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Home > Cats > Do Cat Scratchers Dull Nails? Vet-Approved Care Facts

Do Cat Scratchers Dull Nails? Vet-Approved Care Facts

cat using a scratching post covered with sisal rope

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Dr. Karyn Kanowski

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Scratching is a normal part of cat behavior that most cat owners learn to get used to. Setting up scratching posts can help deter cats from scratching your curtains, furniture, and other parts of your home. You may think that scratching will help grind and dull nails, but cat scratchers actually help cats sharpen their claws. While this might sound scary, this is actually beneficial for cats and helps them to maintain a healthy set of nails. Here’s what you need to know about cat scratchers and how they benefit your cat.


What Do Cat Scratchers Do?

Cat scratchers are essential to a cat’s well-being. If your cat doesn’t use a scratcher, they’ll find something else to tear up. Cats need something to scratch because scratching helps to remove the dead parts of their nails, a bit like a kitty manicure. Scratching also helps them to get a good stretch because they can maintain a good grip on a surface as they stretch.

Scratching isn’t just beneficial for nail health. Cats scratch to express emotions. They have scent glands on their paws and will scratch when they want to leave their scent on something. Since scratching plays an integral role in a cat’s daily life, they need ample access to scratchers.

british shorthair cat scratching the post
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

The 3 Ways to Maintain Your Cat’s Nails

Maintaining healthy nails is an essential part of cat care. There are several things you can do to ensure your cat’s nails are healthy and kept at an appropriate length.

1. Trim Your Cat’s Nails

It’s recommended to trim your cat’s nails approximately once a month. Trimming smoothens the nails and can protect you and your furniture from getting scratched by sharp nails. It can also help reduce the frequency of scratching because your cat’s nails are always kept at a manageable length.

It’s best to use a set of sharp nail trimmers specifically designed for cats. This will reduce the risk of cracking nails or cutting them too short. If your cat is resistant to getting their nails trimmed at home, you can always enlist the help of a professional groomer or your veterinarian. They can also give you some advice and tips for trimming your cat’s nails on your own.

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2. Place Enough Cat Scratchers in Your Home

Make sure to have enough cat scratchers in the home and replace the ones that have a significant amount of wear and tear. You can find all kinds of scratching posts and boards made from various materials. As you get to know your cat, you’ll discover what kinds of surfaces and shapes they like to scratch, as well as products to suit them.

Depending on the size of your living space, you may need multiple cat scratchers. Your cat isn’t likely to pause and look for appropriate places to scratch when they get the urge. So, having a scratcher in multiple rooms will lessen the chances of your cat scratching up furniture, carpets, and curtains.

Make sure you have some cat trees or scratchers that are at the right height. Cats like to reach up and stretch as they scratch, to a surface at head height is not enough. Select one that reaches at least twice their height to allow for a full body stretch.

3. Apply Nail Caps

Nail caps are a more humane alternative to declawing cats, which is widely regarded as a cruel and unnecessary procedure by the veterinary community, and banned in many countries. Soft nail caps are usually attached to freshly trimmed nails, eventually falling off on their own as your cat’s nails grow. You can certainly apply nail caps on your own, but many professional groomers have nail cap applications included in their suite of services. So, if you find significant resistance from your cat, you can schedule a grooming appointment. A groomer can also give you some tips on how to apply nail caps at home.

cropped cat with blue nail caps siting by the window
Image Credit: Ekaterina Karetkina, Shutterstock


A Caveat To Claw Maintenance

If your cat spends a good amount of time outdoors, we would advise against cutting or covering their claws, as they need them for self-defense, and climbing fences and trees when needed. If you are really suffering with your kitty’s sharp nails, you can use nail trimmers to just take the last millimeter or two off the ends, but make sure to leave them with enough to defend themselves and escape when needed.



Cat scratchers help cats sharpen and maintain healthy nails. If you’re looking to smooth out your cat’s nails, trimming or applying nail caps are effective methods that can be done at home, but your cat may be resistant to it. If you’re having a particularly challenging time, you can always schedule an appointment with your veterinarian or a professional groomer. They can also give you tips and tricks on how to maintain your cat’s nails safely on your own.

Featured Image Credit: Jasmine Pang, Pexels

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