pretty normal grooming behavior. “Up to a certain level, it is a normal part of feline grooming routines,” explains Dr.

Is it bad if my cat bites her nails?

Claw Biting and Chewing is Normal (Usually). Cats love to groom. Part of that process is cleaning their paws and getting “between the toes”, as it were. … Cats chew their claws sometimes to help discard the outer layer of their nails.

Do cats trim their own nails?

Cats may benefit from nail trimming. … DEAR VIOLE: Cats are pretty good at tending their own nails, but they can benefit from a nail trim every couple of weeks. Cats’ nails grow in layers. Clawing at a scratching post helps to remove the outer layer and expose the sharper nail beneath.

How do you get your cat to stop biting their nails?

Play with your cat..Allow your cat to approach with claws unsheathed..When claws come close to you, make a high-pitched yelp..Stand up and turn your back to your cat, ceasing play, for 30 seconds..Repeat.

For the most part, the biting and chewing of claws is a perfectly normal behavior in cats, and if you notice your cat doing this, there is usually nothing to be overly concerned about. Cats are fastidious groomers, constantly licking and cleaning themselves, and chewing their nails is just one other aspect of this practice of self-grooming. They may chew on their nails to shorten them and chew and lick around them to clean any loose dirt or debris.

Sometimes licking may not be enough to dislodge these things, and you may notice your cat pulling or tugging at their claws to free up the stuck debris. If youve moved to a new house or brought home a new pet, the reason is obvious and you can treat your cat accordingly.

Loneliness and boredom can also potentially cause excessive claw chewing, so you may need to spend more interactive time with your feline or consider purchasing stimulating cat toys .

Cats chew their claws as a regular part of grooming your cat enjoys cleanliness after all. Excessive biting can be a sign of an underlying problem, though. It could be a behavioral issue brought on by stress or anxiety.

While its generally considered normal, it can sometimes be a cause for concern for reasons well discuss below. Cats will chew and bite claws and toes to eliminate unwanted debris and detritus, like litter or sand.

This means that the nails outer layer tends to wear and fray. Cats chew their claws sometimes to help discard the outer layer of their nails. But if your otherwise healthy cat does not have proper facilities to claw, it may resort to excessive chewing.

The cat will attempt to lick or clear these, resulting in excessive claw attention. But when the fungus takes hold, it will affect hair and nails substances rich in keratin. Untreated ringworm causes hair loss, scales, infected claws, and nails, which results in excessive grooming.

Some breeds are also genetically predisposed to certain conditions Persians, for example, are susceptible to a number of disorders; infections among them. Aside from over-grooming, you might also see symptoms like hair loss (or more accurately, hair-pulling) and pica a compulsive eating disorder . Sufferers of pica (human and feline) compulsively eat non-foods like material, paper, cardboard, etc.

One of the first things you can provide is a high perch or a cat carrier thats isolated and free from any stressor. Amazing where you can end up when you chase your tail If another cat may be causing anxiety or aggression, you may have to re-introduce them. A TCA (Tricyclic antidepressant) or SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) may work as well for a cat as it does a human.

It may sound like a peculiar thing to say, but just because you see your cat pulling at his or her claws gently with teeth once in a blue moon, does not mean you necessarily have any cause for alarm. Ill get into why in the body of this article.

Needless to say, if you have any alarm or worries whatsoever over how much or how aggressively your cat is pulling at his or her nails, dont hesitate to talk to your vet. You absolutely could have sniffed out a somewhat subtle symptom of an underlying medical condition, or couldve uncovered a not-so-obvious hint at your cats anxiety levels being quite high.

If no underlying medical condition is present, your cat could be aggressively pulling and biting at his or her claws due to a physical injury or stress related factors, which Ill discuss as thoroughly as I can, but you dont want to jump to conclude injury or anxiety are the culprit until after youve had your vet have a look and run tests to confirm theres nothing medical hidden behind the chewing behaviour. Physical injury could be the result of the aggressive pulling action, and stress shouldnt be assumed unless everything else is ruled out. Lets jump into things, and yet again as a reminder if you have any concerns about your cats foot chewing, you should book a visit straight away.

Tell them your concerns about the nail biting, and list any other behaviours that flagged your attention as potential symptoms. Cats nails often get dirt, dust, debris, hair, fur, and quite a lot of other things stuck in them. If the mere act of licking doesnt do the trick freeing whats lodged in their claws, while grooming, healthy cats will sometimes bite gently on their toenails to get whats stuck out.

Cats also chew on their claws at times to help them remove their nails outer layer. As that new outer layer is used up and begins to wear and grow dull, its shed, and the process is repeated over again. Its also ideal to have a variety of different types of scratching surfaces, as well as posts at different angles, in particular, if your cat doesnt like using the ones he or shes got.

Biting to the point of a lesser physical injury, such as redness, hair loss, or raw skin. If you believe your cats nail biting is potentially abnormal, speak to your vet about the behaviour, including details about: If your cat bites his or her nails more frequently at specific points of the day (after eating, for instance).

If youve noticed any other unusual behaviour, like a loss of appetite or excessive licking & over-grooming (i.e. barbering) in general. What this means is the physical injury could be either the symptom or the cause of the abnormal claw pulling behaviour. CPC Cares has a great shortlist on medical issues that can cause chronic nail chewing:

Kate Huges for Pet MD sheds some light on the way infections in particular can result in felines excessively chewing on paws: Bacterial or yeast infections may cause a cat to pick at his paws, and, by extension, his nails. [] Additionally, if an owner cuts a cats nails too short, it may lead to infections because the blood vessels in the claws are no longer protected.

WARE Wood Angled Sisal Cat Scratcher Pad Amazon / eBay Typically, kitties like one heck of a lot of routine, disdaining nearly any change thats big enough to disrupt their daily schedule. There are plenty of things you can do if you get to the point where stress and anxiety are the only answers left to explain excessive and/or aggressive nail biting in your cat.

Start with 5% of the meal being the new food, then 10, then 15.. until finally youve transitioned completely in a way your cat is not stressed over. Try to remove the visual stimulus by closing the curtains, or finding a way to keep the neighbourhood cats away from your window completely. Other things you can do in general to reduce stress and anxiety include keeping as regular a daily routine as possible when it comes to your cat.

If you discover a potential stressor like a lack of happiness using the litter box or something that has to do with food time since your cat starts nail biting after these experiences try testing out a few different changes (slowly, and one at a time) to see if any fixes ends up being a solution to the anxiety.

Normal Nail Chewing and Maintenance

As Siracusa notes, some nail chewing is to be expected when cats groom. “When we see a cat cleaning its paws, it may chew on its nails or around its paw pads to get rid of dirt, litter, or other debris,” he says. “All of these can get stuck in the paw pads, so it is a necessary part of the cleaning process.” Additionally, if a cat’s nail starts to break or shed, it’s not uncommon for the cat to chew off the hanging piece to stop it from catching on things.Also, while it is normal, depending on the cat, an owner may not actually see this behavior take place. “Many cats like to retreat to a private and comfortable place when they’re cleaning themselves, so owners of those cats wouldn’t often see their cats grooming,” Siracusa says. “Of course, there are also cats that don’t care at all and will just sit in front of you and do whatever they have to do. Owners definitely know which type of cat they have.”Siracusa adds that cats are usually pretty adept at keeping their nails maintained without a lot of chewing, if provided opportunities to scratch. “If a cat has a scratching post or a piece of carpet that she can claw at, she’ll be really good at doing her own nails,” he says. “I recommend having several types of scratching posts available, horizontal, vertical—as well as different materials—to keep the cat interested.”It is when cats do not have the means to scratch and file down their own nails that problems may arise. Siracusa warns that sometimes nails can grow too long and cause lesions on paw pads or even difficulty walking. “However, a healthy cat, if given opportunities to scratch, will be able to have healthy nails without the need for constant biting and chewing,” he says.

Abnormal Nail Chewing and What Causes It

There are situations, however, when nail biting in cats falls into the “abnormal” category. This chewing behavior is excessive and obsessive, and very, very noticeable, according to Dr. Nicolas Dodman, a pet behavior expert, professor emeritus at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and author ofWhen it comes to abnormal chewing behavior, it usually comes down to one of two root causes: an injury or infection is causing the cat to pick at her paw, or the cat is suffering from anxiety.“Like many of the people who compulsively chew their nails, excessive nail chewing behaviors in cats are often related to anxiety,” Dodman says. Anxiety in cats can have many different causes, such as animals in the house, a dislike of being alone, and challenges in the cat’s environment. “This could even be something as simple as a squirrel that likes to sit outside your window and taunt your cat,” Dodman says. “The cat becomes frustrated because he can’t do anything about it.”To help lessen anxiety, he recommends that owners ensure that their cats have a reliable routine and are getting enough exercise. If these steps fail to improve a cat’s anxiety, owners can also try mood-stabilizing medications. “It may take a couple of months before you start to see improvement with medication, but it should help even out the cat’s anxiety and help him feel more calm,” Dodman explains.Then there are infections and injuries. Bacterial or yeast infections may cause a cat to pick at his paws, and, by extension, his nails. These infections can be difficult to prevent, especially in animals who are genetically prone to them. “Some cats, like Persians, are just genetically predisposed to skin problems,” Siracusa notes. Infections can also be the result of contact with chemicals that have an irritating affect on the paws. “Those little soft pads are exposed to a lot,” he says. Additionally, if an owner cuts a cat’s nails too short, it may lead to infections because the blood vessels in the claws are no longer protected.

Normal grooming

Routine chewing, licking, and pulling on and around the claws are a part of your cat’s normal self-grooming habit, and since their paws are in constant contact with the floor, they are prone to getting dirt, hair, dust, and debris stuck around them. Sometimes licking may not be enough to dislodge these things, and you may notice your cat pulling or tugging at their claws to free up the stuck debris.Additionally, cat’s nails are often described as onion-like, with several distinct layers in their composition. Often, the outer layer may become frayed and damaged, and your cat will pull away the top layer to expose the cleaner, sharper layer underneath. This behavior may seem alarming at first, especially if you have never noticed it before. Cats are private creatures that usually find a quiet and private place to groom themselves in peace.Make sure your cat has a scratching post or something similar, as they’ll typically use this to keep their nails clean and sharp. The reason that they are chewing on their claws may be a lack of a suitable scratching surface.We recommend having at least two or three different types of scratching posts available to your cat to keep them interested.

Behavioral issues

Sometimes, normal self-grooming may morph into obsessive behavior, manifesting in excessive licking, scratching, and claw-chewing. This is usually the result of stress, boredom, or loneliness, and your cat may be using chewing their paws as a mechanism for self-soothing. Just like humans who bite their nails when anxious or stressed, the same symptoms may manifest in anxious felines. This stress could be caused by something as simple as wanting to go outside or more obvious reasons, like a new pet in the home or moving to a new house.You’ll need to identify the reason that your cat is stressed or anxious in order to stop the behavior. If you’ve moved to a new house or brought home a new pet, the reason is obvious and you can treat your cat accordingly. However, more subtle reasons may take some detective work. Loneliness and boredom can also potentially cause excessive claw chewing, so you may need to spend more interactive time with your feline or consider purchasing stimulating cat toys.

Medical issues

Lastly, your cat’s nail-biting may have a physical case, either an injury or an underlying medical condition. They may have cut themselves somewhere on their paw pad, injured a toe, or broken a claw, and this is causing them discomfort. Conversely, it may have been excessive pulling and chewing that caused the injury itself! You’ll need to closely inspect each of your cat’s paws and check for any signs of injury, and they may need to go for a checkup with your vet. If there are no outward signs of injury, there may be an underlying medical cause.Bacterial or yeast infections can cause your cat to lick and pull at their paws, or an old injury may have caused an infection. The only way to know is by consulting your vet, and if there are no behavioral issues or injuries, there may be an underlying infection that only your vet can treat.

Claw Biting and Chewing is Normal (Usually)

Cats love to groom. Part of that process is cleaning their paws and getting “between the toes”, as it were. Cats will chew and bite claws and toes to eliminate unwanted debris and detritus, like litter or sand. This is especially noticeable in cats that enjoy the outdoors.Cat claws also have a particular biological structure. They work in layers. This means that the nail’s outer layer tends to wear and fray. Cats chew their claws sometimes to help discard the outer layer of their nails. Underneath, a fresh new layer awaits with added sharpness and shine.The biting works in tandem with other methods. Your cat may use scratching posts, outdoor tree bark, or your favorite sofa for scratching to wear down or sharpen their nails. In general, cats like to keep them sharp, keep them clean, and keep them at a healthy length.

When Should You be Concerned?

It’s worth noting that you may not always notice when your cat is chewing. Your cat isn’t in view 100% of the time. And some cats like a bit of privacy when cleaning.But if your otherwise healthy cat does not have proper facilities to claw, it may resort to excessive chewing. This is an easy problem to fix – try a high-quality scratching post or a horizontal scratching board (different strokes for different cats).Beyond this easy fix, there are situations where nail-biting is abnormal. It may be a sign of one or more ailments that need more urgent addressing. Excessive nail-biting is usually ascribed to either a medical or a behavioral problem. So let’s look at a few common issues and possible remedies.

What Medical Issues Cause Abnormal Claw-Biting?

As with any person or animal, medical issues come in a variety of forms. With any medical issue, it’s best to let a vet advise on the best course of action. But it is worth knowing the possibilities.From infections to pre-existing conditions, your cat may be suffering from one of the below:

1. Pemphigus

Pemphigus is an autoimmune disease that affects a cat’s skin. It is classified into five different subtypes.It manifests as irritation in sensitive areas like the face (eyelids, nostrils, ears), genital area, and yes, the paws. Lesions appear on the beds of the toenails, forming painful crusty areas. The cat will attempt to lick or clear these, resulting in excessive claw attention.

2. Ringworm

Feline dermatophytosis is a relatively common skin disorder. Despite its common name, it’s got nothing to do with worms. It’s a fungal infection picked up from soil. In many cases, the fungi are disposed of through routine grooming.But when the fungus takes hold, it will affect hair and nails – substances rich in keratin. The fungus may also infect and inflame the skin. Untreated ringworm causes hair loss, scales, infected claws, and nails, which results in excessive grooming.

3. Other Infections

Cats may also suffer from bacterial or yeast infections that affect their paws. Many can be triggered unexpectedly. Some breeds are also genetically predisposed to certain conditions – Persians, for example, are susceptible to a number of disorders; infections among them. Cats may also react to chemicals or detergents used on home surfaces.

4. Nail Problems in Old Cats

Older cats may suffer a hormonal imbalance that results in nails that are too thick or too brittle. They may also suffer from cancerous growths and tumors.In all cases, seek the advice of a vet. Most issues can be remedied, especially if detected early.

Nail Biting Due to Behavioral Problems

Stress or anxiety are the likely sources of many behavioral issues. Sometimes abject boredom or even loneliness is to blame.Aside from over-grooming, you might also see symptoms like hair loss (or more accurately, hair-pulling) and pica – a compulsive eating disorder. Sufferers of pica (human and feline) compulsively eat non-foods like material, paper, cardboard, etc.⇒ Thinking about getting your favourite feline a new collar? Check out my posts onIs your cat suddenly quiet or more vocal? Has it stopped eating, or does it run and hide when it didn’t before? Sometimes these other behaviors may indicate something is wrong.In most cases, one or more of the following actions may help to alleviate the situation:

1. Reduce Stress

Cats tend to find solace in safe spaces. One of the first things you can provide is a high perch or a cat carrier that’s isolated and free from any stressor. You may also think about acquiring a pheromone diffuser to help calm a stressed feline.⇒ Getting a new kitty? Check out my guide to

2. Monitor the Interaction Between Cats

If another cat may be causing anxiety or aggression, you may have to re-introduce them. Combative cats also struggle over shared resources. Try multiple food bowls and litter trays. Cats are susceptible to each others’ smells around objects.

3. Provide Stimulation

A bored cat is a cat that may develop behavioral issues. This is more prevalent in cats that remain indoors. In this case, you should try to provide a home environment that simulates outdoor phenomena.High surfaces to climb and walk, cat trees, toys, and even hideaways and closed cat boxes will work here.Playtime is also going to be more important to emphasize. Make sure you offer enough high-energy play with your cat, also to burn off that extra energy. Be sure to reward appropriate play, though, or you may find your cat attacking you playfully at unexpected times.

4. Maintain a Strong Routine

It sounds a little out there, but developing and sticking to a routine is as beneficial to a cat as it is to you. Start a regimen whereby you feed your cat at the same time every day. Play with your cat at the same time every day and for a set amount of time(s).⇒ An entertained cat is a happy cat. Check out my posts on

5. Consult a Vet About Medication

In extreme cases, ask your vet about medication. A TCA (Tricyclic antidepressant) or SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) may work as well for a cat as it does a human.Cats are surprisingly vulnerable to anxiety, especially when there’s a change to the environment.Anxious cats can be problematic to themselves and others in the home, so it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.