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Why are my cat's nails splitting?

We know that our cats love to claw at everything but did you know that there is a reason for this behavior? They do this to help pull off the outermost dead layer of their nails to clear the way for their new sharp nails to be exposed. In this post, our Argyle vets share some of the common reasons behind a split cat nail and when this splitting or splintering is a cause for concern. 

It can be concerning to see your cat's nails in any condition other than long and sharp, but some nail changes are actually completely normal. However, other potential causes may require a vet's attention. Here are some reasons your cat's nails may be splitting. 

1. Out With the Old

If a cat's nail grows past the point where the body's blood supply can reach it, the layer surrounding the nail will start to crack, allowing room for the new nail to take its place. On average, each claw's nails will split and fall every two to three months. The old layer either falls off on its own or is most likely removed by your cat's scratching. 

2. Aging Process

As your cat ages, you may notice they forget to groom themselves and have difficulty using the litter box. Scratching posts may also become less important to them. This neglect of their nails can lead to split ends, discomfort, overgrown nails, and increased avoidance of the scratching post. 

Some older cats may suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition that causes the normal cushion of cartilage in the joints to degrade. The bones in the joint eventually rub against each other, causing pain, reduced joint movement, and the formation of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint. This discomfort can make it difficult for cats to keep their nails trimmed. 

That's why it's critical to start introducing your cat to nail clippers as soon as possible. As they get older, they'll have no problem trusting you with their paws, and they won't have to worry about the state of their nails if they stop scratching entirely. 

3. Improper Tools

While both people and cats need their nails trimmed, cutting a cat's nails isn't the same as cutting our own. Both humans and our feline friends can be injured if blunt tools are used. The pressure from the blade can split and break, leaving the nail bleeding. Left untreated, such tears can lead to infection. So, make sure to keep your cat's nail clippers clean at all times and replace them when they lose their sharpness. 

4. Nail Chewing or Biting

Cleaning their paws and nails is part of your cat's regular daily grooming routine. If they find a split nail, they'll chew and bite it to allow the new nail room to emerge. Chronic nail biting in cats can be caused by many potential health issues, including ringworm. This fungal infection causes skin irritation and dandruff. Excessive grooming is another common symptom of anxiety in cats, as is intense chewing on nails. 

5. Health Conditions

Finding a split nail isn't always a bad thing unless it happens frequently. The condition of your cat's nails can also be an indication of its overall health. A broken or injured limb can make scratching your cat's nails on the cat tree difficult. A medical condition that kept them sedentary for an extended period could leave their nails untrimmed and full.

The condition of your cat's nails, coat, and skin may also reflect its nutritional status. Dietary protein is used to develop and maintain muscle, skin, fur, nails, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and more. Making sure your kitty gets enough healthy food will benefit them in all aspects of their life.

Make sure to bring your senior cat into your Argyle vet for annual wellness exams, and any time your feline friend is feeling unwell. We can offer advice on health and nutrition for your aging kitty. 

6. Disorders Affecting the Nails

If your cat's nails are splitting or do not appear to be healthy, it is critical to examine every inch of its claws as well as the paw itself. A traumatic injury can cause nail disease; for example, they may have broken the nail because they were stuck to a surface they were scratching or they had a bad landing. It's also possible that the nail splitting was caused by a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection.

Several nail diseases can cause splitting, including Onycholysis, which causes the nail to separate from the underlying structures. While nail bed tumors are uncommon in cats, other types of cancer may spread to the nail bed. This is why we must monitor our cat's overall health, from the tips of their ears to the sharp tips of their nails.

Should I worry about my cat's nails splintering or splitting?

If you're worried about your cat's claws or have seen more split cat nails on your pet's paws recently, keep an eye out for any behavioral changes, which usually occur when a cat is in pain. Physical discomfort can cause different reactions in different cats; some may become quiet and avoid contact, while others may begin mewing more than usual. There are obvious physical signs, such as limping, licking their paws, or keeping them tucked in at all times.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you worried about your cat's nails splitting or other issues affecting their nails? Contact our vets in Argyle today to schedule an examination.

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