Why Are My Cat Nails Splitting?

|11 min read

Do you ever find bits and pieces of cat nails around the house? Is it making you worried as a concerned pet parent? Are you wondering why your cat's nails are splitting?

Well, put your feet up and grab a snack, as in this blog post, we will answer all your questions regarding splitting cat nails.

So, whether you want to know why your cat's nails are splitting, what you can do to minimize it, or how to prevent it from happening altogether, you are in the right place.

7 Reasons Why Your Cat's Nails Are Splitting

Here are 7 reasons why your cat's nails may be splitting:

  1. Broken Nail

    Just like how we can accidentally break our fingernails, cats can experience the same issue with their nails. They can catch their claws on objects such as carpets, scratching posts, or toys.

    When this happens, they pull their paw forcefully to free themselves, resulting in their claws splitting down the middle. This is more common in cats with longer nails because they are more likely to get caught on things. That's why it's essential to regularly trim your cat's nails, practicing paw care for cats to keep them short.

    In most cases, the split is minor and affects only the outer layers of the nail that are being shed or the first few layers down. This usually doesn't cause significant harm. Your cat can naturally file down the nail through scratching, or you can carefully trim off the excess nail to remove the sharp edge.

    However, there are cases where cats can break their nails deep down towards the internal blood supply vessel of the nail, known as the quick.

    In this case, you will notice bleeding from the nail. Although a broken nail is not a severe injury, it is essential to be cautious. An open wound like this can quickly become infected, leading to complications. Therefore, if your cat's nail is bleeding due to a split, it is necessary to take them to the veterinarian.

    The vet will properly clean and disinfect the wound to prevent infection. In some cases, vets prescribe antibiotics to keep potential infections under control.

    It is essential to remember a split nail that causes bleeding should be taken seriously to ensure your kitty's well-being and to prevent any complications from arising.

  2. Shedding The Old Nail

    Sometimes, when your cat is shedding the outer layer of their nails, it can look like the nail is splitting in two. This shedding process usually takes about three months. As the outer layers peel away, it may seem like the claw is splitting down the middle.

    But don't worry! The actual claw underneath is perfectly fine and healthy. It's just the outer sheath that's splitting and coming off. This is entirely natural and a normal part of your cat's life cycle.

    So, if you notice your cat's nails splitting, there's usually no need to be concerned. It's just their body doing its thing. However, it's a great idea to take a closer look and ensure it's only the outermost part splitting. If the underlying claw is also split, it might be worth checking with a vet to ensure everything is okay.

    Overall, it's essential to understand that when your cat's nails appear to be splitting, it's usually nothing to worry about. It's just their way of shedding the old and making way for the new.

    Just keep an eye on their nails and make sure they stay healthy.

  3. Blunt Nail Clippers

    If you notice that your cat's nails keep splitting when you try to trim them, it could be because your clippers or trimmers are dull. Dull tools can crush the nail instead of giving it a clean cut. This leads to messy splits that can be painful and even prone to infection if they affect the quick.

    The solution is simple: get yourself a shiny new pair of nail clippers! Dull nail clippers mean it's time for an upgrade.

    Using sharp and efficient clippers can give your furry friend's nails a clean trim without all the splitting drama. Your cat will thank you, and you'll both have a much smoother nail-trimming experience.

    So, say goodbye to those old, dull clippers and say hello to precision and happy paws!

  4. Old Age

    As cats get older, their nails can go through some changes too. It's like they're growing their own set of hardcore claws!

    Senior cats might have nails that are thicker and tougher compared to younger cats. They're like little claws of steel!

    Older cats might also have health issues, like arthritis, making it harder to use scratching posts. It's like trying to scratch with achy joints. That is definitely not the most enjoyable experience!

    So, don't worry if your cat is an older cat with tough nails and trouble using scratching posts. It's just a natural part of aging. However, it's still crucial to keep an eye on their nail health and find alternative ways for them to maintain their claws.

    Your vet can give you tips and tricks to help your senior kitty stay comfortable and keep those claws in check.

  5. Chronic Nail Biting

    When cats groom themselves, they don't just focus on their fur. They also take care of their paws and nails. If they come across a split nail, they'll instinctively chew and bite it to allow the new nail to come through. It's their way of keeping things neat and tidy.

    But if your cat starts biting their nails excessively, that's not a good sign. It could be a red flag for underlying health issues, like ringworm. Ringworm is a pesky fungal infection that irritates the skin and makes your cat's nails go haywire.

    Excessive grooming, including intense nail chewing, can also be a sign of anxiety in cats. If you notice them going to town on their nails, it could mean they're stressed out. And all that chewing can lead to broken nails and wounds, creating a perfect breeding ground for infections.

    Let's not forget about the age factor. Senior cats can experience excessive nail chewing due to stress from conditions like arthritis or thyroid problems. Even dental health issues can contribute to their nail-chewing escapades.

    So, it's time to investigate if you see your cat going overboard with the nail-biting action. Get them checked out by your vet. They can determine the root cause and provide the necessary treatment.

    Let's keep those paws and nails happy and infection-free!

  6. Ill Health

    If your cat's nails keep splitting all the time, it is a sign that something more serious is happening or that they're in pain. While it's normal for cats to shed the outer layers of their nails, as we discussed, constant splitting could indicate an underlying issue.

    When cats aren't feeling well or are in pain, they lose interest in activities they usually enjoy, like scratching. But scratching helps with the shedding process, so when they scratch less, their nails shed slower. And that's when you start noticing more frequent splits.

    And here's the thing: when cats don't scratch as much, their nails can grow longer, increasing the chances of getting caught on things and causing breaks.

    Now, cats are pros at hiding pain and illness because they don't want to appear weak. Sneaky, right?

    So, paying attention to any subtle changes in your cat's paws, including constant nail splits, is essential. If you're unsure or concerned, it's best to take your furry friend to the vet. They can examine your cat, determine what's happening, and provide the proper treatment if needed.

  7. Nailbed Disorders

    Cats can experience two common nail and nail bed disorders: onychorrhexis and onychomadesis.

    Onychorrhexis is like having super brittle nails, while onychomadesis is when nails start separating, peeling, and shedding like crazy. Both can give your cat some seriously unhealthy-looking nails.

    Figuring out the exact cause of a nail disorder is tough without help from a vet. It could be due to infections, fungus, trauma, immune issues, or who knows what else!

    So, if you suspect your cat has a nail or nail bed disorder, don't delay—make an appointment with the vet. They'll be able to examine, do some tests if required, and get to the bottom of the problem.

    Nail disorders can be a real pain for your furry friend, so it's best to get them checked out sooner rather than later.

Tips To Keep Cat Nail Splitting To A Minimum

While in some cases, cat nail splitting is inevitable, there are a couple of things you can do to minimize it.

  • Provide scratching outlets

    If you want to minimize cat nail splitting, here's a super easy solution: give your furry friend plenty of scratching options around the house. This way, they can file their claws and help with the natural shedding process. Plus, it'll keep their nails short and less likely to break when caught on something.

    Scratching posts are cat toys that are a total win for pet owners. If you're feeling fancy, cat trees are where it's at! They not only have scratching posts but also provide spots for climbing, hiding, and lounging.

    But hold on! Before you begin your shopping spree, consider your home too. Some cat trees are massive, perfect for those big breeds. But they might need to fit better for smaller cats in a small apartment. So, look for a floor-to-ceiling cat tree with a smaller footprint if you're tight on space.

    Don't break the bank for scratching options. Get creative! Your cat will be just as happy scratching a simple cardboard box. It gets the job done, but you might need to replace it more often.

    Who knew nail care could be so simple and budget-friendly?

  • Trim your cat's nails

    While your cat does their part in keeping their nails in check, they still need help from their loving owner. That's where nail-trimming technique comes into play.


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    Trimming your cat's nails is key to minimizing nail splitting. Shorter nails are less likely to get stuck in things, saving your furniture from their scratching frenzy. It's also a great alternative to prevent your furry friend from using your leather couch as their personal scratching post.

    But it's not just about protecting your home decor. Regular nail trimming also keeps your cat comfortable and pain-free. Overgrown or ingrown nails can be a real pain in the paw, and we want to avoid that. Plus, shorter nails mean less chance of accidentally scratching you and causing unwanted injuries. Safety first!

    Now, if you're up for a challenge, you can tackle the cat's nail trimming yourself. Just use sharp nail clippers and follow the step-by-step guide we've laid out for you. To make it easier, incorporate this task into your regular routine and other cat duties like cleaning the litter box and serving meals.

    But hey, we get it. Nail trimming might not be everyone's cup of tea. If you're not feeling confident or can't quite master it, no worries. Schedule regular nail appointments with your vet, and they'll gladly take care of it. And if you prefer, you can also call the pros and hire a professional pet groomer trained in nail maintenance. They might even make house calls. How convenient is that?

    So, whether you become a nail trimming pro or leave it to the experts, keeping those nails in check is essential. Your cat will be happier, your furniture will be safer, and you can enjoy quality bonding time in the process. 

What To Do If Your Cat's Nails Keep Splitting?

Now you know why your cat's nails may be splitting, what can you do to minimize this phenomenon? It's about time we explore the ultimate question - what do we do if nothing works and your cat's nails keep splitting?

  • Protect

    Regular nail trimming, provision of scratching options, a healthy diet, and appropriate nail clippers can help protect nails from splitting.

    Other than these suggestions, cat nail claw covers are also an option. They prevent the cat's nails from making close contact with the furniture and drapery or anything your cat may try to scratch that may result in it splitting its nails.

  • Remove

    While declawing may seem like a drastic decision, in some cases, it is recommended by vets. It's all because of the benefits of declawing. These cases include cats constantly splitting their nails and ending up hurting themselves.

    Often, owners of older or ill cats are recommended to go through with the declawing process to avoid small painful accidents from happening again and again.

    Well, let's face it - declawing is one scary word. Even the thought of it may send chills down your spine. So weigh all your options before opting for this option.

Final Thoughts!

So, if you've been wondering why your cat's nails are splitting, we hope now you have all your answers!

Splitting nails in cats can be a natural part of their nail-shedding process or may occur due to factors like age, health conditions, or improper nail care.

Understanding the causes of nail splitting and knowing about the ways how to treat a split cat nail can help alleviate the problem and promote your cat's nail health. Regular nail trimming with sharp clippers, providing scratching options, and monitoring nail length are simple steps to protect your cat's nails from splitting.

It is crucial to monitor your cat's behavior and seek veterinary advice if needed. Being proactive and attentive to your cat's nail health ensures its paws remain happy, healthy, and free from troublesome nail splits.

So, go ahead and give your feline friend the paw-some care they deserve!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Broken Nails The Same As Nail Splitting?

Nail splitting and broken nails are similar but not exactly the same. Nail splitting happens when the layers of the nail separate during shedding. Broken nails occur when due to accidents or getting stuck on stuff.

Nail splitting is normal and natural, while broken nails need attention to prevent further issues. Both can make your cat uneasy.

So, taking care of them by trimming or getting help from a vet is essential. Remember, telling the difference and giving the right care will keep your cat's nails in good shape. Also, keep in mind that cats shed layers of nails naturally as well.

How to treat a split nail on a cat?

Here's what you should do when dealing with a cat's split nail. First, check how bad the split is. If it's nothing too severe, you can just leave it be.

But if it's deep or bleeding, clean it up gently with some antiseptic. If necessary, trim the nail, but be careful not to cut the quick. To stop the bleeding, try using some styptic powder.

Keep an eye on the nail for signs of infection and seek help from a vet if things get worse. Remember to create a safe environment to prevent future nail mishaps!

Are split nails painful for cats?

Nail splits can definitely be painful for our furry friends. If the split goes deep or affects the sensitive quick, it can bother them. You might notice your cat limping or constantly licking and chewing the nail.

So, watch out for any signs of discomfort in your cat's claws. If the split is causing a lot of pain or bleeding, it's best to take your cat to the vet. They can provide the proper treatment and pain relief to help your kitty feel better. Remember, our cats' comfort should always be a top priority!

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