Why Do Cats Bite Their Claws?

Many cats bite their claws, but sometimes this behaviour can become excessive. Learn how to moderate this behaviour while keeping your cat happy and healthy.

Jun 7, 2023By Donna Hobson
why do cats bite their claws

Cats are known to be curious, intelligent, and independent creatures who engage in various activities. But watch one for long enough, and you'll notice that sometimes they begin to bite their claws. As humans, we often associate nail biting with nervousness, so is the same true for our feline counterparts?

There are a variety of reasons why cats may bite their claws, ranging from normal grooming behaviors to stress or boredom. Understanding these reasons can help you provide the best care for your cat and ensure they stay healthy and happy.

Why Do Cats Bite Their Claws?

gray cat biting nails
Image Source: Nail Biting in Cats-Cat Chewing and Biting Claws - Cat-World

Cats engage in claw biting to keep their nails sharp and healthy. This behavior helps cats to remove the outer layer of their nails, exposing a sharp claw beneath. This sharp claw is better for attacking prey, defending against predators, and other activities that require precise movements, such as climbing trees or jumping from one place to another.

Cats also bite their claws to remove any dirt or debris stuck in them. By doing this, they can maintain clean and healthy paws and nails, which can help them stay agile and active.

Still, not all claw biting is healthy - excessive chewing could suggest an underlying medical or behavioral issue.

Healthy Vs. Excessive Biting

kitten chewing paw

While some claw biting is perfectly normal for felines, excessive biting could point to an issue.

Cats like to keep their claws clean, sharp, and perfectly sized. Sometimes, excessive biting can indicate that they don't have everything they need in their environment to make this happen. If you don't already have a scratch pole or mat, try both and see which your cat prefers.

Medical Issues That Can Lead to Excessive Claw Biting

kitten raising paw
Image Source: 5 Diseases Your Pet’s Paws Reveal and Steps to Healing (vitalitymagazine.com)


Pemphigus is an autoimmune disease that affects cats and can be very painful. It causes lesions on the skin in sensitive areas such as the paws, face, and ears. The lesions appear as red bumps or blisters that can form painful areas. If left untreated, these lesions can become infected and cause further damage to the cat's skin. And these crusty infections can cause a cat to pay more attention to their claws than usual.


Ringworm is a common skin disorder in cats caused by a fungal infection. It can affect areas of the body rich in keratin, such as the claws. If left untreated, this can lead to an infection that can cause pain and discomfort for your cat.

Excessive nail biting can also stem from other bacterial or yeast infections. Common signs to look out for that indicate nail infections include:

  • difficulty walking
  • swelling around the claws
  • lesions or scabs around the claws
  • refusal to let you handle their feet

Other physical causes of excessive claw biting can include arthritis or joint pain. So, it's essential to look for early signs and book your feline in for a veterinary appointment if you suspect something is amiss.

Behavioural Issues That Can Lead to Excessive Claw Biting

cat nail biting
Image Source: Nail Biting in Cats-Cat Chewing and Biting Claws - Cat-World


Cats are famously independent, so we often underestimate their social needs, leading to anxiety-related problems.

One common sign of anxiety in cats is excessive claw biting, which can cause pain and discomfort. This behavior is usually caused by stress or fear and could suggest your cat is anxious.

Understanding why your cat might be anxious can help you provide the care and support it needs to feel safe and secure.

Boredom or loneliness

Cats are intelligent and curious creatures that require enrichment and companionship to stay healthy and happy. Cats can become bored or lonely without these things, leading to anxious behaviors such as excessive claw biting. Cat owners need to understand why cats need enrichment and companionship to provide the best environment for their furry friends.

What To Do If Nail Biting Becomes Excessive

cat scratching pole
Image Source: Floor Cat Scratcher - Valley Craftsman

One of the ways anxiety can manifest itself in cats is excessive claw biting, which can be both painful and damaging to their fur.

Fortunately, there are a few steps that pet owners can take to help treat their cats' anxiety and reduce their claw biting.

  • Provide scratching posts and carpet scarps that your cat can use to claw at
  • Work out what is causing your cat to feel stressed or anxious and eliminate the source of the problem
  • Spend more time interacting with your cat
  • Check for any signs of pain or infection
  • If the issue remains unresolved, book an appointment with your vet

How Often Should I Cut My Cat's Claws?

cat nail trim
Image Source: How to trim cat claws | The Humane Society of the United States

Trimming your cat's claws is an integral part of their grooming routine. It helps keep their nails healthy and prevents them from getting caught in things or damaging furniture. The trimming frequency will depend on whether your cats are indoor or outdoor, but generally, you should aim to trim their claws every two to three weeks. Adding a scratch pole to your home can also help keep their nails short and healthy.

In some cases, excessive claw biting can be a sign of stress or anxiety, while in others, it may point to a physical problem such as arthritis or joint pain.

By understanding the causes of stress in cats, providing a safe environment for them to explore, and using positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training, pet owners can help their cats manage their anxiety and reduce claw biting.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.