Cat Scratching Post

Q. I find pieces of my cat’s claws in his scratching post. Is this normal? It’s like he’s molting his claws.

A. What you’re finding are the discarded outer coverings your cat sheds as he keeps his claws sharp — and you’re to be congratulated, because it means your cat likes the scratching post you’ve offered enough to use it vigorously and happily. (I’m hoping it also means that he’s not using the corners of your sofa!)

As for those pieces, yes, it’s completely normal for a cat to lose those. A cat’s claw grows from underneath, with new layers pushing the older ones out. Eventually, the oldest layer peels free and is shed naturally, revealing a sharp new tip underneath. Since cats rely on their claws for hunting, self-defense and climbing, this cycle of renewal is essential for keeping these important tools working as they should, and as sharp as they need to be.

The cycle runs a couple of months or so, and since it happens for every toe, it’s not at all unusual to see these discarded sheaths around the house. Since some cats prefer horizontal scratching to a vertical post or tree, you may find them embedded in your carpet.

Scratching is an extremely enjoyable and completely normal experience for your cat that allows a good stretch, puts the cat’s scent on the scratched object and keeps claws in tip-top shape. You can reduce the damage and still let your cat enjoy a good scratch by keeping the tips of the nails trimmed regularly. This is painless, and most cats can learn to tolerate nail trims with patience, treats and praise.