Why Do Cats Bite Their Nails? 5 Reasons

Why do cats bite their nails? Because they want to get rid of dirt and debris or to remove the out layer that has worn out.
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Have you noticed that your cat likes biting her nails and you are wondering why? If yes, then you are not alone. Biting nails is not common in the animal kingdom. It is a human behavior and that is why many people get surprised when they see their feline biting their nails. Biting nails is usually viewed as bad behavior by most people. In fact, most parents reprimand their children for biting their nails. But for cats batting nails is normal and necessary behavior provided it is not done excessively. So why do cats bite their nails? Read on to find out why your cat usually bites her nail and whether you should worry.


Why do cats bite their nails?

1. To get rid of dirt and debris

Routine biting of nails is part of the cat’s self-grooming habit. Unlike humans who view nail chewing as a wired behavior, nail-biting in cats is a normal part of grooming. One of the top reasons why cats bit their nails is to get rid of dirt, litter, and other debris. The cat claw is usually in contact with the ground and as such, it usually collects a lot of over time. Nail biting is a necessary cleaning process to get rid of all dirt stuck on the claws. This behavior is especially common in cats that love going outdoors. Cats are one of the cleanest pets. They love to clean themselves and that is why they usually go the extra mile to bite nails that have dirt, debris, and detritus.

2. To remove the out layer that has worn out

Another reason why your feline is biting her nails is to get rid of the outer layer that has worn. Cats use their claws to do many things including climbing trees, escaping dangerous situations, fighting enemies, catching and holding prey, and much more. Over time, they usually wear out, become weak and break down.

The cat nail is made up of keratin, a protein that is found on the skin and hair. It is also the same protein that our fingernails are made of. The cat nail is made up of layers that renew themselves continuously. A new layer usually comes from under to replace the older layer that is weaker. The newer nail is usually sharp and sturdy. The cat usually pulls away the older layer to expose the cleaner, sharper and sturdier layer underneath.

3. To prevent the nails from growing too long

Cat nails can grow to unimaginable lengths if they are not regularly trimmed. Long nails are not good for cats. They can cause injury to the cat’s leg or paw. This is because long nails usually hit the ground harder, adding unnecessary pressure to the leg or foot area. More so, unkempt long nails can be dangerous to the feline, especially when she wants to retract her claws. When the nails get too long, they can start to curve and grow on the paw pads, causing a lot of pain to the cat. Too long nails can also make it difficult for the kitty to walk properly. To prevent all these, cats usually bite their nails on a regular basis to help keep them short, clean, and sharp.

4. Because of behavioral issues

Another reason why your cat is biting her nails is that she has behavioral issues. According to Dr. Nicolas Dammam, a pet behavior expert and the author of “The Cat Who Cried for Help”, behavioral issues can sometimes make a cat bite her nails. For instance, the cat can start biting her nails if she is bored or anxious. Just like it is common for humans to bite their nails when they are anxious, the same also applies to cats. The nail-biting behavior could be a result of loneliness, a change of diet, a change of environment, presence of another pet, among many others.

5. Because of medical issues

Another reason why your cat is biting her nails is that she has an underlying medical condition. If your cat is biting her nails excessively to the point where she is hurting herself, then that is a clear sign that she is not okay. Nail biting in cats is only normal if it is done in moderation. If done excessively, then you need to take your feline to the vet for further examination and treatment.

Excessive nail baiting in cats is mostly caused by nail infection. This could be a yeast infection, bacterial infection, or genetic predisposition. For example, Persian cats usually inherit skin disease and that is why they like biting their nails a lot.

Another reason why your cat is biting her nails a lot is that she is reacting to chemicals like bleach that are irritating her. Older felines that are suffering from a disease that is very painful like cancer usually resort to biting their nails in order to ease the pain and discomfort. Your cat may also bite her nails if she is affected by parasites such as mange, mites, ringworms, or fleas. These parasites usually cause itching and discomfort on the cat’s nails forcing her to bite in order to ease the pain.

What to do when nail biting becomes excessive

As mentioned earlier, nail biting is part of the cat’s routine grooming. Most cats bite their nails to get rid of dirt and remove worn-out nails. But if your feline takes nail biting too far to the point where she hurts herself, you need to take action. In this section, we will give you tips on what to do when your cat’s nail-biting behavior becomes excessive.

1. Examine her paws

The first important thing to do if your cat is biting her nails excessively is to examine her paws. Your cat might be hesitant to let you examine her paws especially if she is in pain. However, you need to be patient and assure her that you mean no harm. Examine her paws thoroughly for injuries and irritation.

If there are signs of injuries, irritation, or infections, you should consult your vet to examine the cat and determine the reason why she is biting her nails excessively. A thorough examination of your feline will help you determine the reason why she is biting her nails too much.

2. Visit the vet

If you are not able to identify the reason behind your cat’s excessive nail biting or if your cat’s nail biting is accompanied by symptoms such as scab, redness, bleeding or redness, you need to take your kitty to the vet immediately. The vet will conduct a thorough examination to determine the reason behind your feline’s excessive nail biting.

For instance, if your cat’s nail biting is caused by a nail infection, the vet will provide appropriate treatment to cure the illness and consequently stop the cat from biting her nails. If the biting is a result of behavioral issues, the vet will recommend a reputable pet behaviorist to help fix the problem.

3. Reduce stress and anxiety

One of the top reasons why most felines bite their nails excessively is because of stress and anxiety. The excessive biting is because the cat is trying to calm herself. Find out why your feline is feeling anxious and address the problem. Some of the things that may cause stress and anxiety in cats include a change in environment, a change in routine, a lack of proper care and attention, and a sudden introduction of another pet. Monitor your cat closely to determine the root cause of her stress anxiety.

For instance, if you find out that the reason why she is stressed is that you introduced a new pet in the house, try to keep a distance between them. The introduction process should be gradual to give her time to adjust and get used to each other.

4. Maintain a predictable routine

Cats thrive in a predictable environment. They love being in a routine because it helps them look forward to another activity. For instance, if you are used to feeding your feline at a certain time, stick to that structure. Changing her routine could make her anxious and that could trigger her to start biting her nails. Your feline is less likely to be stressed if she has a predictable routine. For instance, when you are away from home for some time, leave her with mental stimulation toys such as treats and puzzles to keep her entertained.

5. Show your feline more love and affection

Your cat is probably biting her nails because she is not getting the love and attention she used to get before. Cats love attention from their owners and will be sad and stressed if they feel ignored. Remember that stress is one of the main things that trigger cats to bite their nails excessively. If you have not been spending time with your kitty because of other commitments, try to find time to spend with her. It could be the solution to her excessive nail biting.

Final Thoughts

Nail biting is a normal behavior in cats if it is done in moderation. Most cats usually bite their nails as part of routine grooming. They do so to get rid of dirt stuck on her nails or to remove worn-out or broken nails. You can support her nail by giving her access to a cardboard scratcher, scratching post or any toy that will encourage her to trim her nails. Nail biting is an important grooming process that helps to keep the cat healthy. But if your feline is biting her nails excessively, monitor her to find the root cause of the problem or take her to the vet for examination.