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Why Your Cat Likes to Stretch Their Claws: 7 Likely Reasons

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

closeup of ginger cat lying on couch and stretching itself

Many people and animals love a good stretch when they’ve just woken up or have been sitting for a long time, and cats are the best at stretching!

Whether you love reading anything cat related or are wondering why your cat sometimes stretches out their claws, let’s get into this curious subject.

The 7 Reasons Why Your Cat Likes to Stretch Their Claws

1. They’re Seeking Attention

There are times when your cat just wants attention, and this sometimes involves stretching their paws and consequently, their claws, toward you.

You might find that your cat does this near you when you’re focused on something else, like your phone.

So, when your cat reaches toward you, they are usually looking for your attention, like a few nice head scratches. But if they look more excited, they might want to play!

maine coon cat stretching
Image Credit: Piqsels

2. It’s a Sign of Affection

If your cat stretches near you, they might be showing you affection. This is most apparent if your cat is already close to you and then stretches out their paw and places it on you. This is their way to be close to you and show affection.

They might also start kneading you, which is a way of stretching their claws. This is a sign of contentment, and cats also have scent glands on different parts of their bodies, including the paws. So, your cat is showing affection and claiming you as something that belongs to them.

3. They’re Just Stretching

Like anything, sometimes the correct explanation is the simplest one. Your cat might have just woken from a cat nap or is shifting themselves into a new position, and they need to stretch out. Stretching out their whole body includes stretching their claws.

cat stretching while lying on its back
Image Credit: Ivan Babydov, Pexels

4. It’s Natural Scratching Behavior

This is definitely one of the more common reasons that cats stretch their claws. Cats love to scratch — trees, furniture, carpets, and hopefully, a scratching post. They do this to both sharpen their claws and mark their territory.

Some cats love to scratch a vertical surface, while others prefer horizontal. However they choose to scratch, it involves stretching those front legs and paws to their full extent and giving those claws a good workout!

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grey cat upside down on hepper hi-lo cat scratcher

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5. They’re Looking to Play

You might notice your cat lazily stretching out to hit a nearby favorite toy. This can turn into a full-on play session. The stretching is likely a way of warming up besides just to reach the toy.

If your cat looks ready to rumble, you know how much they need to get that energy released!

cat stretching
Image Credit: dogcoach, Pixabay

6. It’s Part of a Grooming Session

Watching your cat grooming could be a full-time job! They spend an inordinate amount of time grooming, and part of that time is spent licking and nibbling on those adorable stretched-out toes.

They chew and bite their toes to remove litter and dirt from around their pads. Also, a cat’s nails constantly shed — you may have noticed little hollow nails around the home at times. Cats will bite their nails to remove these sheaths, which enables their nails to continue normal growth.

Keeping your cat's nails trimmed can help you protect your home from scratching damage. With a great set of clippers like our Hepper Cat Nail Clipper Set, you'll be able to easily and safely trim your cat's claws whenever you need to. This set includes two pairs of clippers, both with stainless steel blades, safety guards, and locking switches. You'll also get a built-in nail file and a pouch for easy storage.


7. They’re Hungry

Some cats might stretch their paws toward you to let you know that they’re hungry. Many cats will also stretch their paws when you’re getting their food ready.

This can turn into a learned behavior. If they reach for you when they’re hungry, and you react by feeding them, they will start stretching their paws toward you every time.

black cat stretching
Image Credit: Pawel Grzegorz, Pixabay

Dealing With Cats Scratching Inappropriately

If your cat tends to ignore the scratching post that you put out and continues to scratch your best furniture, there are a few steps that you can take.

Scratching Posts

An essential thing that you can do for your cat is to find the right scratching post. If you have one and your cat doesn’t use it often, you might need to try a different kind. It’s also a great idea to have multiple scratching posts around the home.

Does your cat seem to prefer scratching from a low and horizontal position? Pick up a scratcher that enables your cat to scratch this way. You can also try different materials; scratchers can be made with sisal rope, carpet, or cardboard.

Try rubbing catnip on the scratching posts and putting double-sided sticky tape on their current favorite scratching spots, like your new couch. You can also use furniture-safe cat repellent spray so your cat will avoid these areas and gravitate to their scratching posts.

The goal here is to make your furniture unappealing and the scratching posts as enticing as possible.

cat scratching cat post
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Nail Trimming

Try keeping your cat’s nails under control by trimming them. They should be trimmed every 1 to 2 weeks, but if you’re unsure how to go about doing this, read instructions online.

A crucial part of the process is to avoid the quick; if it’s cut, it will hurt your cat and bleed. Then your cat will likely never let you trim their claws again!

Some cat owners have a groomer or vet clinic trim their cat’s nails if they are particularly unhappy with at-home nail trims. But here are a few tricks that you can try, like turning your cat into a burrito — this helps keep your cat restrained during the nail trim job.

Nail Caps

Nail caps are little sturdy vinyl caps that are glued onto your cat’s nails. They are perfectly safe because they are attached with non-toxic glue, and the caps naturally come off as your cat’s nails grow. They also don’t impede your cat from extending and retracting their claws.

They last about 4 to 6 weeks and come in a variety of colors, including translucent white, so they look natural. The biggest issue with nail caps is that you’ll need a very patient cat to put them on. Alternatively, you can take your cat to the vet or groomer to have them do it for you.

Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed or using caps will help protect your furniture, and your cat can continue to do everyday cat things.

cat curled up asleep with nail caps on
Image Credit: Dina da, Shutterstock


Cats stretching their claws is perfectly normal. You’ll see it most often when they are scratching, which helps them sharpen their claws and claim territory at the same time. But it can also be a sign of love and affection directed at you.

Check their behavior and body language when you notice your cat stretching their claws. This can give you a better idea of why they might be reaching out to you, such as if they are looking to play. It is a wonderful sign of love and trust when your cat reaches out just to be closer to you.

Featured Image Credit: asadykov, Shutterstock

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