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Why Do Cats Like Nail Files So Much? 8 Likely Reasons


May 3, 2023
hand with nail file filing cat claws


hand with nail file filing cat claws

Cats are well known for their peculiar interests and habits. One such unique habit is their obsession with nail files, or emery boards. Most cats seem to have a fetish with nail files and are known to move closer to their owner when they are filing their nails, almost requesting their nails get filed too. This is a rather strange habit considering not all cats love having their nails groomed.

While there may not be one universal reason why cats like nail files, there are a few plausible explanations. This article will further discuss the reasons behind this cat’s behavior.


The 8 Reasons Why Cats Like Nail Files

As mentioned earlier, it is quite difficult to pin down the exact reasons why cats are obsessed with nail fillings. However, we can deduce the most plausible causes for this behavior from their reaction to a nail file. They include:

1. Texture Appeals to Their Licking Senses

Cats are used to licking their bodies using their tongue. Just like sandpaper, nail files have an abrasive and rough feel. So, the nail file’s texture will feel similar to how their tongue feels as they groom their bodies, thus, ending up licking the surface of the nail file.

It may sound far-fetched, but that’s exactly what your cat will be doing. It will feel motivated to lick the file because it knows it will be comforting and pleasurable.

british short hair cat licking its nose
Image Credit: Denis Val, Shutterstock

2. Mineral Deficiency

This theory suggests that cats suffering from mineral deficiency will want to lick or scratch nail files to get the minerals they lack in their diet. Cats’ diet should include essential minerals to have healthy growth. When a cat’s body lacks these minerals, it will crave them and look for ways to get them.

Generally, nail dust contains trace amounts of calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium, among other minerals, produced on the fingernails. Whenever you trim your nails, you unwittingly leave several of these mineral deposits on the nail file.

So, many cats will chew, lick, or even play with nail files in a bid to retrieve the much-needed mineral content.

3. Scratching Sensation

All cats need to scratch their bodies, and they will usually scratch different surfaces in a bid to keep their nails filed down, which is vital to their health and general well-being. It’s very instinctual and is probably why you will find your cat scratching on carpets and furniture in your home.

They will also scratch nail files for the same reason. However, if you notice your cat is frequently scratching his nails on a filer, it is best to provide him with a scratching post to help wear the nails down.

white cat playing on a scratching post
Image Credit: Daga_Roszkowska, Pixabay

4. Scent Marking

Cats usually have scent glands located on their cheeks to help them mark their territories. This is why you will find your cat rubbing against surfaces in your home. So, once your cat is piqued by a nail file and enjoys playing with it, it will want to rub its body against the surface of the nail file to claim it as its own.

5. Seeking Comfort

Another reason why your cat may enjoy rubbing against a nail file is that it is a source of comfort for them, especially if the cat has been born and raised alone. To cats, the rough surface of the nail file or any other object may resemble that of the mother’s tongue.

Three nail file with a different abrasive isolated on white background
Image Credit: Nataly Studio, Shutterstock

6. Investigative Curiosity

Sometimes your cat may move closer to a nail file after you leave the room to investigate. As extremely curious creatures, if your cat notices you are using a nail file, they will want to investigate why it is such an important tool for you, especially when looking for attention. As they investigate, they are likely to bite or knock the nail file around to try and provoke a response.

7. Nail File Might Resemble a Toy

If your cat keeps running off or playing with your nail file, they might be doing so because it resembles a play toy. Just like most cat toys, nail files are lightweight, small, shiny, and easy to move around. This is perhaps why cats are so attracted to them.

persian cat playing with feather toy
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

8. They Think You Are Playing When Filing Your Nails

Sometimes, your cat may unexpectedly come running to you as you file your nails and even attack your hands. This usually happens when it sees you moving your hands and assumes that you are playing games. The cat will playfully attack your hands so that you can move them back and forth.



From a general perspective, cats like nail files for the same reason they are attracted to many things in their lives. First, they love rubbing against surfaces to mark their territory as they keep their nails in tip-top condition.

They will also be particularly interested in nail files because they are trying to retrieve some mineral deposits from them. Either way, this is perfectly normal behavior and shouldn’t worry you.

Make a habit of trimming your cat’s nails regularly to prevent scratching, but the tools you use should be cat-based instead of human tools. If you do not know how to properly trim your cat’s nails, a pet groomer or a veterinarian would be your best alternative.

Featured Image Credit: Lapina, Shutterstock

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