How Many Claws Do Cats Have? Answer Will Surprise You!

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

how many claws do cats have

Cutting your cat’s nails is daunting, especially if it is not cooperating. The task can take hours and a series of chasing around your living room.

But have you ever wondered how many claws do cats have? While you can answer this question yourself, your feline would not like anyone touching its claws one by one.

Cats have 18 claws, which can be surprising to people who assume that the number of claws on each paw is equal.


The Anatomy of a Cat’s Paw


A cat has 18 claws, assuming it does not have a genetic mutation. Felines with genetic conditions, such as polydactyl, have extra toes on each paw, making it look like they are doing a thumbs-up.

The front paws of a typical cat have five claws each, while there are four on back paws. Felines use these cat back claws for hunting prey and climbing trees.

These claws, especially the front ones, are also their primary defense during dangerous situations.

A cat’s nail anatomy is simple yet fascinating. Apart from its four functional toes, its fifth claws are called the dewclaws.

1. Dewclaws


The dewclaws are the nails attached to the fifth toe of cats, particularly on their front paws. You will find the dewclaws on the front paws’ inner area.

When walking, running, or jumping, the dewclaws do not have any function as they do not touch the ground. However, they have an essential role during certain circumstances.

For instance, the dewclaws provide extra grip when a cat is holding on to something. Unlike the other claws of a feline, the dewclaws are not retractable.

For this reason, you need to monitor your feline, as there is a chance for its dew claws to tangle onto something and break. A broken claw is painful for your pet, so it is something you need to avoid.

Fortunately, you can trim a cat’s nails to make them less prone to breakage.

On the other hand, the four toes on your pet’s paws are for basic functions like walking. Unlike the dewclaws, the functional cat claws retract, allowing your feline to hide them under its toes when they are not in need.

A cat’s claws are extended only when hunting prey, protecting itself from danger, or gripping onto something.

2. Cats With Six Toes


Due to a genetic mutation, some kittens have claws that are more than the typical number of claws other cats have. This condition is called polydactyl, which literally translates to “many toes.”

Polydactyl usually affects the front paws. If you wonder how many nails polydactyl cats have, the answer is nine claws on each foot at maximum.

This feline genetic mutation is entirely harmless. Its only disadvantage is that trimming a cat’s nail will take more time.

In fact, cats may even benefit from having polydactyl nails. Since this condition increases their number of toes, their paws become broader and larger.

As a result, they can balance, climb, and hold prey better than typical felines.

3. Feline Radial Hypoplasia


Another genetic condition that causes extra toes on felines. However, you should never mistake feline radial hypoplasia for polydactyl.

While these conditions are related, feline radial hypoplasia causes a cat’s leg to become twisted. As a result, a feline with this genetic condition cannot walk normally due to deformity and shortness of its forelimbs.

Fortunately, cats are the masters of adapting, so they will learn to live comfortably while having this condition.

Should You Trim Cat’s Claws?

Trimming a cat’s claws is one of the most vital parts of grooming them. If kittens have claws that are too long and sharp, they can end up hurting themselves or a caretaker while playing.

Overgrown cat claws may even curve and sink into the paw pad, resulting in pain when your feline friend is walking. Since kitten claws retract when they don’t need them, checking them from time to time is crucial in preventing overgrown nails.

Trimming your feline’s nails every two to three weeks is ideal. A scratch pole is also beneficial as it helps slow down nail growth.

There’s ongoing discourse about this question among Reddit members. Join in and share your thoughts here:

Do you trim your cats claws or let them so it naturally on the post?
byu/Final_Damage8447 incats

How to Trim a Cat’s Claw


Felines become aggressive when you try to cut their nails. If your pet is still a kitten, it is crucial to train it to tolerate nail trimming.

You can use these tips to gently and safely trim your cat’s nails:

  1. Conduct the grooming process in a calm, quiet environment to make it tolerable for your pet. You can also desensitize its paw by regularly touching it for a few seconds.
  2. Give your pet a treat every time it allows you to hold its paw. In time, your feline friend will no longer resist having its paws touched.
  3. When trimming your cat’s nails, allow it to find a comfortable lying position. Once the cat is all set, get a good pair of nail clippers and gently hold your feline’s paw.
  4. Apply a bit of pressure on the paw you are working on to extend its nails. Now, cut the nails at a 45-degree angle, ensuring that the amount you are trimming will not reach the quick.
  5. Accidentally cutting the claw’s quick can result in pain and bleeding to your feline friend. For this reason, cutting the claws little by little is ideal.

Related: Average cost to declaw a cat. Can I declaw my cat for free?

Frequently Asked Questions


What are cat claws made out of?

Like human nails, cat claws are made out of keratin. As the keratin dies, it sheds off in the form of nails, causing a feline’s claws to grow continuously.

Can you remove a cat’s claw?

Removing a cat’s claws from its roots can be done surgically. But if you will have your feline’s claws removed, it can no longer use its feet to protect itself from danger.

A cat with no claws can also not climb on trees to escape predators. For this reason, de-clawing a cat is not recommended.

How long does a cat’s claw bleed?

A quick is part of a feline’s nail that consists of nerve endings and blood vessels. If you accidentally cut the quick during nail trimming, its bleeding should stop within a minute.


Cats are curious creatures, but so are humans. So, while it may not seem a big deal, knowing how many claws do cats have will feed and satisfy our curiosity.

Knowing that felines have 18 claws is also beneficial, as it will help you identify whether or not your pet has a genetic condition.

We hope that you learned the anatomy of a cat’s claws and how to take care of them through this post.

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