Trimming your cat's nails: everything you need to know


Cat Claw Clipping

In general, cats have five claws on a front paw and four in a rear paw. Their claws are retractable, useful tools for climbing, hunting and scratching.

Trimming your cat’s claws can be a hassle, especially if your cat can’t or won’t sit still for you to get the job done. However, it is an essential part of your beloved pet’s grooming, and if left undone, it might cause problems in the future. 

Is it necessary to trim my cat’s nails?

Cat claws, like human nails, are constantly growing. For outdoor cats, their claws are normally worn down as they climb trees and scratch rough barks. The environment acts as a natural trimmer. 

outdoor cat scratching tree

For indoor cats, however, the natural elements that help outdoor cats do not exist. Scratching posts may help, but even so your cat's claws will keep grow. That’s why if your cat is an indoor only cat, it's good idea to trim its claws on a regular basis. 

Why should you trim your cat’s nails?

It can be a chore, but like all chores, it’s necessary. Here are three main reasons why you should trim your cat’s nails regularly:

1- Your cat’s well being: as your cat grows older, its claws will continue to grow if left unattended. In most cases, cat claws will curve inward and run the risk of stabbing the soft pads of their paws, causing pain and possible injury. This is why it’s important to trim your elder cat’s nails more regularly compared to younger cats. Especially since as the cat grows older and less active, their claws don’t have the chance to be worn down through play and activity.

2- You and your family’s well being: cat owners bear their pet's mark on their hands: we all had to explain at some point why our hands are scratched. Cats are playful creatures, and we love that about them. That’s why we tolerate the sting of their claws on our skin when we play together. It’s a small price to pay for spending a delightful time with your pet cat. Sometimes, though, their claws can cause serious harm, especially with children around. Which is why trimming those sharp weapons is a good idea.

3- Your furniture’s well being: oh, yes. We’ve all been there. When your cat can’t seem to resist scratching that lovely new couch, or that fluffy pillow, or those velvety curtains. Long claws help them destroy your furniture faster and more efficiently. Trimmed down nails will lessen the damage to your furniture.

cat scratching furniture

So in order to avoid damage to your furniture, yourself and your cat, clipping your cat’s claws is a necessity. 

The next step is to know the best way to clip your cat’s claws without harming them or yourself.

How can you make claw trimming time enjoyable?

Start Early:

If you have a kitten, start clipping their claws as early as possible. But if your cat is already an adult, the following tips will work just the same.

Gradually get them used to having their paws and claws handled:

Start off by making your cat comfortable to be in your lap. Gradually accustom them to being held while massaging their paws. Use treats if necessary.

When the cat is comfortable with you touching its paws, move to the next step: gently pushing the soft pads to extract the claw.

One at a time, push those cute toe beans so the nail pokes out as you hold the cat in your lap. If your cat is uncomfortable, try to make it relax first. If you notice its ears flattening, hissing sounds or any sign of aggressive behaviour, let your cat go and try later.

Cats like to feel in control of their environment, don’t push them too much. 

Get them used to nail clippers:

After your cat is comfortable with you handling their paws, get them used to nail clippers.

Nail clippers make distinct sounds that can surprise some cats. It’s a good idea to get them used to the sound and sight of nail clippers upclose.

To do that, hold a piece of noodles using the clipper near your cat's paw. Close the clippers and give your cat a treat immediately after. Repeat as many times as you must until the cat no longer reacts strongly to the clippers.

Again, make sure your cat is comfortable and feels safe every step of the way. 

It will take time, patience and effort, but it’s worth it to have an easy time clipping their claws in the future.

Important note:

Never punish; hit or yell at your cat as they don’t understand the reason for your sudden cruel behaviour towards them. It will only make them afraid of you.

Nail clipping time!

Clipping Supplies:

Nail clippers:

There are many various types of nail clippers made especially for pets. The more frequently used by cat owners are the pliers and the scissors: 

 

Cat Claw clippers

Pet Nail Trimmers with Safety Guard

 

Cat nail trimmer scissors

 Cat Nail Clippers

Many cat owners, however, prefer simply using human nail clippers. They get the job done for cats, they are familiar and easy to handle, and you don't have to spend the extra money to buy specific nail clippers for your pet. 

The most important thing is that the clippers’ blades should be sharp stainless steel. The clippers should be easy for you to handle to make both you and your cat comfortable and safe.

Flashlight:

In order to see where you should stop trimming. You don’t want to trim over the nerve (the pink area on the inner side of the claw called the quick), otherwise your cat will bleed. In which case you will need the next item. 

Styptic powder: 

Or styptic penciles. In case of a bleeding, you should keep styptic powder close by to stem the blood flow. If you don’t have styptic powder handy, you can replace it by cornstarch. Dip the bleeding claw in the powder, it will make the blood stop flowing. Still, watch the claw closely, and in case you suspect a deeper damage, consult your vet.

If you don’t have either, a dry soap bar will do: rub the bar across the bleeding nail gently.

styptic powder for cat nail bleeding

Pet Styptic Powder

If your cat is agitated after being hurt, stop trimming your cat’s claws until it calms down.

Treats!

Treats will keep your cat interested and patient enough for you to trim those claws. Offer a treat after each clip to reinforce positive association of claw trimming time with yummy treats.

How to clip your cat’s nails:

  • The best time to clip your cat’s nails is when they are sleepy or tired from playing. They will be less likely to squirm.
  • It will be easier if another family member can hold the cat for you. But if you're on your own, hold your cat in a position that gives you easy access to the claws while still being in control of your cat:
Some people prefer to hold their cats in their lap with the cat's back to their belly. Others prefer sitting the cat on the ground and kneeling on either side of it, with legs bracketing the cat's body.
Every cat is different, find a position that your cat is okay with.

Cutting a cat's nails

  • Gently handle your cat’s paw then press the soft pad of the paw (also known for cat lovers as the toe bean) so that the claws extend out. 
  • Trim the curled tip of your cat’s claw. Do not cut too close to the quick as it can cause bleeding and pain for your cat. (the quick is the pink area located in the inner part of a claw where nerves and blood vessels are located). 
  • You may be tempted to cut more of your cat’s claw, but we do not recommend it. If you hurt your cat by cutting near the quick, then your pet may associate the experience of nail clipping with pain. Good luck getting them to sit still for nail clipping again in case that happens. 
  • Don’t cut more than two nails in one setting if your cat is uncomfortable.
  • Reward your cat with treats and shower them with praise and pettings to reinforce positive association.

Be careful with your cat’s nails. Make sure you do the trimming right from the very first time in order to avoid splintering your cat’s claw.

Take your time, read instructions carefully, ask your vet to demonstrate if necessary, watch a few youtube videos on how to clip your cat’s nails (the best guide is a visual one). Once you get the hang of it, the process will become easy and quick. 

How often should you clip your cat’s nails?

As often as necessary. A general rule would be once in ten days to two weeks.

However, if your cat is very active, (i.e: goes outdoors, uses scratching posts frequently, etc), its nails will wear out faster and it wouldn’t need a trim as often. That’s why a mature cat needs trimming more frequently than a younger one.

The bottom line is, you should check your cat’s nails every ten days, if they need a trim, go ahead and do it.

Controversial solutions for cats with scratching issues:

Cat claw caps:

Cat claw caps are tiny nail covers, usually made of plastic. They’re glued on a cat's claws.

These caps are usually used for cats with an excessive scratching issue.

cat wearing cat claw caps in pink

Cat claw caps are widely debated. 

Some consider them to be unnatural, given that scratching is an instinctual behaviour for cats. Also, if not applied correctly, claw caps can prohibit cats from retracting their claws. 

Others believe that as long as the caps are applied correctly by a vet, they don’t pose an issue.

Claw caps don’t stop the natural growth of the claw, and so they will fall naturally as the claw grows out.

It’s essential to understand that scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, and so it is part of owning a cat

If your cat scratches excessively, it’s important to understand why and how to remedy the problem.

Cat claw caps should be used as a last resort solution to excessive scratching. 

Declawing surgery:

Declawing is a categorically wrong practice. As shocking as it is, it’s still a legal procedure in many countries. This cruel operation is tantamount to the amputation of fingers for humans. 

Again, if your cat exhibits excessive scratching issues, understanding why and how to curb it naturally should be every cat owner’s first response.

Declawing as a measure to solve that problem is like cutting your child’s fingers off because he keeps throwing things out of the window. A gruesome comparison, but one that is necessary to understand the severity of the situation. 

 

Claws are an essential part of cats. They use them for scratching, kneading, climbing and other instinctive behaviours that are essential to a cat’s well being.

Taking care of your cat’s claws is easy once both you and your cat get used to it.

However, if your cat still refuses to let you clip its nails, you can always have it done by a professional. Pet grooming services are widespread and relatively affordable. 

Do you trim your cat's nails by yourself? leave a comment down below!

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