Cat Walking With Claws Out [5 Reasons & How To Help]


You might notice your cat walking with their claws all stuck out and question the reason for this unusual behavior. Is it a sign of discomfort, a quirk in your cat’s personality, or perhaps something more complex? This seemingly odd trait is not uncommon among cats and understanding it goes beyond mere curiosity.

The reasons why cats might walk with their claws out vary but are generally tied to age, experience, or physical health. Senior cats may experience discomfort or other underlying health issues like toenail injury and infections, while kittens, still learning to retract their claws, might temporarily walk with them extended. Overgrown nails are another common cause, a concern easily addressed through regular grooming and nail trimming.

Addressing the behavior of cats walking with their claws out is essential to their well-being. For senior cats experiencing discomfort, consulting a veterinarian for potential underlying health issues may be necessary. In the case of kittens, whose inexperience leads to this behavior, patience, and observation might guide them as they grow and learn. Issues related to overgrown nails can be easily resolved through regular grooming and attention to nail length. By recognizing these reasons and directly implementing the appropriate solutions, cat owners create a pathway to a healthy and comfortable life for their companions.

Why Does My Cat Walk With Her Claws Out

1. Issues With Old Cat

Just as humans face challenges with age, your cat may also experience physical difficulties as it grows older. When your elderly cat starts walking with its claws out, it’s possibly due to the natural weakening of muscles and reduced flexibility, which could hinder the complete retraction of the claws.

Additionally, older cats often grapple with age-related conditions such as arthritis or degenerative joint diseases, which could cause discomfort, making it even harder for your furry friend to retract its claws effectively.

2. Kittens Have Not Learned To Retract Their Claws

When you observe your young kitten parading around with its claws out, it’s not necessarily a sign of trouble. Your kitten is still familiarizing itself with its body’s capabilities, and retracting its claws is a skill that comes with time. So, if your kitten exhibits this behavior, it’s simply a natural part of its growth journey, where learning to manage those sharp little claws is just one of the many adorable milestones.

3. Cat Claws Are Overgrown

If you notice your cat walking around with its claws out, it might be due to claw overgrowth. Overgrown claws can make it difficult for a cat to retract them fully. This issue is more common among indoor cats that don’t have sufficient opportunities to naturally wear down their claws through activities like climbing and hunting. When the claws become too long, they may remain extended and affect the cat’s walking pattern. Over time, the claws can even become embedded in the paw pads, leading to discomfort and potential health problems.

4. Toenail Injury

Accidents happen, and your feline companion isn’t exempted. A toenail injury, which might involve fractures, cuts, or other forms of trauma, can be painful. If your cat is walking with its claws out, it could be a protective response to such an injury. The physical discomfort resulting from the trauma might make your cat more cautious, resulting in an altered walking pattern.

5. Bacterial or Fungal Infection

Your cat’s claws might remain persistently extended due to infections like paronychia and onychomycosis. Paronychia stems from bacteria and results in inflammation in the tissue surrounding the nail or claw while Onychomycosis is a fungal infection, facilitated by fungi such as Candida or ringworm, particularly in moist areas around the nail bed. An injury to your cat’s claw may provide an entry point for these microorganisms, leading to symptoms such as swelling, redness, and pain. This discomfort can hinder your cat’s ability to fully retract its claws.

You may also notice behavioral signs like excessive licking or biting at the paws, limping, or other indications of pain, highlighting the need for immediate professional veterinary attention.

How To Help A Cat That Walks With Claws Out

By applying these few steps, you can help your cat deal with its continuously extended claws and consequently, improve its balance and agility while walking.

Give Your Cat A Good Claw Trim


Trimming your cat’s claws is very important. Overgrown claws can lead to various issues such as difficulty walking, ingrown nails, and pain. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely trim your cat’s nails

1. Prepare The Necessary Tools: Gather cat nail clippers or straight-edged human nail clippers, a towel or blanket, and some styptic powder to be prepared in case of accidental nicks.

2. Handle Your Cat With Care: Approach your cat gently and find a comfortable position for both of you. Hold your cat’s paw softly, pressing the toe pad to extend the claws.

3. Locate The “Quick” And Cut The Claw: Look for the translucent part of the claw, avoiding the pink area known as the “quick.” Cut just the tip of the claw at a slight angle.

4. Repeat The Process And Reward Your Cat: Repeat the process for each claw, always proceeding with caution and keeping your cat calm with soothing words.

Teach or Train Your Cat To Retract His Claws

You can also help your cat whose claws are always out by teaching and training it to retract its claws. This can be done through play and positive reinforcement methods.

a) Initiate Playtime: Play with your cat and allow it to approach with its claws out. This initial step establishes a playful environment and provides an opportunity to observe how your cat naturally uses its claws. It’s the foundation for the training process.

b) Signal Discomfort: If the claws come too close to you, make an unfamiliar sound to signal discomfort. This sound serves as an immediate and clear reaction to the cat’s specific behavior, helping it to understand that unsheathing its claws is undesirable.

c) Cease Play Temporarily: Stand up and turn away, ceasing play for a while. This interruption in play acts as a non-threatening consequence for the cat’s behavior, reinforcing the message that using its claws in this way is not acceptable.

d) Extend Play Interruption: If the cat continues to unsheathe its claws during play, repeat the process, gradually increasing the time you cease play. This gradual escalation helps the cat make a connection between its behavior and the lengthening interruption in playtime.

e) Offer A Final Chance: Repeat once more, giving your cat one last chance. This step allows for continued reinforcement of the lesson, providing ample opportunity for the cat to adjust its behavior while still maintaining clear boundaries.

f) Halt Play If Behavior Persists: If the behavior persists, halt play for the day, giving your cat time to understand the correlation between its actions and the interruption of play. This final action provides a clear but gentle signal, allowing the cat time to understand what it did wrong and learn how to act differently in the future.

In addition to using play, employing commands and positive reinforcements can be powerful tools to guide your cat to retract its claws. Choose a specific command like “claws in” or ‘No’ and use it consistently whenever your cat naturally retracts its claws. Pairing this command with a treat or affectionate touch helps reinforce the behavior.

See Your Veterinarian If You Suspect Any Injury Or Infection

If your cat is walking with claws out and you notice signs of infection or injury such as a discolored or broken toenail, swelling around the paw, or redness and discharge, it may be indicative of a serious underlying problem. Injuries can range from minor abrasions to more significant issues like sprains or fractures. Infections might include bacterial or fungal infections that can spread if left untreated. Before visiting the vet, it’s crucial to keep the area clean by gently washing it with mild soap and water and to keep the cat calm and comfortable.

Upon arrival at the vet, a thorough examination will be conducted to determine the nature of the problem. X-rays may be taken if a structural issue like a fracture is suspected. If an infection is present, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications. For injuries such as sprains or broken toenails, proper care like rest, immobilization, or even surgery might be required, depending on the severity.

Throughout this process, clear communication with your veterinarian is key. Follow their expert guidance and ask any questions you may have to ensure the well-being and recovery of your beloved pet.

I Can Hear My Cat’s Claws When She Walks

Cats’ claws are naturally sharp and are usually retracted when not in use. However, in some domesticated cats, especially those that don’t have ample opportunities to scratch and naturally wear down their claws, overgrowth can occur. This overgrowth leads to the sound you might hear when the cat walks on hard surfaces. If left unattended, the claws can become so long that they curl back into the paw, leading to discomfort and potential infection. Regular trimming, as part of a grooming routine, helps in preventing this issue, maintaining the cat’s comfort, and eliminating the noise associated with overgrown claws.

Some cats may suffer from health conditions that prevent them from properly retracting their claws, hence, the clicking sounds. This might include arthritis, nerve damage, or other infection that affect the paw’s structure and function. The inability to retract the claws means that they are always exposed, leading to that distinct sound as they touch the floor. These medical conditions might require professional veterinary care to diagnose and manage, and regular claw trimming might be a necessary part of the cat’s care routine to prevent complications.

Cat Claws Out All The Time: Why Won’t My Cat Retract His Claws?

Do Cats Play With Their Claws Out?

Cats may sometimes play with their claws out, using them as tools for exploring, hunting, and interacting. When they become overexcited during play, they may extend their claws even further, which can be unintentionally harmful. This behavior is rooted in their natural predatory instincts, where the claws are vital for capturing and holding prey.

To prevent getting scratched, it’s essential to play with cats using toys and not hands. The use of appropriate toys keeps the cat engaged and stimulated while providing a safe distance between its claws and human skin. This approach helps in maintaining the excitement and fun of playtime without the risk of scratches or injuries.

Furthermore, understanding a cat’s play behavior and tendencies is vital for a positive and enjoyable experience. Being mindful of when a cat is extending its claws, especially during moments of heightened excitement, allows for timely intervention or redirection. By choosing suitable toys and being aware of the cat’s reactions, owners can create a safe and fulfilling playtime environment that respects the cat’s natural instincts.

Why Do Cats Sleep With Their Claws Out?

When cats are relaxed, their claws might slightly extend. This is not necessarily a sign of stress but rather a natural state for some cats. The muscles that control a cat’s claws can relax during sleep, allowing the claws to extend partially. This doesn’t mean the cat is scared; it’s simply a relaxed state where the control over the retraction of the claws is lessened.

Also stretching is a common behavior in cats, and it often accompanies both the beginning and end of a restful period. As a cat stretches, it may extend its claws, flexing the tendons and muscles in the process. This extension is a healthy part of the cat’s routine, helping to keep the claws sharp and the related muscles in good condition. It’s not uncommon to see a cat stretch and extend its claws several times during a nap, just as humans might stretch their arms or legs. This is a natural and beneficial behavior, reflecting the cat’s instinct to keep its body in optimal condition.

Finally, as descendants of wild predators, cats retain certain behaviors that help them survive in the wild. Having their claws out, even while resting, allows them to be prepared to defend themselves or escape a threatening situation quickly. This readiness to react is an instinctive trait and is not necessarily a sign of stress or discomfort.

Final Thoughts

Cats walking with their claws out is a phenomenon that can point to different underlying causes such as issues in senior cats, inexperience among kittens, or overgrown nails. Senior cats may struggle with this due to discomfort or health challenges, requiring careful monitoring and possible veterinary care to ensure their well-being.

Kittens, being new to their surroundings and still developing their motor skills, might display this behavior as part of their growth and learning process. This may be a temporary phase that they outgrow with time and experience. On the other hand, overgrown nails are a more common issue that can be addressed through regular grooming and nail trimming.

A proper understanding of these factors strengthens the bond between pet and owner and ensures a healthy and happy life for the cat. Whether it’s a sign of aging, a learning stage in a young kitten, or a grooming need, this behavior serves as a reminder of the multifaceted and attentive care that our feline companions require.

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