Cat Nails Splintering? Here’s What to Do!

Written by Julianne Smith · 6 min read >
Cat Nails Splintering

Cat Nails Splintering can occur while you are trimming your cat’s nails or naturally. Cat nails are designed to help them climb up smooth surfaces, so they need some amount of flexibility. And generally speaking, your cat’s nail will naturally become worn down. This is normally the result of your cat repeatedly scratching furniture or objects in the house over time.

That said, if you notice that your cat’s nails are splitting more easily than they used to, it could be a sign that your kitty is suffering from one of several possible issues. Here are some of the most common reasons for splitting nails in cats.

Why Are My Cat’s Nails Splitting?

1. Bacterial Infection

A bacterial infection can cause inflammation within your cat’s nails. If your cat’s nails are splitting and peeling, he may have a bacterial infection that’s being caused by scratches or bites on his feet, mouth, or even nose. The symptoms will vary depending on what type of bacteria is causing the infection, but you’ll generally notice swelling, redness, and severe pain in the affected area. A regular course of antibiotics will help reduce pain and swelling, but it will need to be treated with a vet before any lasting results can be seen.

2. Injury

If your cat gets injured, it can cause the surface of his nail to split. There are a number of possible injuries that can occur. For example, some cats get injured by stepping on glass or other sharp objects, as well as household chemicals such as bleach or even cleaning products. Some chemicals may burn your cat’s paws, causing swelling and pain in the affected area. This will result in abnormal splits in your cat’s claw.

3. Allergies

If you notice that your cat’s nails start splitting after he’s been exposed to something he’s allergic to, they may be caused by an allergy response in the body. Allergies can occur for a number of reasons. For example, some cats develop allergies to certain foods or other substances that are in their environment. Your cat may be allergic to the material of your cat’s bed, and as a result, develop sores on his feet when he sleeps on it.

4. Hereditary Factors

Your kitty may have inherited the tendency to have overly brittle nails from his parents. If you notice that your cat’s nails are splitting while they grow out, they may be genetically linked to split easily and fall off more often than normal. If both of your kitty’s parents had this problem, chances are good that he will too.

5. Environmental Factors

Your cat may be suffering from an environmental condition that causes his nails to split, or he may be finding it difficult to get enough nourishment because he’s been confined indoors. If your cat is confined to an apartment complex, for example, it’s more likely that his nails will split in this type of environment. If your kitty has a sensitive stomach, he will also have trouble eating the proper foods necessary for good health. 

6. Dry Environment

If your kitty doesn’t have access to ample water for hydration and moisture in the air and on surfaces he uses for grooming himself, his nails will take longer to grow back. If you notice that your cat’s nails are splitting, it’s important to provide him with plenty of water to keep his body hydrated.

7. Inadequate Diet

If your kitty is lacking protein in his diet, he may not be able to get the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy nail growth.  The split in the nail might appear as a result of not getting enough protein or chlorophyll, which is what gives plants their green color and aids your kitty in digesting them properly. If your cat is eating the proper foods (or has been given a properly balanced diet that meets his nutritional needs), you should notice that his nails will properly.

8. Poor Hygiene

If your cat’s nails have become dry and brittle, he may be suffering from a fungal infection that’s causing his nails to split and fall off easily. This is especially possible if he’s been consistently not given access to enough water. If you notice that your cat’s nails are splitting and falling off easily, it can be a sign of a fungal infection of the paws or even on the skin around his neck, which may predispose him to neck infections as well.

9. Stress

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from some sort of stress, it may be causing him to have poor hygiene. If your cat’s nails are shedding and falling off, it can be a sign that he lacks proper grooming or has been injured. A stressed kitty may also have nervous habits, such as biting himself or scratching himself. These nips and scratches could potentially cause an infection in his nail bed, and then the split in his nail could occur. 

10. Poor Cat Grooming

If your cat’s nails are splitting due to a lack of proper grooming, he may not be getting the amount of daily exercise he needs to keep his body healthy and strong. A cat that doesn’t have time to go outside and exercise may not be using his muscles enough, which can cause the nails to become brittle and split easily. If your cat is in good health, this is probably not his problem. However, it is important to note that if your kitty’s nails are splitting during normal nail growth, he may be suffering from hyperthyroidism or an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in his body.

11. Mineral Deficiencies

If your kitty has been diagnosed with a mineral deficiency, he may develop split nails and falls out. For example, if your cat is suffering from an improper diet or suffers from a lack of nutrients in his diet for any reason (e.g. lack of protein), he may develop brittle nails and split. It is very important to provide you cat with sufficient calcium to reduce/ stop cat claw shedding.

So if you feel like your cat nail splintering is happening when you are trimming your cat, you should know how to trim your cat nails safely.

How to trim your cat’s nails safely?

A properly trimmed cat can lengthen its life, protect furniture from being scratched or damaged, and reduce the risk of getting a nail stuck in a human’s skin. However, trimming your cat’s nails can be dangerous if you don’t know what to do. In this post, we provide an introduction to how to trim your pet’s nails safely with clear instructions on how to successfully trim them. Also a proper trim can stop cat nail splintering.

If you have any questions about the process of clipping nails on a small animal please leave a comment at the end of this page and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

1) Collect a comfortable towel and some treats for your pet while they are sitting in their favorite spot.

2) Place your cat in a sitting position.

3) Show your cat the nail clipping tool you will use.

4) Hold the animal firmly by holding its front paws in one hand and its back paws in the other. Make sure that your hands are not touching the animal’s tail or neck and are completely clean. If you do have a beard or mustache, trim it first to ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with the nail you are clipping. This is especially important if you have long nails on your pet’s front paws and short nails on its back feet.[1]

5) Keep your cat relaxed but still able to sit up (don’t let it flop down).

6) With your index finger, lightly separate the cat’s front feet and gently pull down the claws. Your cat will let you know it is comfortable by holding its paw up.

7) While holding the cat’s paw close to your face, run your nail file down the underside of one of the nails on each front paw. Make sure that you don’t cut into or damage any of the nerves in this area. For best results, do this on both feet at the same time and continue until you have gone all around each nail. If there are still any unclipped areas on your pet’s front paws, try again another day to reduce stress. Keep trying this until all nails are trimmed.
… and repeat on the opposite paw.

8) When your cat has gotten used to the tool and there is no response of fear or pain, you can choose to trim the nails on its paws. Simply take your cat’s claw between your thumb and forefinger. Feather up the nail and trim off any sharp edges. Be careful not to cut into quick where blood vessels, nerves, and tendons are located.

If you follow these steps correctly there is a very low chance for cats claws splintering.

Should I Be Worried If My Cat’s Nails Are Splitting?

If you notice your kitty’s nails starting to split, don’t worry! It might just be a temporary phase. Cats’ nails are designed to shred objects while hunting, so the splitting is normal while the nail reaches its full length. As long as you keep an eye out for bumps or scratches on your cat’s paws, there’s no reason to get too worried about it! Your feline friend should return to normal once her claws grow back; meanwhile, make sure that she has plenty of toys and scratching posts to distract her from using your furniture for target practice.

Without blood or pus under the nail itself (things that could indicate infection), there is rarely any need for concern.

If you do believe that the nail is infected, then you should take your cat to the vet to get it properly treated. Keep in mind that cats tend not to show pain or illness like humans and dogs might, so if your cat does have an infection and seems comfortable, it might be a good idea to wrap her paw with a bandage overnight (in case she accidentally hurts herself) to see if there are any symptoms the following day.

Written by Julianne Smith
I’m an experienced vet who is working mainly with shelter animals. I’ve helped many animals overcome their fear of the vet, taught them how to use the litter box, and treated them for countless diseases. I hope that my writing can help you take better care of your animal companions! Profile
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