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Do big cats have retractable claws? © Getty Images

Do big cats have retractable claws?

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Just like house cats, most wild cats keep their claws safely tucked away when not in use – but not all of them.

Asked by: Tom Rees, Bromley


It depends how we define the group of cats referred to as ‘big cats’. Technically, these are the roaring cats, like tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards, and they all possess fully retractable claws like domestic cats. This adaptation ensures their claws are protected by a sheath of skin when they are not being used to catch prey, climb, scratch or provide traction.

Cheetahs are sometimes referred to as ‘big cats’, but they have semi-retractable claws that look more dog-like than cat-like. As the fastest land mammals, reaching top speeds of 114km/h (71mph), they need extra traction while running, so their protruding claws act like sprinters’ shoes.

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