While sloths are lethargic and non-aggressive, they possess 4-inch claws that they use to defend themselves from predators. However, on the ground they can only travel about 53 feet per hour, making them easy to evade.
Although their claws are their primary means of defense, sloths have hard and sharp teeth that they can use to bite or nip at predators to warn them away. Their only natural predators are large cats and birds such as jaguars and eagles, though humans are known to shoot and kill them. While sloths rarely attack humans, their claws often keep them pinned to a tree branch even in death, deterring humans from targeting them.
Sloths avoid predators by living in trees, only descending to the ground to defecate or move to another tree. They drink water from dewdrops or hydrate through the natural juices in the leaves. Their metabolisms are very slow to compensate for their low-calorie diets of twigs, leaves and fruit. The two-toed species is not strictly herbivorous, occasionally eating small reptiles, birds and insects, but the remaining four species are.
On the ground, sloths are almost defenseless. They dig into the ground with their claws and pull themselves forward on their bellies. Despite this, sloths do not suffer much from predation, since they move too slowly to attract attention and blend in with their surroundings.