Chris Kouwenhoven

Paws and claws

One of the cat's most intriguing features is its retractile nails. Unlike most mammals that walk on the soles of their feet, the cat is digitigrade, meaning that it walks on its toes. When the nails are retracted, the cat can walk silently, an essential skill for an animal that relies on stealth for hunting success. When extended, the cat's claws become sharp and effective weapons providing protection from animals many times the cat's size. The cat's nails are essential for snagging and grasping prey (or toys), for providing balance when the cat jumps to high perches, and for stretching and exercising muscles in the paws, legs, and back.