Some people do have exotic pets like tigers. I was watching a video where a man got his tigers to lean on his shoulders standing up. It got me thinking, would he get scratched?

I couldn't see their claws. Do big cats have retractable claws?

1 Answer 1


Yes, all cats have retractable claws, though a Cheetah's claws are only semi-retractable. The claws on the front legs of a cat are fully retractable as they need to be sharp for holding onto prey, for climbing, or as a weapon when fighting.

The claws on a cat's hind legs cannot be retracted fully, but it is less important for a cat to have sharp claws there. The claws on the hind legs are mostly there to get good traction on the ground for acceleration during hunting.

Most cats walk with their claws retracted to protect the claws against wear and keep them sharp. A cat's claws are layered like an onion, so when a cat sharpens their claws, the outermost layer falls off.

If you take a look at your cat's scratching post right now you will probably find several claw-shaped shells. When your cat sharpens its claws it often uses almost the same force as the cat's weight to sharpen each individual claw so the claws are strong.

People having large cats as pets do sadly often declaw the cats. Cats used in circus and animal shows are often declawed as well.

The use of animals in shows is banned in most countries. Keeping big cats as pets is strongly regulated or banned in most countries, too.

Declawing is to amputate the outer digit on each toe. If you compare a cat's paw with a human hand, declawing is to remove the entire bone where the nail grows.

All cats walk on the tip of their toes, so the pain a declawed cat feels is unimaginable.


  • It should be noted that cheetahs use their front claws for traction too, unlike other cats, which is why they don’t fully retract. They don’t need them to be as sharp since they down their prey by sweeping its legs, not by grappling like other cats, and run from any potential fights since even a minor wound will likely cause them to starve to death.
    – StephenS
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 19:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.