The claws on the back feet can be used to scratch at the skin and fur around the back of the head, under the chin and below or behind the ears. When scratching, the toes are extended and spread out and the nails are extruded from their sheaths to act as combs which can pull through the coat to the skin. Scratching for grooming consists of rapidly repeated backwards and forwards movements – the backward pull penetrates the fur to comb it and the forward movement takes place slightly lifted from the fur to reposition the claws for the next stroke.
The following sequence shows the movement of the hindleg as the cat scratches and although the foot is not clear in the photograph due to the speed of movement of the action, the extended toes (which allow the nails to be drawn through the coat) can be seen.
The following photographs show how the claws are extended when the cat scratches
Scratching under the chin during grooming.