Have you ever looked up information regarding your cat’s claws on the internet? Finding information like, “Cats have five claws on their front foot and four on their back, and they’re adapted for climbing,” on page after page of search results is annoying. I mean, duh!
This area of the cat’s anatomy is much more fascinating. Your cat’s claws are an incredible instrument because to a lot of activity going on beneath the skin. Below are five interesting facts about them:
1. Cat walks on his fingertips
Cats are digitigrade walkers, which means that instead of walking on their heels and the balls of their feet like we humans do, they walk on tiptoe. In this photo, I’ve tried to approximate how a cat’s weight is distributed.
2. Cat foot bones are very much like ours
This very simplified drawing shows how your cat’s claw is connected to his toes and the rest of his leg. The phalanges (singular: phalanx) are equivalent to your fingers, and the metacarpal bone is the same bone that goes from your knuckle to the heel of your hand.
3. Tendons and ligaments control whether his claws are in or out
Ligaments and tendons are made of the same stuff, but they serve different purposes. Ligaments connect from bone to bone, while tendons connect bone to muscle. The elastic ligament, pictured in red in the image above, pulls the distal phalanx close to the middle phalanx in order to keep the claws from touching the ground.Popular Read: Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box? – Simple Explanation
The digital flexor tendon and the superficial flexor tendon (sometimes called the extensor tendon) are also crucial to your cat’s ability to extend and retract his claws. When the digital flexor is relaxed, the claw is tucked in, and when it’s tensed, the claw is extended.
4. Cat claws are made of the same stuff as hair and fingernails
Like all fingernails and hooves, cats’ claws are made of a protein called keratin. Claw tissue grows in layers, thanks to the quick, the living tissue at the core of the claw. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves, which you probably know all too well if you’ve clipped your cat’s nails too short.
5. Don’t panic if you see claw sheaths on the ground
When you see pieces of your cat’s claws on the floor or embedded in his scratching post, it just means that the outside layer of his claw has grown beyond the blood supply and therefore falls off when he scratches — revealing a nice, sharp new talon underneath! Cats generally shed each claw once every few months.
6. Cat claws grow right out of his phalanges
You might have noticed in the illustrations above that it looks like a cat’s claw grows right out of his distal phalanx. That’s because it does. Unlike our fingernails, which are only connected to flesh, a cat’s claws are connected directly to the bone. What that means is that when a cat is declawed, it’s not just a super-mega nail trim. The entire distal phalanx needs to be amputated in order to keep the claws from growing back again. As you can imagine, this makes declawing very painful, particularly since your cat has to walk on what’s left of his fingers afterwards. Popular Read: Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box? – Simple Explanation