Trimming Cat Claws

Clipping Cat’s Toenails

Cutting cat toenails

Cats need their nails trimmed. And please don’t say, “Eh…I’ll just get my cat declawed.”  NO! Rethink that option!  With patience and practice and perhaps a partner to assist (at least at first), clipping your cat’s claws will become second-nature and part of regular, important cat care. Seriously!

Just don’t rush it. Ease kitty into the routine. It may take months until she is more comfortable with this toenail trimming ritual. Always have scratching posts or pads available for her to do “her own thing”, too, as they help keep some of the growth of the nails down (and divert any scratching to the post instead of furniture and are good for her to stretch her muscles).

Plan on trimming your cat’s claws about once a month. You’ll be surprised how much they grow during four weeks. Plus the more frequent trimmings, even if you don’t take much off, establish a routine and keep the procedure more familiar in kitty’s mind so she can accept it faster.

There are several tools available to trim a cat’s claws. Be sure to use what works best for you and your pet. You might try one style and decide it’s terrible. There are special scissors made to hold a cat’s claw in place that are pliers-like in appearance and another type is a sliding “guillotine” blade. Some people use human nail clippers.

The blade needs to be sharp because if it is dull, the bluntness may hurt as it attempts to cut and may cause a nail to split or bleed. Have something to stop bleeding, such as styptic powder, cornstarch, flour or a dry bar of soap to rub the nail across. (Here’s a boost of encouragement:  I’ve never made my cat’s nails bleed from trimming. Just pay attention to what you’re doing.)

NOTE: I use the pliers/scissors-type similar to below. I’m not fond of the guillotine type because the nail is placed into the little opening before squeezing it closed to be cut and I worry she’ll jerk while the nail is stuck in the cutting hole.

Cat clippers

Approach your cat in a calm manner and speak softly. Make this procedure as pleasant and loving as possible. Try to prevent her from associating nail trimming as torture. All cats have different personalities, so there is no “one perfect way” to hold every cat while cutting their nails. Experiment. If she thrashes about in one position, try another. Also, if things go totally crazy, walk away.

Don’t force her into a strangle-hold and don’t get violent with her just to check trimming nails off the to-do list for the day. Approach her the following day and try again. And each day thereafter…keep working at it and you will eventually get through a successful nail cutting session.

Holding Cat Paw to Extend Nails

Some cats don’t need any restraint, but most cats do. They need to be held firmly but gently. Try cradling the cat in the crook of one arm while holding one paw with the other hand. Or place her on a flat surface and lift one paw at a time.

NOTE: The photo at the top-showing the girl cradling her cat and holding a paw to trim? That is how I do it. In less than 3 minutes we are done.

If you have a helper, ask him to hold the cat while you clip the nails. Another trick: have him rub your cat’s favorite spot (under the chin or the belly is great) or offer kitty a special treat.

Cutting Cat's Toenails

Make sure everyone, especially the cat, is in a decent position before the first snip. Take a paw in your hand and use your thumb and pointer finger to gently squeeze the top and bottom of the paw on the joint below the nail you want to trim. The nail will extend from its sheath. Look for the pink part of the nail called “the quick”. Hopefully you can see it…if not, don’t cut very much off at first. If you can see the quick, carefully but fast, snip off the sharp tip and extra length – staying away from that pink quick.

“The quick” is where blood vessels and nerve endings are found. Just like a human fingernail, the quick is very sensitive. If you cut into this area it will likely cause bleeding and pain. Apply pressure to the tip of the claw – don’t squeeze the claw. Dip the tip in a bit of styptic powder, cornstarch, flour or rub the nail across a dry bar of soap. If your cat is freaking out, stop for the day. Watch to be sure the bleeding stops.

The front nails usually grow faster/more than the rear nails. You should still take a look at the rear claws just in case they’ve gotten too long. Don’t forget the dew claws, too. If nails are left too long, or never trimmed, it is very much a reality that the nails can curl inward as they grow and embed into the skin and pads.

It may be impossible to trim all the nails in one session. In fact, when you first begin trimming your cat’s nails, maybe you are only able to get a few done or could only snip off a tiny amount from the very ends. That’s okay. Don’t worry.

Most cats won’t hold still more than a few minutes for this ritual. Some people have luck trimming nails if they catch their cats sleeping or when they are drowsy. Definitely don’t tackle this if she’s been running around, all wound up. If you accomplished anything, be thrilled. Always praise your cat and give her lots of love. Don’t reward bad behavior though. In other words, if she clawed your arm or bitten you during the nail trimming, don’t hand her a treat. Ignore her for that.

If you get through all her nails (woohoo!*happy dance*), or if only some of them but stopped before she’s totally flipped out (thumbs up), then love her up. Make her think nail trimming equals attention, petting, treats, maybe playtime afterwards. And remember when you’re trimming, be careful but FAST!