Most cat owners don't think about their cat's claws. Since a cat in the wild doesn't need human assistance with its claws, why would a pet cat that's kept indoors? However, the reality is, if you keep your cat exclusively indoors, they may actually need assistance with their claws to avoid being seriously injured. Here's what you need to know about your cat's claws and why they should be trimmed on a regular basis.
How Cat Claws Are Formed
Unlike human fingernails, which grow longer but not thicker under ordinary circumstances, a cat's claws grow out in layers. The one layer that's never replaced is the quick, which is where a cat's claw receives its blood supply. Over the quick, additional layers of claw form and add on, which is why pet parents sometimes find claw shards lying around their homes.
The problem with this type of growth is that if the farthest-out layer isn't shed on a regular basis, the claw will just grow larger and thicker.
Outdoor vs Indoor Process
The main reason your cat needs your help with trimming its claws is because it's kept indoors. While keeping a cat indoors will typically help to expand its lifespan and keep it safe from outdoor hazards, it also eliminates your cat's ability to scratch effectively.
Indoor scratching posts are typically made out of things like corrugated cardboard and carpet. While these do satisfy your cat's urge to scratch and can help to sharpen its claws, your kitty needs to rip up something like tree bark to loosen and remove the dead layers of claw. Normal indoor scratching materials are often too soft to help a cat to accomplish this.
If your cat can't scratch properly and you don't have their claws trimmed, the claw will become longer until your cat's paw pad gets in the way. Once this happens, the claw will push against the pad, making it uncomfortable to walk on. Your first warning sign of this condition may be the sound of your cat's claws clacking on the floor when it walks.
If still left untreated, those claws will eventually pierce into your cat's skin. This is not only extremely painful but comes with the risk of infection.
All these issues can be avoided if you have your kitty's nails trimmed regularly. If you can't calm your cat down enough to do it at home, consult with a veterinarian to get help, especially if you suspect that your cat's claws are already ingrown.