Do cheetahs’ claws retract?

Do cheetahs’ claws retract?

‘[Cheetahs] have the same claw retraction mechanism as other cat species. The difference is that their claws protrude beyond the fur, and cheetah claws lack the sheaths that cover the claws of other cats.’

Fiona and Mel Sunquist, Wild Cats of the World page 6.
Cheetah claws protracted while running. Photo: San Diego Zoo.
Cheetah claws protracted while running. Photo: San Diego Zoo.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The cheetah and flat-headed cats are sometimes described as having nonretractile claws. This is not quite true as the cheetah is:

‘the only member of the cat family with claws that cannot be sheathed’.

As above

There is another anatomical quibble as Dr Morris describes it. Feline claws are usually described as ‘retractile’ indicating that they are deliberately retracted. This is incorrect as the default position is the retraction of the claws i.e. when the muscles are relaxed.

The cat has to extend the claws by tightening the special muscles which protract the claws. Therefore a cat’s claws are ‘protractile’ not ‘retractile’.

Photo: Lynn Emery (cropped to show the claws better).
Photo: Lynn Emery (cropped to show the claws better).

Dr Morris makes this valid and important point that as if the claws had to be retracted by a continuous effort of the muscles of the paw it would be a poor use of energy as the claws are extended (protracted) for short periods of time when there is some kind of emergency.

The answer to the question in the title is that a cheetah’s claws do retract but they protrude and are visible and lack the usual sheath that covers the claws of other cats, wild and domestic.

Video showing the protraction of feline claws:

Showing the protractile movement of the claws of a domestic cat.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior
follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

I welcome and value comments. Please share your thoughts. All comments are currently unmoderated.

This blog is seen in 199 of the world's country's according to Google Analytics which is pretty much the entire world.

Scroll to Top