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Catch a Kitty By the Toe: How to Treat a Cat With a Torn Nail

an orange and white cat lays in the grass with its paws raised to frame its face

Your cat uses their paws to do almost everything. They use their paws when they’re eating, playing, running, scratching, jumping, climbing, or even when they’re kneading your chest before they snuggle up for a nap. However, sometimes your furry friend will injure one of the nails on their toes during one of the eclectic shenanigans they get into that wake you up at four in the morning -- or shatter your favorite drinking glass. 

What Causes Torn Cat Nails? 

How Your Feline Friends Injure Their Tiny Toes

Torn cat nails are quite painful for your cat and it should be easy to tell when they have one. If you notice your cat favoring one paw over all the others while walking, it may be a sign that your pet has injured its nail. Additionally, some torn nails can be really painful for your pet, so if you see your cat holding up one foot, limping, or hear them whining in discomfort or pain you should definitely check their toes.

Your cat can get a torn nail in a variety of ways. Everybody knows that their cat loves to scratch on things. Your carpet, your new chair, your favorite shirt, or hopefully that brand new scratching post you just got them. However, sometimes a cat's nail can get caught and stuck in your carpet or fabrics. If their nail is stuck and they try to rip it from the fabric there is a chance that it can tear. Similarly, if your cat likes to get up high, in trees, on the counters, the fridge, the bookshelf, or anywhere else your cat likes to get into mischief, then it's possible their nail can break on the way back down. 

When your cat jumps from a place up high and falls a long way down, it's possible their nail will be torn if they land on their foot in any way that bends their nail in an unnatural angle. Additionally, owners of older cats need to be especially vigilant because older cats' nails can become brittle and dry with age and get torn in fabric easier and from much lower heights than a young cat's. However, owners of young kittens need to be watching out in the same way since kittens have delicate claws and love to play and run around. Since they’re so excited and energetic, but young and uncoordinated, they have a high chance of getting their nail caught in something or messing up a jump.

Cat foot with nails that are neat and trim to avoid tears
Keeping your cat's nails neat and trimmed is essential in avoiding injuries and keeping them healthy.

How To Prevent Your Cat From Tearing Its Nails   

The Best Way to Keep Your Cats Paws Comfy is to Prevent Injuries From Occurring

One of the most important ways to prevent your cat from tearing their nail is by keeping them well groomed. Just like human nails, cats nails grow all of the time. Unfortunately your cat doesn’t have the opposable thumbs necessary to work a set of nail clippers. Because of this, your cat will want to scratch on something because to them, that is how they groom their nails. By scratching on surfaces they are able to remove the outer layer of their nails and reveal the sharp healthy inner layer. However, since you want to prevent your cat from scratching up your new sofa or door frame, you will want to help groom them.

If your cat is prevented from scratching things to groom their nails, like the way they naturally would, but you don’t help keep their nails neat and trim, their nails will grow to be unnaturally long. And because your cat’s nails aren’t supposed to get so long, it is more likely injuries will occur. When your cat's nails get too long it is more likely to get them caught wherever they like to scratch. Not only will they be more likely they get caught, it is also more likely they will be able to rip since they’re so far from the paw. Similarly, if their nails are too long, they don’t necessarily have to land on their foot in an unusual or awkward position to tear their nail when they are playing or jumping around. Landing in a normal comfortable position may still cause the nail to become injured if the nail is long enough to stick out unnaturally from their paw.

If you want your cat to avoid injuring their paw make sure their nails are kept cut short. However, it's important to use the proper nail cutting technique when you groom your cat. So you can make regular appointments with your veterinarian to have a professional trim their nails for you, or you can take the time to have your vet show you the proper method of cutting your cat's nails the next time you're there and then you can provide your cat with high quality grooming right at home. 

How To Treat Your Cats Torn Nail

Tricks to Treat Your Fuzzy Friends New Injury

If you notice that your cat has a torn nail you can treat them right at home. The easiest way to approach this is by finding a way to restrain your cat and the paws that are uninjured. One of the easiest ways to do this is to wrap your cat up in a towel or a blanket. This prevents them from scratching at you with their other paws or biting you when you are treating their painful injury. Even the friendliest cat is likely to be upset when their injured paw is being touched. 

So you’ll want to make sure they're restrained in order to prevent them from injuring you, but also to prevent them from pulling their injury away in pain at a time that will cause them additional suffering, damage, or discomfort. If there’s someone else around with you, have them securely hold your cat in the towel or blanket while you treat the nail for even more safety.

The first thing you’ll want to do is stop any bleeding that is taking place. So find any gauze, bandages, or towels that you aren’t attached to and wrap your cat's injured foot up. After you have their foot wrapped apply pressure to their toe. It’s a good idea to have a styptic pencil, silver nitrate stick, or cauterizing powder on hand. These can be picked up at any pet store and are useful to prevent bleeding and the excessive loss of blood if your cat is injured. 

However, if you don’t have any of these on hand, you can also use a small amount of flour or baking powder to stem the bleeding. If it’s possible you will want to trim away the ripped part of the nail from the wound. When the ripped portion is loosely attached, or far up their nail, you can just use your normal nail trimmers right at home. However, if the injury is closer to the base of the nail, or a particularly thick part of the nail, then you should have your veterinarian finish treating the wound in order to avoid accidentally exacerbating the injury at home and causing long term damage.

Vet examines kitten with a torn nail.
If your cat has injured their nail too far down, be sure to take them to a trained professional to avoid any lasting damage.

Cats are quite the rambunctious little ragamuffins, but if your furry friend injures their paw, don’t sweat, there’s plenty available to do right at home that will keep your frenzied feline happy and healthy. Just make sure you remember to restrain them before you start treating any of their injuries. Safety first will keep both you, and your crazy cat, from receiving any unnecessary injuries.

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