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Why Do My Cat's Claws Shed?

Learn why cats’ claws shed.

Have you ever found one of your cat's claws in the drapes, carpet, or upholstery and wondered if everything was okay with your feline friend?

The odds are good that what you found was a claw sheath—the outside layer of a claw that shed normally.

Cats' Claws Grow in Layers

A cat's claws grow in layers, like an onion. As they grow, the outer layer loses its blood supply and sheds, leaving a sharper, healthier claw underneath. It's a normal process and takes between two and three months for most cats' claws. Trimming the cat's claws regularly can speed up that process and help the outer sheaths shed faster.

Part of the reason cats scratch is to help shed the outer layers of their claws to keep them healthy. Of course, that's not the only reason cats scratch. They also do so to mark territory, relieve stress, and exercise the muscles and tendons in their feet, legs, and back.

This onion-like growth pattern is also the reason Soft Paws claw caps grow out over time. They attach with a non-toxic adhesive to the outer layer of the claw and grow out with it. That's why they don't cause infections like acrylic nails in humans can sometimes. If the skin around your cat's Soft Paws looks irritated, it may be because the caps got pushed into the skin during application, too much adhesive was in the cap and it spilled over, or the kitty has been chewing the area.

When It's a Problem

When you find a cat claw sheath, it will be hollow and thin. But cats can tear their claws out if they get caught on something. If your cat is licking excessively at a claw or the area looks swollen, or the claw appears abnormal, a veterinary visit is necessary to check the area and treat it. Otherwise, it may become infected.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.