Anatomy of a Cat’s Claw

This is a picture showing the anatomy of a cat’s claw. Visitors are free to use it as they wish if they think it is good enough (see base of page). I think it is not bad. The quality does not matter that much. The important thing is that cat owners fully understand the cat’s claw.

There are lots of pictures showing the cat’s claw on the internet. I accept that. However, you can’t have enough of them. This is because a lot of people are still unclear what “declawing” entails because it is a misleading word. It implies that the claw is removed. As many of us know, it is much more than that.

Anatomy of a Cat's Claw
Anatomy of a Cat’s Claw – simplified somewhat.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In fact you can’t simply remove just the claw of the cat because it is embedded into the bone that supports it. The cat’s claw grows from the last bone of the cat’s toe. The tendons anchor this bone. The cat’s claw is made up of modified skin. There is an outer cuticle which is hard protein called “keratin”. This protects the dermis, the pink bit that you can see that is nearer the bone.

The supporting bone of the claw is the distal phalanx. In layperson’s language this is the last bit of bone after the last joint of the cat’s toe. It is a short piece of bone that is designed to hold the claw.

This bone is moved by tendons. The tendons are moved by muscles in the cat’s leg. At rest the claw is sheathed – tucked away. It is pulled out by the tendons underneath the distal phalanx.

When a veterinarian declaws the cat they have to remove the distal phalanx and the claw that it supports. A simple scalpel (very sharp surgical knife) does the job. Vets also use a laser which burns the connecting tissue away or a guillotine device that is very crude and looks like garden secateurs.

As you can see from the words in the picture, I have used a photograph of a real claw and supporting bone that was removed from a cat. Disgusting isn’t it? I merged that with a drawing.

One last point. It is surprising to see that the claw in the picture has been trimmed! This must mean that the cat’s owner trimmed the cat’s claws (or had it done for her/him) before deciding to have her cat declawed. It seems that the cat’s owner was unsatisfied with trimming the claw for some reason and simply wanted them removed. I guess it was much more convenient this way.

There is no question in my mind that declawing a cat is very wrong. It is cruel. I am not the only person who believes that. For a start, 700 million Europeans also believe it and, at a guess, about 100 million Americans do as well. On a worldwide basis people who agree that declawing is OK are massively outnumbered by people like me who dislike it or even hate it.

About using the picture on this page: You can’t download the picture using right click and ‘save image as’ because that function is disabled to try and stop people violating Helmi Flick’s copyright. Please leave a comment if you’d like to use the picture and I’ll email you a copy. Thanks.

8 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Cat’s Claw”

  1. Very good picture Micheal.It’s horrible to take such an important part of a cats anatomy away and I can hardly believe it’s still legal in the USA and that people want it done to their cat anyway.
    Everyones reaction here in the UK to the very thought of declawing is disgust at the vets doing it and the people having it done to their cats.
    I hope this blog goes far and wide and educates the people who shouldn’t have a cat as they obviously don’t know the first thing about them.

    • Hi Rose. It always surprises me (actually shocks me) that people in the USA who declaw their cats and the vets who do it are so different in their attitude to the rest of the world. It just seems weird to me.

      • It seems weird to me too. I can’t get my head around why someone who doesn’t like it that cats have claws would get a cat????
        Yet vets get the entire blame by many American and Canadian people, can’t people fathom out for themselves that cats have claws because they need them?

  2. Thanks so much for a great addition to the educational material out there! I have been using a similar drawing for about 10 years in my practices. I give it out in kitten packs with information on how to train cats to scratch appropriately. Once I started using this drawing, I was asked by clients to declaw very rarely. Education really works!

    • God, I love to hear what you have said. We agree that it is about education and using that education to benefit cats and the people who care for cats. There is lots more to do. It actually surprising me that so many people don’t really understand what the declawing operation is when asking a vet to do it. Thanks for commenting. Appreciated.

  3. This is brilliant Michael and I’m posting the link to all the facebook anti declaw groups for the thousands of members to use to help educate with. There are still people who believe it’s ‘only the claw’ removed, even though that is impossible, as you prove here.
    Declaw vets should be forced to end this cruel surgery immediately.


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