Cat Claws

posted: 05/15/12
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A cat's claws are the primary weapons in the feline arsenal. In addition to providing an iron grip for climbing, a cat's claws can be lethal, quickly unholstered to slash at an enemy or rip open an underbelly. Although the claws are often described as retractable — as if they normally were extended and then pulled back in by choice — the claws are, in fact, hidden until the cat's paw is extended. Safely sheathed when the cat is relaxed, even while it is walking, the claws stay razor-sharp, ready for action. During a mid-nap stretch or an angry swipe, the tendons controlling the claws are pulled taut, thrusting the talons outwards.

Felines, seemingly incorrigible scratchers, rake their claws over rough surfaces to both clean and hone them. But the raking motion also sheds the claws' dead and dulled outer layers and helps exercise leg muscles. Just as importantly, scratching allows the cat to leave its calling card, a territory-marking scent released from the paw pads. Wild cats and domestic felines with access to the outdoors usually choose a tree or fence for these purposes. Indoor cats, unless they are encouraged to use a scratching post, will opt for a piece of furniture or anything else that is stable, rough in texture and high enough off the ground to provide a good stretch.

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