Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Anna. Anna Wonders, “How do the claws of wolfs and bears retract and reatract” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Anna!

They purr. They land on all fours. They spend a lot of time napping and stretching. Despite their reputation, some of them even like to swim. That’s right! Today’s Wonder of the Day is about one of humankind’s oldest friends—cats!

There’s one more interesting thing cats do that we haven’t mentioned yet. No, we’re not talking about their fondness for catnip or their habit of grooming themselves. Instead, today we’re talking about one of the cat’s most interesting features. It’s their retractable claws!

If you’ve spent much time around cats of any size, you know they all have sharp claws. You may also know that these weapons aren’t visible all the time. That’s because they can retract, or draw back, their claws. Most cats have this ability. 

How do cats’ claws retract? You may be picturing the comic book character Wolverine, whose claws emerge from his knuckles when he needs them and disappear back into his hands when the fight is over. However, cat claws work quite differently.

Cat claws don’t disappear into their paws when they’re not in use. Instead, retraction has much more to do with a cat’s tendons. When the paw is at rest, the claws are lifted above the ground. In this state, they’re largely covered by fur, making them difficult to see. If you look closely, though, you can usually see the tips of a cat’s claws poking out from their furry paws.

When a cat needs to use its claws, it flexes the tendons in its paws. This exposes its claws, making them available for use. How do cats use their claws? They’re often used for hunting or protection. Cats will also use their claws to scratch objects, which is a way of marking them as their own. Claws help cats to climb, as well. 

Why do cats retract their claws? One reason is doing so allows cats to move quietly. Felines walk on their toes, so by retracting their claws, they can move across the floor—or through the jungle—almost silently. With their claws out, it would be much easier for prey to hear them coming.

Claws are also very important to cats. They’re how wild cats get food and protect themselves. Retraction helps them take care of their claws and keep them sharp. By only exposing their claws when they’re needed, cats save their most valuable weapon for important uses.

Of course, cats aren’t the only animals with retractable claws. Foxes have partially retractable claws, and at least one type of frog has this feature. Likewise, not all cats have this ability. Cheetahs cannot fully retract their claws.

Have you ever seen a cat’s claws? You definitely don’t want to end up on the wrong end of these weapons! Remember to always keep the safety of people and animals in mind when playing with cats. By doing so, you can enjoy a great relationship with one of the world’s most popular pets!

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.6, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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