Nail Biting in Cats: What to Do If Your Cat Chews & Pulls His Claws

If you are a cat owner, it’s likely that at some point your feline friend has bitten or chewed on his claws and nails. This is not uncommon among cats – in fact, many do this regularly as they groom themselves.

However, if your cat bites or chews on its claws too often without any other health/behavioral concerns (such as stress), there could be more going on than just the need to groom himself.

The first step to dealing with this issue is to figure out what might be triggering your kitty’s behavior by considering what he may be trying to achieve when biting himself.

Some possible reasons for claw-biting habits include:

Normal Nail Biting in Cats

Nail-biting in cats is usually normal grooming, even desirable behavior. Cats who regularly bite their claws are usually doing so to keep them clean and trim, as well as to remove the dead outer layer of the claw.

Read More: How To Trim Your Pet Nails With Nail Clippers

Cats are one of the cleanest animals out there. They are very fastidious in their grooming habits, including nail-biting to remove the outer sheath of the claw. Since their paws are always in contact with the floor, it’s important to keep them clean and free of dirt.

The nail-biting is usually a self-reinforcing behavior, which means that the cat enjoys doing it! Some cats will chew on their nails when they are resting or sleeping. So your kitty might associate dragging his claws across a hard surface with digging in the litter box or getting a nice scratch behind the ears.

It is important that you provide your cat with a scratching post or something he is allowed to scratch on at all times. If your cat has access to a scratching post, you won’t have to worry about him licking the carpet or damaging your furniture.

Cat nails are like onions, they have multiple layers and sometimes the outermost layer becomes dead and needs to be removed. Jack, the cat in this picture, does not have a problem with biting his claws. He is using this method to keep them clean and tidy.

The cat scratching behavior is a natural, normal behavior. It allows cats to mark territory, explore objects, and stretch their muscles. It is important to place a couple of scratching posts in various areas of your home.

If you notice that your cat mostly bites his nails on the carpet, or tends to chew on them when he is relaxed, chances are this behavior is not a cause for concern. Cats like Jack often do this as they rest and relax.

May You Like: Best Nail Clippers For Cats – Top Picks Reviewed 2021

Nail-biting due to behavioral problems

If you feel abnormal or excessive nail-biting in your cats it can be an indicator of more serious health or behavioral problem.

Cats Bite their Nails due to Stress

Some cats are under stress, due to changes in their environment, such as the loss of a family member or moving house. This can make them very stressed and anxious, which might cause them to bite their nails out of stress. About 20% of cases of excessive grooming are related to stress.

Under some circumstances, stress can cause compulsive self-licking or chew, or nail-biting. Chewing and licking can create the sensation of calmness, as well as removing any irritants that have built up on their fur from contact with products in the home.

Another cause for concern is if your cat is not only chewing his nails, but also licking his fur, or scratching his face. These are all signs he may be under some kind of stress and it’s important to take your cat to a vet as soon as possible.

Nail-biting due to Boredom and Loneliness/ Attention seeking

Sometimes, cats might start biting their nails just for attention. Providing positive reinforcement treats when they use their scratching posts and toys can help shift their focus to the appropriate areas of your home. You should not punish your cat for chewing or licking his nails as this could cause him to become more stressed.

If you are not around much, it might be a good idea to get another cat. Cats are social animals and if they don’t have anyone to play with or sleep next to they can become lonely or bored.

Also, you can buy some cat toys to distract your feline friend. There are many options available on Amazon, you can make your own toys with used boxes, or even folded paper. It is important to play with your cat and spend time with them.

If you do not have time to play with your cat, bring him a friend so he can play with his friend.

You can also read our article about the best cat toys to remove boredom.

Nail-biting due to Medical issues

Nail-biting due to pain

If you notice that is mostly happens when your cat has just woken up, chances are the behavior might be coming from an uncomfortable sensation.

An injury might have occurred to the cat, such as a thorn or splinter caught in his claw. Or maybe he’s not wearing his claws down correctly and they are too long for comfort. In this case, you could try filing your cat’s nails down with a special nail file (available from pet stores).

It is also possible that the cat is in serious pain, this pain can be in his joints or muscles. Arthritis or neurological diseases can also be sources, and you should take your cat to a vet as soon as possible.

Nail-biting due to poor health

Your cat’s nails should be checked regularly as part of administering preventative healthcare. If your cat is constantly chewing on his nails it could be an indication he has a thyroid problem or anemia. Anemia, also known as blood-loss anemia, is caused by excessive bleeding which reduces the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the body, causing weakness and a pale appearance.

If your cat starts biting at his front claws frequently it could be that he has some kind of an injury or that the nail bed is painful. There can be several causes for this problem. It can occur naturally as cats reach middle age between seven to ten years, or it can be linked to a recent injury.

Nail-biting due to Bacterial or Yeast Infections

Bacterial or yeast infections can be common in cats if their claws are neglected, and cause the cat to chew at them. Nails that are not clipped regularly can become overgrown and may curl under the paw causing discomfort for your cat.

This is a medical condition caused by a fungus that frequently grows on the animal’s skin, especially when it is damp or warm. This is another reason that for cats to bite their nails.

If your cat has an infection, it will need to be treated by a vet. If left untreated, this can become infectious and spread to humans – so it’s important you don’t try to treat the condition yourself.

Nail-biting and chewing due to Arthritis 

This condition causes inflammation of the joints and results in pain and stiffness, and your pet will bite their nails. It is a common problem in older cats, who may start chewing at their nails more frequently as it becomes difficult to reach them.

If you think your feline might have arthritisarthritis, there are some indicators you can watch out for. For example, sudden limping or reluctance to stand on back legs could indicate this condition.

If your cat’s nails are painful, it is not unreasonable for him to want to chew them. Arthritis is a common cause of pain in cats. As with any ailment, the best course of action is always to take your cat to the vet if you suspect he might have arthritis.

The cat may bite or chew their nails for self-soothing and underlying medical issues. It is the responsibility of cat parents to keep an eye on their feline friend and see if they are biting nails or chewing on things.

What are some ways to stop your cat from biting or chewing on its claws and nails?

The first thing you need to figure out is the reason behind nail-biting, we have mentioned the most common causes in this article. If your cat is biting his nails because of a medical issue, you should schedule a vet appointment.

If the reason behind nail-biting it is not a health problem then you can start with the things mentioned below:

Distract Your Cat from Stress

Cats are intelligent animals and know they shouldn’t bite or chew on their claws and nails. This behavior could be from boredom, anxiety, or stress.

To distract your cat, try putting a scratching post in their line of sight. Make sure the surface area is large enough for them to comfortably walk across it and stretch without falling off the side. If you’re using an old-fashioned cardboard scratcher, sprinkle some catnip on it to attract them.

Cats can sense your stress; keep Yourself calm when they are around

If they are picking up on any of your anxiety, or you are stressed out about their nail-biting behavior – try to relax before they come near you.

Play some soothing music, light a candle or spray some relaxing essential oil such as lavender on the scratching post. Do not yell at your cat for making a mistake and do not punish him either. Cats will sense when they are crossing the line, and will likely stop if you give them a safe environment.

Spend Time with your Cat

When trying to stop your cat from biting or chewing his claws and nails, it’s important you spend time with him. This will show him that he is a part of the family. Make sure your cat has places where they can hide and play if they get overwhelmed during playtime, especially if there are children around. This can reduce the stress and cats do not bite their nails.

Cats are social animals and need companionship! It is important that you spend time with your cat. Cats Bite their nails if they are stressed or feeling alone.

If you cannot spend time with your cat, bring him a friend. If you have more than one feline, they may be picking up on each other’s stress. Getting a new friend for your cat could calm them down and keep them from biting or chewing at their claws and nails.

It is important that if this behavior is causing your cat discomfort, you visit the vet to see if there are any underlying medical issues. If it is stress-related, you might want to consider getting your cat a friend or making some changes in their environment.

Bring Him Toys

Every now and then be sure that your cat has something new and exciting to do. Cats bite their nails when they are bored. Try out different types of toys such as scratching posts, balls with bells inside of them, and laser pointers so that he doesn’t get bored.

If your cat is biting or chewing at their claws and nails, it might be because they are anxious or stressed about their environment. Try to give them more toys, that way they will have fun taking out some of their excess energy on the new toys instead of on themselves.

You Can see a list of toys here.

  1. Cactus Interactive Cat Toy Chew Toy Teeth Only In $6.10
  2. Pioneer Pet Nip Nibblers Catnip Toy Only In $3.99
  3. Petstages Catnip Oil Infused Dental Cat Toy Only In $3.99
  4. Natural Matatabi Cat Stick Only In $6.59
  5. 3 Pack Silvervine Sticks Cat Toys Only In $12.99

Take Him for a Walk Outside

If your cats bite their nails and you feel like you have exhausted every possible option, then it might be time to bring your cat outside.

Cats in the wild are hunters and love being up on high places where they can survey their surroundings. Taking them for a walk around the neighborhood will allow them to be energetically fulfilled and help stop them from biting or chewing at their claws and nails.

Visit A Vet

If you notice that your cat is biting more than usual, it could be a sign of medical problems. For instance, if your cat’s teeth or gums are red, they might have an infection. Visit a vet right away to see if there is anything more you can do besides treating the symptoms.

Final Thoughts

It is important that if this behavior is causing your cat discomfort, you visit the vet to see if there are any underlying medical issues. If it is stress-related, you might want to consider getting your cat a friend or making some changes in their environment. Cats can sense when they are crossing the line and will likely stop with these behavioral neuroscience principles applied appropriately by following our tips.

Thank you for reading our article, we hope you have found it useful. Have a great day!

If you have any other questions about your cat’s behavioral or health problems, feel free to leave a comment on our blog, we enjoy reading through them. You may also provide your email for us to contact you if we have additional questions.

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