Is a Cat’s Broken Claw a Sign of Illness? Should I Immediately Take It to the Veterinarian?

Many cat owners may become worried when they discover a broken piece of their feline’s claw and wonder if the feline is experiencing severe pain in its fingertips. Despite the frequent occurrence of broken claws in households with cats, it’s important to consider whether these broken claws indicate a feline illness and what preventative measures should be taken.

✨ Structure of a Feline’s Claw

The structure of a feline’s claw is vastly different from that of a human and may come as a surprise to those living with cats.

Although cats are a distinct species and share our homes, many individuals may not be aware of the significance of a feline’s claw in its daily life and its usage.

Before examining the causes of broken claws in cats, let’s first examine the structure of a feline’s claw.

❂ It has a multi-layered structure

As observed, the shape of a cat’s claw differs greatly from that of a human’s nail, as anticipated.

A claw with a distinct shape in a cat is referred to as a “hook claw,” and it boasts a multi-layered structure, similar to an onion.

The claw, which is composed of several layers, is older on the outer layer and new layers form around the blood vessels and nervous tissues in the interior. As a result, the outer layer becomes more prone to peeling as it grows, pushing out the older layer.

Cats, which once lived as hunting animals and hunted for their own sustenance, likely needed sharp claws to capture their prey.

❂ Falls off naturally

It is widely believed that there are several reasons why cats sharpen their claws, one of which is to shed old claws. Although cats may not comprehend the structure and mechanism of their claws, it can be assumed that their innate habit of sharpening their claws results in appropriate actions. It is common to come across fragments of broken claws when living with a cat, and the exterior of the cat’s claws tends to be dry and hard, easily breaking when subjected to stress. Generally, old layers are removed by cats sharpening their claws or biting their nails, but as the frequency of sharpening decreases or opportunities for self-grooming decline with age, new nails can wrap around old layers and become curled, requiring caution.

✨ The cause of claw breakage caused by a cat’s behavior

If the cat’s claws seem to fall off naturally without bleeding, there is no need to worry, but if the claws are broken and accompanied by bleeding, there is a possibility that the cat itself is feeling pain, and immediate treatment is necessary. Claw breakage is believed to be related to the cat’s behavior, and the following reasons are considered likely.

❂ Due to fighting

For indoor cats, it is generally recommended for pet owners to regularly assess their claws and create a safe living environment to prevent injuries. However, monitoring the behavior of outdoor cats can be challenging when they are outside. As a result, their claws may become damaged from encounters with stray cats or climbing trees, and it can be difficult to determine the cause. If there are signs of bleeding around the cat’s claws, a disinterest in having its fingertips touched, or if claws are missing without explanation, prompt veterinary attention is necessary.

❂ Hanging on curtains, etc.

Even if a cat is raised entirely indoors, if it is still youthful, energetic, and full of curiosity and mischief, it may find all the items in the house to be objects of interest. Care must be taken in the living environment arranged by the owner.

In particular, cloth products such as curtains in the room are often targeted by cats due to swaying from wind, etc. Some cats play with the swaying hem and some climb to high positions as if climbing a tree.

If the claws become entangled in the fibers of the curtains, the pressure can cause them to break, so caution is advised even for indoor-raised cats.

✨ Is it a disease if a cat’s claws are like a pinecone or have two claws?

The reason for the peeling or breaking of a cat’s claws is known, however, even if one regularly trims their cat’s claws, if they take on the appearance of a pinecone or have two claws, it can cause concern due to the noticeable difference in appearance.

When a cat’s claws resemble a pinecone or there are two claws, it is advisable to suspect a possible underlying illness.

❂ Generally it’s fine

If the skin of humans becomes dry and the moisture content decreases, it can result in the development of split nails. However, this is something to be avoided as it not only appears unsightly but can also weaken the nail if it breaks when caught on something.

For cats, if their nails become split, there is a chance they can get caught on something, which can have a negative impact. However, it is generally considered that split nails in cats are not a concern.

The structure of cats’ nails is like an onion, with multiple layers similar to pencil caps. The old layer of nails is pushed out as the new nails grow, with this mechanism facilitated by the cat’s self-grooming and nail scratching.

To keep their nails sharp, cats naturally scrape off the old layer of nails through their self-grooming. However, when the owner overlaps with the timing of nail trimming, it can result in the nails breaking and becoming split or like pencil tips.

Even if the old nails are left on the outside and new nails continue to grow, or if the old nails remain and are peeling off, they will naturally fall off in the cat’s daily life, so there is no need for concern.

❂ Is it okay to remove the peeled part with the owner’s hand?

It is understood that old nails will naturally fall off, but some pet owners may still feel uneasy when they see their cat with old nails still attached. If the old nails are not causing any problems, it is recommended to allow them to naturally fall off rather than trying to remove them forcibly, as this could cause pain and bleeding by stimulating the nerves at the base of the nail.

✨ It’s important to trim neatly and carefully

The regular maintenance of a cat’s claws is crucial in avoiding breakage. It is essential to execute the process neatly and carefully to ensure the cat’s well-being.

Breaking of the claws is a natural process, but when it occurs due to problems with peeling or trimming, it becomes imperative for the owner to take appropriate measures.

To maintain the health of the cat’s claws, it is recommended to check the state of the claws daily and to trim them when they start to grow too long.

Even if the cat is not ignoring its own need to sharpen its claws, it is advisable to trim the claws a few times a month and monitor their health.

When trimming the claws, one must exercise caution and avoid cutting the pink part located at the base of the claw which contains the blood vessels and nerves (referred to as the quick). The goal should be to complete the trimming process safely.

✨ Conclusion

The paws of cats have soft and cute pads, and their sharp claws give a sense of wildness, captivating many individuals. The claws of cats differ greatly from those of humans, however, the maintenance of sharp claws has been a crucial factor in the survival of the species, given their history and behavior. Regular care by the owner is necessary to preserve their unique claws for survival.

For indoor cats who do not require sharp claws, it is important to regularly trim them to avoid potential harm to themselves or furniture. If their claws break, it is recommended to wait for them to naturally fall off instead of forcibly removing them. If there is bleeding from the broken area, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.

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